I’m pretty picky about my holiday desserts. For the very first day of this year’s #12DaysOfChristmas, I wanted something beautiful, somewhat unexpected and mouthwatering. This bourbon pecan pie cheesecake fits all of those criteria. I made it for Thanksgiving, and everyone exclaimed it was the best cheesecake they had ever eaten. I think I can work with that, and this Pecan Pie Cheesecake would make a beautiful and tasty appearance at any holiday gathering.
I must admit; I have never made a cheesecake before. I’m familiar with what is generally entailed for one, but I had just never done one by myself. My inspiration was a recipe from Baker By Nature, and I made a few adjustments. But all went as planned, and it was perfect.
For this recipe, you will need a nine or 10-inch springform pan (one of those with the removable bottoms and the clips on the side) and a food processor. I made quick work of this cheesecake in my food processor. Although you can try to make it in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, the food processor makes it so incredibly easy. I made both the crust and the filling in the food processor, and it was a breeze.
I don’t think you would get the same creamy consistency if you used a handmixer. Plus, food processors are kind of necessary for cracker crusts. If the graham crackers do not get pulverized enough, it will be impossible to stick together for the sides of the pan. So if you have a food processor, bust it out, baby! I personally hate cleaning mine, so I don’t use it very often but for this recipe it’s necessary.
You will need to cover the exterior of your springform pan with several layers of foil, completely covering the bottom and up to the sides. This prevents water from the water bath getting into your cheesecake.
The crust is a simple graham cracker, sugar, and butter crumb crust that you press into the pan. The original recipe called for pecans in the crust; however, I wanted to use most of my pecans for the top, so I used all graham crackers. To make the crust you combine two sleeves of crushed graham crackers, melted butter, brown sugar and a pinch of salt. You whirl all of this into the food processor until it is the consistency of coarse sand.
Make sure it is wet enough but not too wet so that the butter leaks out. You press the crust into the bottom and the sides of the springform pan. I like the look of a craggy crust on top (when you unevenly extend the sides above the cheesecake layer). But you don’t have to do this. You bake the crust for about 10 minutes while you make the filling.
Put a kettle of water on to boil. More about that later. Wash out the food processor bowl and blade and start again with three packages of cream cheese and white sugar. Blitz that until creamy, then add eggs and flavorings like bourbon and vanilla. Pour the filling into the crust. The cheesecake is creamy perfection. I flavored it with vanilla, cinnamon and a little bit of Jim Beam vanilla bourbon. I used our duck eggs, but you can substitute large chicken eggs.
In my research, I found that many cheesecakes call for 2 tablespoons of flour in the filling, which seems completely superfluous, so I left it out. I loved the creamy, dense texture, so I’d call that a win of omission. It baked up perfectly, a little golden brown on top, with no cracks of any kind, thanks to the water bath.
The Water Bath
I was somewhat intimidated by the water bath (when you bake a cheesecake or a soufflé in a pan of hot water). It can be messy, a little bit complicated, and downright dangerous if you spill boiling water all over yourself.
This is where things get a little tricky. You set your foil-covered springform pan inside a roasting pan with tall sides. When the water in the kettle is hot, you pour water two inches up the sides of the springform pan. This will ensure that your pecan pie cheesecake will steam bake and will not crack —I can vouch for this —mine did not crack.
Baking the Pecan Pie Cheesecake
I baked the cheesecake for 60 minutes. You’ll know it is ready when you wiggle it a bit and it’s not wobbly or liquid. In the middle, it should slightly jiggle but not slosh.
Pecan Pie Topping
Although this cheesecake would be dynamite without anything on top, the pecan pie mixture made it even better. It’s just like a creamy, sweet praline. I actually preferred to serve the cheesecake fully chilled.
Pecan Pie Cheesecake
This pecan pie cheescake is creamy and decadent perfection for any holiday gathering.
- 2 sleeves 16 crackers total graham crackers, crushed
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 8 tablespoons salted butter melted
- 3 8- ounce bricks of cream cheese softened at room temperature
- 3/4 cup sour cream don’t use low-fat
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar packed
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 large whole eggs plus one large egg yolk at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vanilla bourbon optional
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2/3 cup dark brown sugar packed
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons flour all purpose
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups pecans whole
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon bourbon optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).
Wrap the bottom and sides of a 9″ or 10’’ springform pan with several layers of aluminum foil. This is so that no water seeps into your cheesecake while it’s baking in the water bath.
Lightly butter or spray pan with nonstick spray.
In the bowl of your food processor, pulse graham crackers and sugar together.
Add the cinnamon and drizzle in the melted butter, pulsing until mixure looks like wet sand.
Pour crust into prepared pan. Firmly pat the mixture into the pan, working it from the center and up the sides. Build up the sides to extend over the filling, if you like that look.
Bake crust for 10 minutes. Cool crust while you prepare the filling.
Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees (F).
In the bowl of a food processor, blitz the softened cream cheese and sour cream until completely smooth.
Add in both sugars, ground cinnamon, and vanilla and beat until just smooth, scraping down the sides and bottom of bowl as needed.
Add in the eggs and yolks and beat until smooth. Add in the bourbon, if using, and pulse until combined.
Pour filling on top of the partially baked crust. Using a rubber spatula, smooth the top.
Place the cheesecake pan into a large, deep roasting pan. Fill the pan with 2 inches of hot water.
Carefully place the pan in the oven and bake for 60 minutes. The cheesecake should be still slightly wiggly. Turn oven off and let the cheesecake sit, inside the closed oven, for 30 minutes.
Remove cake from oven and gently run a knife very around the edge of the cake. Place the cheesecake on a cooling rack and cool completely, then loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and chill for at least 8 hours or overnight.
If you want to make it ahead, the cheesecake will keep, tightly covered in the fridge, for five days. Cheesecake may be frozen, the entire pan wrapped in plastic wrap and then heavy-duty aluminum foil, for two months. Thaw overnight before slicing. Before serving, top with pecan topping.
In a large skillet over low heat, melt the butter. Add in the brown sugar and cook, stirring with a whisk, until the sugar has melted and mixture is bubbling, about 2 minutes. Add the flour and stir until incorporated.
Add in the heavy cream, salt, and stir mixture with a spatula to combine. Add in the pecans and fold them into the mixture until they're completely coated. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and bourbon.
Cool praline for 10 minutes, then pour mixture on top of cheesecake, starting in the center. It will spread out. Store in the fridge until serving time or serve right away.
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