“Surviving the Holidays.” Do you ever feel that is your mantra this time of year? Too many years that is my thought—and each year I try so hard to change it to “Enjoying the Holidays!” I actually cherish holidays—and really do love the baking, decorating, cooking, family time with laughter, gift giving, worshiping, and partying—it is just that some years, time slips by and it is a struggle to get it all done. I count on recipes, like this one for Praline Pumpkin Cheesecake, that you can make head, freeze, and serve as a show stopping dessert or gift. It is the perfect dessert to take to that Thanksgiving gathering and the pumpkin, brown sugar and pecan flavors make it ideal to serve anytime throughout the holidays.
Grab the slow cooker—and get ready for compliments. It is so easy. Last summer I talked about making an appetizer cheesecake in the slow cooker (Pesto and Bruschetta Cheesecake). The only challenge to baking a cheesecake in the slow cooker is to find the 7-inch springform pan. Once you get the pan, you are ready to go! Make it now—and freeze it for Thanksgiving, Christmas, the Holiday Open House or as a gift for friends and neighbors.
I love the flexibility and timing. Bake it about 3 hours in the slow cooker, then turn the slow cooker off and let it and the cheesecake cool together. You will have plenty of time to run an errand, fix dinner, or decorate the house while the cheesecake bakes. Cool the cheesecake, then refrigerate it overnight. Once well chilled, it is easy to remove the springform pan and serve it, or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag; label, date and freeze. When ready to serve, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator, then top it with the freshly made, warm pecan and praline sauce (that is quickly made in the microwave oven in just minutes) and you will be the staring host or hostess or be the most welcome St. Nicholas in your neighborhood.
Praline Pumpkin Cheesecake
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup toasted chopped pecans
Crust: Crumple a sheet of aluminum foil, about 24-inches long, into a thin strip or ribbon, then form into a 7-inch ring. Place aluminum foil ring in a large 5 to 6 quart slow cooker. Combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar and cinnamon. Mix well and pour into a 7-inch springform pan. Press to evenly cover the bottom and up the sides about 1/2-inch.
Filling: In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer on medium high speed, beat together cream cheese, sugar and brown sugar until smooth and creamy. Beat in pumpkin. Beat in eggs, blending well. Beat in remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Spoon into crust.
Place cheesecake in slow cooker, resting the filled pan squarely on the aluminum foil ring. Cover and cook on high setting 3 hours or until set. Do not remove cheesecake from slow cooker. Turn slow cooker off, leave the slow cooker covered and allow the cheesecake to cool, about 2 to 3 hours. Lift the cheesecake out of the slow cooker and allow it to come to room temperature. Refrigerate several hours. (Wrap and freeze if desired; thaw before topping.)
Praline Topping: Place butter in a microwave safe bowl; microwave on High (100%) power 30 to 40 seconds or until melted. Stir in brown sugar. Microwave on High 30 seconds. Stir well. Continue to microwave 10 seconds or until sugar is melted and mixture is bubbling and hot. Stir in cream, blending well. Microwave on High 10 seconds or until mixture bubbles and is hot. Stir until sauce is smooth. Stir in vanilla and pecans. Cool 3 to 4 minutes. Spoon the warm praline topping over the cheesecake.
Tips: Allow cream cheese and eggs to come to room temperature before making the cheesecake.
Line the springform pan with a circle of parchment paper before making the cheesecake. It will make it even easier to remove the baked cheesecake from the springform pan when gift giving. Be sure to check that the springform pan fits into the slow cooker before proceeding.
Extra pumpkin? Did you know you can freeze it? Spoon the canned pumpkin into a freezer container and cover, label and freeze. When ready to use, thaw overnight in the refrigerator, stir well and use as directed. Plan to use the frozen pumpkin within 3 months.
Toasting pecans intensifies the flavor. To toast the pecans, spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° F for 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly toasted.