1. Make your favorite crust in a springform pan. Last weekend I used leftover crunches from my sugar baskets, and those proved unworthy of the cheesecake–too tough and too sticky. I’d go with graham cracker crumbs or some other kind of English cracker/biscuit mixed with six tablespoons of butter and 1/4 cup granulated sugar. After spreading the mixture in your springform pan, either bake at 350 for 10 minutes OR put it in the fridge to solidify.
2. Cheesecake ingredients:
1 1/2 pound of softened cream cheese
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purp flour
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pralines and cream flavoring, if you have it
1/3 cup chopped pecans
about 3/4 cup pecan halves for decorating the top
about 1/4 cup maple syrup
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat together the cream cheese, sugar, and flour until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each. Then add the vanilla, the praline flavoring, and finally the 1/3 cup chopped pecans.
4. Pour the mixture into the crust and bake for about 50 minutes, or until edges puff up and brown slightly. Do not open oven door during baking. After 50 minutes, turn oven off and use a wooden spoon to keep the oven door ajar until the cake has completely cooled.
5. Remove the cake and “paint” the top with a coating of maple syrup (use a pastry brush). Then set pecan halves on the cake in a pretty design of your own choosing. If you like, paint another coat of syrup over the pecans to help them shine. Finally, if desired, drizzle melted chocolate over the top of your creation.
I actually had a bit of a baking accident after I reached this point in my cheesecake. I had some left over cream Chantilly (whipped cream) from an earlier project, so I pulled it out of the freezer and put it in my pastry bag. I worked the bag between my hands to defrost it, thinking that I would pipe a few whipped cream “puffs” around the edge of the pie.
Trouble was, the stuff wasn’t thawing fast enough, particularly the cream that had lodged in the tip of my pastry bag. I ran warm water over the bag, hoping to loosen it, and then I piped a beautiful rosette in the center of my cheesecake. I gave the bag one more squeeze, then gasped as the bag pretty much vomited over my entire cheesecake . . . at least that’s what it sounded like. Melted, runny whipped cream everywhere!
Well, what can you do but keep calm and carry on? I smoothed the whipped cream out as best I could and put the pie in the fridge so at least it would have a firm whipped cream surface. And when I served it to my friends, I told my little story and they laughed.
You gotta love friends who love you no matter how your cheesecake turns out. 🙂
P.S. I have officially opened a little online bakery. I’m starting with items I know I can mail safely, so if you’re ever in the mood for some treats, visit me at etsy.com.