Pumpkin Cheesecake with Bourbon Caramel Sauce
For Thanksgiving my friend Heather graciously invited me to spend the holiday with her and her family. Heather’s parents often host a great Thanksgiving feast for all their “orphaned” friends who do not have family in the area. This year’s feast included 26 guests!
To help with the meal, all the guests were asked to bring a dish. (Meanwhile, Heather’s parents smoked three incredibly delicious turkeys.) I was asked to bring a dessert so after much research for just the right recipe, I settled on a pumpkin cheesecake—traditional yet a bit sophisticated. I was also excited to make this recipe as I was able to use my mixer, which usually sits on top of my microwave collecting dust (I hardly bake).
For this dessert I resorted to one of my favorite cookbooks, Frank Stitt’s Southern Table: Recipes and Gracious Traditions from Highlands Bar and Grill. The recipe read really well and looked relatively strait forward. I couldn’t risk making anything that would result in anything but perfect. Sure enough, the final product was fabulous and looked really nice.
I also wanted to add a southern touch to the cheesecake. I associate bourbon with the South (Perhaps from my family trips to Jim Beam’s and Jack Daniels’s distilleries in Kentucky and Tennessee, respectively, growing up? Or the smell of southern college boys’ bourbon and cokes at the football games?). So I found a recipe from Bon Appetit (November 2005) for a bourbon caramel pecan sauce to top off the cheesecake. Although the cheesecake did not need this sauce, it was certainly a great addition and was very popular. I also added some extra bourbon just to make sure it had that special kick. This sauce would be great on ice cream or really anything!
So here are the recipes for Frank Stitt’s pumpkin cheesecake and Bon Appetit’s bourbon caramel pecan sauce:
Pumpkin Cheesecake (serves 14)
- 30 Gingersnaps (or 1 ½ cups crumbs)
- ½ cup pecans, toasted
- ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Four 8 oz packages cream cheese, at room temperature
- 4 large eggs (see Note 3)
- 1 ¼ cups sugar
- 1 ½ cups canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon all spice
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- For the crust, finely grate the cookies and pecans with the brown sugar in a food processor. Add the melted butter and pulse until incorporated.
- Press this mixture into the bottom and 2 ¾ inches up the sides of a 10-inch spring-form pan. Set aside.
- For the filling, in the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, combine the cream cheese, eggs, and sugar and beat at medium speed until light and smooth, about 8 minutes.
- Transfer ¾ cup of this mixture to a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate to use for the topping.
- Add the pumpkin puree, cream, cinnamon, and all spice to the remaining cream cheese mixture and beat until well combined. Pour the filling into the prepared crust.
- Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the cheesecake puffs, the top browns, and center moves just a little when jiggled. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Then run a knife between the sides and let cool completely on the rack.
- Remove the sides of the pan and set the cheesecake on a serving plate. Cover and refrigerate for at least several hours, or overnight. Before serving, spoon the reserved cream cheese mixture evenly over the top of the cheesecake (see Note 4).
- I increased the ingredients for the crust by 25% (the measurements above are the original amounts). This increase allowed more mixture to work with to ensure that the crust was thick enough and covered all the surface area of the spring-form pan.
- When baking, make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature.
- To prevent bits of egg shell from going into your filling mixture, crack the eggs in a separate dish before pouring them into the mixture. This way if any shell ends up in the egg, you can easily pick it out first.
- Since I was making the bourbon caramel sauce to top off my cake, I removed the ¾ cup mixture but did not use it on the cake.
- 1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
- ½ cup whipping cream
- 6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
- ¼ cup light corn syrup
- ½ tsp salt
- 3 to 4 tbsp bourbon (I used 6 tbsp!)
- 1 ½ cups pecans, toasted, cooled
- Bring sugar, cream, butter, corn syrup, and salt to boil in deep medium saucepan, whisking until sugar dissolves.
- Reduce heat to medium; boil 1 minute without stirring. Remove from heat.
- Stir in bourbon, then pecans. Cool, stirring occasionally.
- Serve over individual sliced pieces of cheesecake.