Surprise! I brought dessert. I'll admit, it was a somewhat safe dessert, but a classic meal deserved a classic dessert... with just a few additions. This is a recipe that I totally made up as I went, but I did jot the amounts down so I could share if it turned out as well as I hoped. It did, and here it is! The crust is a very thin, buttery one, so if you like a thicker crust, double the sugar/gingersnaps and leave the butter amount as is and you should be fine.
My Pecan Pumpkin Cheesecake
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp dark brown sugar, packed
1 sleeve (16) store-bought gingersnaps, crushed (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped (I crushed them along with the gingersnaps in the blender)
3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, brought to room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 cup pumpkin purée, your own or canned, I used canned (Not pumpkin pie filling)
4 tsp pumpkin pie spice (I have a lot to use up, but you can also use individually cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and a dash of cloves or allspice)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp Greek yogurt (or sour cream or heavy cream)
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
Whole pecans (if you have time to roast and cool them, go ahead... 350 degrees for 10 minutes)
1/2 to 3/4 cup dulce de leche
Spray a 9" springform pan lightly with non-stick spray and line bottom with parchment if desired. Wrap the outside of the pan in foil and set a large pan with about 2 inches of water on the bottom rack of your oven. In a large bowl, combine gingersnaps, brown sugar, butter and pecans. Press firmly into the bottom of the pans. Unless you doubled the cookies, you will have a thin crust and not enough crumbs to go up the sides. Put in fridge while you prepare the filling.
Put the three packages of room-temperature cream cheese into a large mixing bowl (stand mixer with paddle attachment preferred, but you could do with a hand mixer as well, it just will take a bit longer). Beat until light and fluffy. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating well between each one. With mixer still running on low, beat in brown sugar, pumpkin, spices, vanilla, yogurt and flour. Continue beating on medium-low until very smooth and well combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Pour on top of crust, smooth the top and bake on the middle rack of a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour (60 minutes). At the hour mark, turn off the oven, crack door and allow the cheesecake to mostly cool before removing it. When the cheesecake is completely cool, put it in the fridge, preferably overnight.
To finish the cheesecake, take a clean, sharp knife and run it around the outside of the cake. Carefully remove the outside of the springform. Using an offset spatula, spread the dulce de leche out from the center of the cake, leaving an inch or two around the outside. Place whole pecans around the outside edge, stick a broken gingersnap in the middle and voila, a pretty cute cheesecake!
Stay tuned for Thanksgiving 2011, Part 2 - The Cheesecake Returns!