I’ve broached the sweetness issue earlier, but know that this dessert makes converts of even those who claim never to want something sweet; it’s a cheesecake (baked in a bain-marie, which is the smartest route to the lightest, most delicate set) sitting on a base made of graham crackers, crushed pecans and a dash of maple syrup, the cheese layer itself smokily sweetened with the syrup. This cheesecake is best made well in advance, so you can sit back and enjoy the feast.
The one thing I need to be strict about is that the cream cheese be taken out of the refrigerator a good 2 hours before you start. I know you’ll obey me when I tell you to bake the cheesecake in a pan of water (don’t worry, it’s perfectly straightforward) but I suspect that the stipulation for room-temperature cream cheese may not be as dutifully observed. But it must be: you will never get the requisite voluptuously smooth texture if the cream cheese starts off cold.
- 1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs
- ¾ cup pecan halves
- ¾ stick (6 tablespoons) butter
- 3 x 8 oz bars of cream cheese, at room temperature
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- ½ cup maple syrup, plus more for drizzling
- 4 eggs
- ½ teaspoon cider vinegar or lemon juice
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Put the cracker crumbs in a food processor, then add the pecan halves and blitz again to a crumb mixture. Add the butter and process everything together until it clumps up, and then press into the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan to make a smooth base. Sit the pan in the refrigerator to chill while you get on with the topping.
3. Put the cream cheese into the cleaned processor bowl with the sugar, cornstarch and maple syrup.
4. Turn the motor on and, with the processor running, break the eggs down the feed tube, processing until you have a smooth mixture. Add the vinegar or lemon juice, and pulse to mix.
5. Take the springform pan out of the refrigerator, and line the outside with a layer of special ovenproof plastic wrap, bringing it up around the top outer edge of the pan; this is to make a waterproof layer for when the cheesecake is cooked in a water bath. Do the same again, cover the plastic wrap with a double layer of aluminum foil, making sure that this, too, is brought right up to the top edge of the pan.
6. Sit the foil-wrapped springform in a roasting pan, then pour in the smooth filling. Fill the roasting pan with freshly boiled water, to come about halfway up the wrapped springform.
7. Bake the cheesecake in the oven for about 1 ¼ hours, though start checking it after an hour, it should be set on top but still have a hint of a wobble in the middle.
8. Take the whole shebang-marie out of the oven and carefully lift the cheesecake out of its water bath. Peel away the foil layers and let it cool in its pan on a rack. Once cooled, refrigerate the cheesecake for at least 4 hours, or ideally overnight.
9. The following day, or up to 2 days later, let it come to room temperature before springing it out of the pan.
10. Sit it on a serving plate and pour some maple syrup over the top of the whole cake, drizzling a little more over each slice as your serve the cheesecake.
Nutritional information is based on 10 servings.