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Cheesecake has been battling its way up the Thanksgiving dessert food chain for many years and just may have earned the second place spot behind pie. It’s a terrific option, especially if you have non-pie-people in the mix. Additionally, cheesecake can be made up to two days in advance, which is a huge bonus on turkey day where prep is concerned. And, of course, cheesecake is always mouth-wateringly beautiful on the dessert table.
I wanted to do something different than pumpkin in the cheesecake because we almost always have a fresh pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving (it’s Pastor Alaska’s favorite). So instead of going the pumpkin route, I opted for this glorious Maple Cheesecake with Spiced Pecan Graham Cracker Crust instead. Wow… just wow.
Doesn’t that just have Happy Thanksgiving written all over it?
Maple Cheesecake with Spiced Pecan Graham Cracker Crust
Adapted from Nigella Christmas by Nigella Lawson
For the Crust:
1-1/3c graham cracker crumbs
1/4t ground cloves
3/4c pecan halves
6T butter, melted
For the Filling:
3 (8oz.) packages of cream cheese, room temperature
1/2c pure maple syrup + more for serving
1/2t maple extract
1/2t freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350. Wrap the outside of a 9-inch springform pan tightly with aluminum foil (this is to ensure the pan is water-tight while baking inside a water bath). Set a kettle full of water on the stove to boil (for the water bath).
Put graham cracker crumbs, sugar, spices, and pecans into a food processor. Pulse until it becomes a crumb mixture. Drizzle in the melted butter and pulse again until it clumps up. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the springform pan and a little up the sides. Place the pan in the refrigerator to firm up while you make the filling.
Clean out your food processor bowl and add the cream cheese, sugar, cornstarch, maple syrup, and extract. Turn the processor on and gradually add the eggs, one at a time, until the mixture is smooth. Add the lemon juice and pulse again.
Remove the springform pan from the refrigerator and place it inside of a large rimmed roasting pan. Pour the cream cheese filling on top of the crust. Place the roasting pan into the oven and fill the roasting pan with freshly boiled water, about halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
Bake 60-75 minutes. The cheesecake should be set on top and only slightly wobbly in the center. Carefully remove the entire pan from the oven, then gently remove the cheesecake from the water bath. Peel away the foil and allow the cheesecake to cool completely on a cooling rack. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours (and up to two days) before serving.
To serve, remove the springform from around the cheesecake. Pour about 1/4 cup or so of pure maple syrup on top of the cake, using the back of a spoon to gently guide it to the edges (some syrup may drizzle over the sides, which makes a beautiful presentation). Pecans can also be added for garnish.