When I saw this No-Bake Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake on the BHG website, I thought it looked most delicious. It also had the added bonus of requiring no oven time. Since my friends here at BHG asked that I give the recipes I’m sharing in the month of November a bit of Southern flair, I thought a nice twist would be to change the crust to vanilla wafers crumbs and add a layer of praline pecans. Pecans are our beloved nut of choice in the South and pralines are immediately identified as a historic Southern confection. Pralines are candy clusters comprised of buttery caramelized sugar and nuts. Originating in Louisiana they have a rich history that dates back to the 1700′s. Different versions of praline candy have been rotating through Southern kitchens, bakeries and candy stores ever since.
Keeping with the no-bake concept I whipped up the praline pecans in the microwave. Instead of adding them into the crust, I chose to sprinkle them on top of the crust adding a surprise layer of decadence and crunch. It provides a very tasty twist to a perfect make-ahead Thanksgiving dessert. I’ll show you how I did that, then follow the recipe for the cheesecake filling in the original recipe on BHG here.
Ingredients needed for the Vanilla Wafer Crust and Praline Pecans:
For the Praline Pecans:
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp heavy cream
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/8 tsp salt
2/3 cup pecan pieces
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
For the crust:
1 cup vanilla wafer crumbs
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
3 Tbsp butter, melted
To make the Praline Pecans: [Cooking time is based on an 1000 watt microwave]
In a medium size microwave safe bowl, melt together the butter and heavy cream for 35-45 seconds. Add the brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Stir until dissolved. Return to the microwave and continue to cook on high for 1 minute.
The mixture will be very hot, remove carefully from the microwave. Add the pecan pieces and stir well. Return to the microwave and cook on high for 1 minute.
Add the vanilla and stir until the pecans are evenly coated. Spread on wax paper to cool. When cooled, break apart into pieces.
To make the crust, sift together the vanilla wafer crumbs, pumpkin pie spice and melted butter until fully moistened. Press into the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan and chill. Sprinkle the praline pecans over the crust then proceed with the filling as directed here using half & half in place of the milk and orange juice needed for the filling.
Melissa Sperka is the Publisher, recipe developer and photographer of the blog Melissa’s Southern Style Kitchen. Her blog focuses on creating homemade family-style meals, snacks and desserts as well as many classic Southern favorites. Melissa lives in North Carolina and is a busy Mom to 2 boys. She is passionate about sharing her love of cooking, baking and entertaining. After winning the National Flour Power! contest, she also gained national attention with her blue ribbon “Nested Potato Skins” featured in Southern Living Magazine. You can also find her at Parade.com as a featured Contributor.
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Since it’s pumpkin season, I thought I’d hit some of the classics. This is one I’ve made several times and has pretty much become standard issue for my family during the holidays. Sure you can go do a pumpkin cheesecake straight up, or you can do this Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake with a brulee top.
The brulee top is a tweak I added. My family likes the contrast of the creamy cheesecake against the layer of crunchy carmelized sugar. Of course you can skip that and just top it with some whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. If you do decide to go with the brulee top, make sure that it is done just prior to serving, for maximum crunch. And on that note, to stay ahead, this Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake can be made up to two days in advance and kept loosely covered in the refrigerator.
To brulee the top, hold your kitchen torch two inches above the sugar and move it in a circular motion until the sugar creates a carmelized top. If you don’t have a kitchen torch, you can use the broiler for two to three minutes—just make sure you keep a watchful eye while so the top doesn’t burn and you may need to rotate it to prevent “spotted” burning.
As for what type of sugar to use to create the brulee top, my preference is for demerara sugar, it has a slight molasses flavor and because the grain is slightly smaller than raw sugar, it melts faster and more evenly. Want to knowhow I know that? Take a look at the picture above, I used raw sugar, and you can see the brulee top is spotty and not even. You can also use granulated sugar, but if you do, I would suggest using a torch and not the broiler, since it takes slightly longer to caramelize and you will have more control with a kitchen torch.