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Magic and Salted Caramel Pecan Cheesecakes

December 9, 2011

“Aunt Bobbi, is it done yet?”

I walked to the stove and peaked over my niece Bailey’s shoulder while she dutifully stirred the contents of the copper sauce pan. The short answer to her question was “no,” but I wanted her to figure it out on her own. Her question smacked slightly of impatience, that exuberant Christmas morning kind of impatience. Bailey and I had been baking together all day, yet it was one of the few times that I was reminded of our near thirty year age gap. Fond memories of childhood road trips to Sea World rushed at me, “Mom, are we there yet?”

“What’s the recipe say?” I prompted.

Bailey poked at the white mass with her spatula and glanced at the recipe next to her on the counter. “Let boil until amber in color.”

“So what do you think?” I asked.

“It’s all lumpy. And it’s not really boiling,” she said with a giggle and a wide, bright smile that somehow made her brilliant burnt orange hair glisten more than usual.

Magic.

Judging from the white lumps in her pan, Bailey had a few more minutes of stirring before her sugar would be transformed into caramel. I’ve made caramel countless times over the years. Each and every time I marvel at the alchemy of a dry white solid becoming a silky liquid. This was Bailey’s first-ever batch of caramel, and I couldn’t wait to see the magic through her wide eyes.

Sharing the kitchen with Bailey felt more like baking with a girlfriend than with any twelve-year-old. For hours we’d whisked, stirred, tasted, and sang. Jason Aldean’s “country rap.” Lady Gaga. Pitbull. We had the Moves Like Jagger. Baby we were Fireworks. Together we rocked out a chocolate truffle cake, a pumpkin pie, and a walnut crostata. But this caramel and the petite pecan cheesecakes standing at attention awaiting their caramel caps were all Bailey’s.

“Aunt Bobbi, look! Look, it’s melting. The sugar is melting.”

“Keep stirring Bailey. You’re almost there.” Before our eyes the clear syrup began to gently bubble at the edges of the pan.

“It’s getting dark fast,” Bailey said. “Does that look like amber to you?”

“Yep, I think you’re there.”

Bailey turned off the heat under the pan. Relishing the rare occasion of being a sous chef in my own kitchen, I handed her the butter and cream that I’d measured out for her while she’d been patiently watching her bubbling pan. More whisking. More singing. Perhaps for Bailey the magic was fleeting though I knew it was a moment she’d not soon forget. For me, watching my niece thoughtfully drizzling her tiny cakes with gleaming caramel, the magic continued.

Salted Caramel Pecan Cheesecakes

Inspired by this recipe at BakeorBreak.com.

Ingredients

CRUST:

    2 cups pecans, lightly toasted and finely chopped
    1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
    3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

FILLING:

    16 oz cream cheese
    2/3 c. granulated sugar
    1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 large egg yolks
    1 whole large egg

TOPPING:

    1 cup granulated sugar
    1 tablespoon water
    4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
    1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
    24 pecan halves, lightly toasted
    Flaky sea salt for finishing (I used my favorite Maldon.)

Equipment

2 mini cheesecake pans (If you only have one pan, bake the cakes in two batches. You can also bake some now; refrigerate the remaining ingredients; and bake the rest tomorrow. The filling will keep for a couple days in the refrigerator.)

Preparation

CRUST:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Combine the ingredients.
  3. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of the crust crumbs into the bottom of each mini cheesecake cell.
  4. Using the blunt end of a wooden spoon or similar, tamp the crumbs until firmly and evenly compacted.
  5. Bake for 8 minutes.

FILLING:

  1. Place the cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl and mix on medium/high speed until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add the whipping cream and vanilla extract and beat until thoroughly blended. Add the egg yolks and egg and mix on low until just combined.
  3. Spoon the mixture on top of the crumb crusts leaving about a 1/2″ between the top of the filling and the top of the pan.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes or until the cheesecakes are firm to the touch. (They will puff up above the top of the pan. Don’t fret, they will sink as they cool, and the caramel will hide any and all imperfections.)
  5. Allow the cakes to completely cool on a wire rack before removing them from the pans.

