1 box gingersnaps (about 16 oz.)
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup pecans, chopped fine
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (trust me)
3 pkg (8 oz. each) cream cheese, room temperature (may use low-fat, but do not use fat free)
1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree-- 15oz. can (not pumpkin pie filling)
5 lg eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup heavy cream (can use milk)
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt (trust me)
crumbled gingersnaps for garnish
toasted pecan halves for garnish
General NOTE: For the spices I usually just dump 'em in without measuring... so these measurements are guesstimations. Try adding 1/2 the spice amount then adjust up to taste. I like a LOT LOT LOT of spices in my pumpkin desserts. You may not like it as spiced, so don't be afraid to customize it to YOUR taste!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
For Crust: Crush the gingersnaps and reserve some for garnish (I do it in a food processor or you can place them in a ziplock bag and use a rolling pin). Combine all crust ingredients in bowl. Press into bottom and up sides of 10" or 11" springform pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 5- 10 min. or until pecans are slightly toasty. Cool a bit before filling.
For filling: In a bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add spices, beat until light in texture. Add spices and pumpkin puree and mix until just blended. Stir in eggs one at a time, scraping sides of bowl after each addition. Stir in cream.
Pour batter into springform pan over cooled crust. Bake in center of oven until cheesecake is firm to touch and not jiggly in middle, about 50 min. - 1 hour. Let cheesecake cool on a wire rack for about 45 minutes. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Don't freak out, the cake will FALL slightly in the middle as it chills giving it that classic "cheesecake" shape with a ridge around the edge.
For Caramel Sauce: Put sugars and water in small heavy saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat. Boil approx. 4 minutes until nice caramel color. Do NOT overcook it or you'll burn the sugar and have to start over. Remove from heat, add cream, salt and butter and stir until well blended. Let cool for about 5 min. then add vanilla extract.
Top with whipped cream (if desired). Drizzle with cooled caramel sauce and garnish with crumbled gingersnaps and roasted pecan halves.
To roast pecan halves: lay pecan halves on cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for about 10-15 minutes until browned.
Keeps in fridge for a few days...in freezer for a month or so.