Pumpkin Cheesecake with Maple Pecan Caramel and Maple Ice Cream
I remember the first time I tasted pumpkin pie and I thought “who the hell puts vegetables in dessert?!” I later learned that pumpkins and squashes are actually fruit, as I had also learned that pumpkin pie was actually quite good. For the record, I also had an issue with carrot cake when I was young, but that’s for another time. Pumpkin pie for me signifies that wholesome tradition of Thanksgiving. It lets us know that the harvest has officially ended and reminds us the snow is on its way. Even to this day, pumpkin pie is among my least favorite desserts, but knowing it comes only once a year I feel a certain obligation to honor that massive gourd and take from it a plentiful bounty that results in a peppery and creamy dessert. If only there was a way to transform that humble pie into something much richer, more decadent, even a bit more pleasurable, while preserving its unique flavor. This dish, for me, became the luscious cheesecake.
Aside from imagining cheesecake, as a child, was made from cheddar cheese or some plastic-like cheese spread, it was an instant hit with me upon my first encounter. To this day, cheesecake is still my favorite whether it’s a fruit cheesecake in the summer or an orgasmic chocolate truffle cheesecake in the dead of winter. It is certainly a dessert that is as satisfying as it is versatile. I’m sure there’s even a way to bake an entire turkey dinner into a cheesecake and have it as a savory dish …umm that gives me an idea.
In this post I want to share with you my pumpkin cheesecake with maple pecan caramel and maple ice cream. Because, as a Canadian, there is no such thing as too much maple. And speaking of Canada, Thanksgiving was just this past weekend (October 13th) and I must apologize to all my Canadian friends and family for posting this festive dessert too late. Though anybody who loves pumpkin or cheesecake needn’t wait for a special occasion to enjoy this dessert, and if so, the American Thanksgiving is just around the corner.
Unlike some of, or most of my previous posts, this recipe really is straight to the point. There are no long lists of ingredients, no endless number of steps or techniques, just a basic cheesecake recipe and some caramel and ice cream. There’s no debate that this is comfort food, just ask The Golden Girls, but I do hesitate to even call it gourmet. For the sake of argument, we will call this a gourmet dessert, made with love as a premium and priceless ingredient.
For the crust:
Preheat oven to 190°c.
- 2 cups of Graham crackers, crushed (or any cookie of your choice)
- ¼ cup melted butter
- 1/3 cup white sugar
Combine crushed cookies, melted butter and sugar in a bowl and mix well.
Spread out on a 9-inch springform pan and press firmly.
Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool.
For the cake:
Turn oven down to 160°c.
- 750g Cream cheese
- 1 cup white sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup full-fat sour cream
- 1½ cups pumpkin pureé
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp salt
In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, and cornstarch. Using a mixer, beat on high speed until fluffy. Scrape down bowl often.
Add one egg at a time, incorporating well before each addition.
Now add the sour cream, pumpkin pureé, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Blend very well.
Pour the batter into the springform pan. To avoid air bubbles, bang the pan on the counter a few times to allow the air to escape.
Bake in oven for 1 hour. Keep the cake in the oven, but turn off the heat and stick a wooden spoon in the oven door to allow the heat to escape. Keep it in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
Let the cheesecake cool completely then put it in the fridge for at least 4 hours, preferably the next day.
When the cake is cold and set, run a paring knife along the side of the springform pan before opening.
Maple Pecan Caramel
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 50g unsalted butter
- ¾ cup heavy whipping cream
- 1-1½ cups pecans, toasted*
In a medium saucepan, add sugar and maple syrup and heat over medium heat, about 15 minutes. Because the syrup is already dark it will be difficult to determine exactly when the sugar has reached that perfect caramel color. My advice, wait until the very first sign of smoke. It shouldn’t actually start smoking but you will see just a hint of smoke rise from the sugar. Then remove from heat and immediately beat in the butter and cream.
Let cool to room temperature.
*To toast the pecans, spread them out on a baking sheet. Toast for 10 minutes in the oven at 200°c. Let cool before using.
Crumble cooled pecans into the caramel, or use whole on the surface of a cake.
To assemble the cake, remove springform pan siding, scatter the pecans over the top of the cake, then even pour half the maple caramel on to the cake. Use the other half of the caramel for a finishing touch, or to make homemade ice cream.
For homemade ice cream, use your favorite base recipe or try mine from my Apple Crisp Recipe post. If you choose to make homemade ice cream, add the caramel, WITHOUT the pecans, to the ice cream base while it is still warm so it will be evenly incorporated or add at freezing temperatures for a caramel swirl.
Slice and serve with ice cream.