Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cheesecake On The Half-Shell

"What is that?"
"Pumpkin Turtle Cheesecake."
"But what does that mean?"
"It's cheesecake you serve on the half-shell, duh."
"Juuuust kidding."

Though this recipe is actually called "Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake," I wasn't able to make the tasty pecan praline powder called for in the recipe that dusts the top of the cheesecake because I don't have a food processor (that's right people, I don't even own a blender). So, instead, I reached for my trusty go-to jar of caramel sauce, mixed a dollop in a bowl with pecan halves and used that to set off the layer of sweetened sour cream below and voila: Pumpkin Turtle Cheesecake. Or, as I've been calling it, Teenage Mutant Ninja Pumpkin Turtle Cheesecake.

Just as the term "Black Forest" is often applied to about any combination of chocolate and cherry, "turtle" has come to symbolize the delicious mixture of caramel and pecans. This is undoubtedly due to Nestle's Turtle candies, first produced by the Rowntree DeMet company in the 1920s, and made from simply caramel and pecan halves before being dipped in chocolate. The story goes that a DeMet's employee commented that the new candies looked surprisingly like turtles and the rest is history. Who knows.

All I know is that, if I've done my job, you'll now have the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' theme song in your head :) But, believe me, this cheesecake is so good that your friends probably won't even mind that you're singing it to them as you serve up the slices.

Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup flour
3 8-oz pkgs cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbs flour
1 15-oz can pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3 eggs
1 8-oz container sour cream
1 Tbs granulated sugar
Pecan halves (optional)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. For Pecan-Praline Pieces and Powder, line a large baking sheet with foil and set aside. In a heavy skillet place the 1/2 cup granulated sugar, cook over medium-high heat, shaking skillet occasionally until sugar begins to melt. Do not stir. Reduce heat to low and stir in the chopped pecans; cook about 3 minutes more or until sugar is golden brown and pecans are toasted, stirring occasionally. Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet, spreading with a wooden spoon as thin as possible. Cool. Break or chop the cooled praline into 1/4-inch pieces and set half of it aside. For Pecan-Praline Powder, place remaining broken pieces in a blender container or food processor bowl. Cover and blend or process until ground. Store in separate containers in refrigerator or freezer up to 1 week.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. For crust, in a medium mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed about 30 seconds or until softened. Add the 1/4 cup brown sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the 1 cup flour. Beat on low to medium speed just until combined.

3. Pat dough onto bottom and 1-1/2 inches up the side of 9-inch springform pan. Bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool crust on a wire rack while preparing filling.

4. For filling, in a large mixing bowl beat cream cheese, the 3/4 cup brown sugar, and the 2 tablespoons flour with an electric mixer on a medium to high speed until combined. Add the pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Beat until combined. Add eggs all at once. Beat on low speed just until combined. Stir in the coarsely broken pecan-praline pieces, reserving the powder for the topping.

5. Pour filling into the crust-lined springform pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until center appears nearly set when shaken.

6. In a small bowl combine sour cream and granulated sugar. Spread over top of cheesecake.

7. Cool cheesecake in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Use a small metal spatula to loosen crust from sides of pan. Cool 30 minutes more. Remove side of the springform pan. Cool for 1 hour. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

8. Just before serving, sprinkle the Pecan-Praline Powder over sour cream topping in center of cheesecake and garnish with pecan halves, if desired.

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