TOPPING:

  1. Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Let boil until amber in color, about 3 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in the butter until melted and fully incorporated. Then stir in cream. Let cool to room temperature.
  3. Drizzle caramel over cooled cheesecakes.
  4. Top with a toasted pecan half and a light sprinkle of sea salt.

Makes 24 mini (2″ diameter) cheesecakes.

*Note: If you lack the pans or the patience for the minis, you can make a single cheesecake using an 8″ springform pan.



Hungry for more mini cheesecakes? Try these Sweet Curry Chocolate Cheesecakes with Coconut.

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26 Comments leave one →
  1. yessigarcia permalink
    December 9, 2011 5:23 pm

    This looks amazing, too bad I don’t own mini cheesecake pans :(

    • December 9, 2011 5:31 pm

      Don’t despair! You can always make one bigger cheesecake. The filling is enough for an 8″ spring form pan.

  2. Jen K permalink
    December 9, 2011 5:29 pm

    I have mini-springform pans that are just shy of 5″…is that the right size?

    • December 9, 2011 5:33 pm

      Jen-My pans make cheesecakes that are 2-inches in diameter, but they can made in any size pan. One big one, a few smaller ones, or 24 minis.

  3. December 9, 2011 7:54 pm

    How beautiful! I’ve been eying a mini-cheesecake pan to make something like this!

  4. December 10, 2011 7:27 am

    Stunning!

  5. December 10, 2011 6:11 pm

    Bookmarking this! I bet they taste heavenly. The combination of flavors is sure to be divine! Thank you for sharing.

  6. December 11, 2011 5:11 pm

    Caramel making really is magical. :)
    These look incredible, I don’t have mini cheesecake pans but I’ll be finding a way around that so my friends and family can enjoy this treat.

  7. December 12, 2011 8:42 am

    These are stunning! And I loved reading the sweet story about your niece. My first time making caramel was a little bit daunting, but pretty amazing in the end.

  8. December 12, 2011 10:54 pm

    This looks incredible! Wow – gorgeous photos! :)

  9. CarolinaGirl permalink
    December 13, 2011 1:40 pm

    My sister sent these to me on Pinterest. Can’t wait to try them, I have the mini cheesecake pans and am always looking for new recipes for them! thanks for sharing!

  10. December 14, 2011 4:13 am

    These tiny cheesecakes are out of this world. And gluten-free! I would personally replace the cream cheese with ricotta (just a personal love affair with it).
    Also it would be awesome if you specified the total prep and cooking time ahead of each recipe so we get an idea of time investment necessary to copy your masterpieces.
    Thanks for sharing this. I’m going to share this post on twitter and facebook.

  11. January 10, 2012 12:32 pm

    Wow, that first photo made me want to lick my screen! Can’t go wrong with salted caramel. Yum :)

  12. Joanne permalink
    January 13, 2012 6:18 pm

    In the carmel mixture, you mention in the directions that you add butter to the sugar and water mixture, but I do not see butter listed in the ingredients for the topping. How much butter did you add to the sugar and water after heating?

    • January 14, 2012 9:58 am

      Joanne,

      Good catch, thank you! The butter is now included in the ingredient list.

      • Joanne permalink
        January 14, 2012 3:47 pm

        Thank you….they have turned out beautiful!!

  13. January 18, 2012 2:51 pm

    Hi, this looks incredible! If i purchase a metallic mini cheesecake pan ( i prefer over nonstick) do you recommend i increase the temperature of the oven to 350?

  14. January 22, 2012 5:34 pm

    Oh my goodness! These look absolutely scrumptious… thanks for sharing doll!

  15. August 23, 2012 10:44 am

    I have a springform pan and this makes me want to take it out and use it. It is a beautiful dessert.

  16. Lil permalink
    November 20, 2012 12:18 pm

    I would like to make these ahead and freeze them, then the day before the party put on the topping and refrigerate them, would thst be okay

    Lil

    • November 21, 2012 7:05 am

      Lil, I’ve never tried freezing a cheesecake, so I can’t promise you that the texture of the cakes will be the same. A Google search might turn up some tips for freezing cheesecake. I’d be inclined to give it a try. Good luck!

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