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Being a true Golden Girls fan, I obviously love cheesecake. Especially a moist, flavorful one covered in blueberries. (Blue is my favorite berry. #truestory) Welcome to the best cheesecake recipe!
I have been making a version of this recipe for at least 15 years. I do not recall exactly where I got the original recipe, but I think it was from cooking.com. Writing this made me think, whatever happened to cooking.com? I had some great recipes from that site… Well, I just put it into the Google machine to learn that Target supposedly bought it about 7 years ago. Interesting. Where did all of cooking.com’s recipes go? If anyone knows, please tell me!
“But I digress”. (As Sophia would say.)
What Makes this Pecan Gingersnap Cheesecake so Great?
I love this recipe for two reasons:
First, the cheesecake is moist and super flavorful, packed with phenomenal vanilla flavor.
Second, I break from tradition (as I like to do) and do not use a graham cracker crust. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a graham cracker crust, but I learned (by making this) that graham crackers are not the only thing that make a delicious crust. The truth is, you could probably use any sort of dry cookie or cracker (even ice cream cones!) to make a crust like this. I use Anna’s Ginger Thins. I have no idea what compelled me to use them in this crust, but I’m glad I did! Those cookies, combined with toasted pecans, a little sugar and a little butter create a cheesecake crust far superior to any other cheesecake crust that has passed these lips.
This Pecan Gingersnap Cheesecake Rocks With or Without a Topping
You could make this cheesecake and not make a topping. But I think a fruit topping adds another dimension to this dessert. I included a blueberry topping that I love. The blueberries pair extraordinarily well with the spices in the crust. If blueberries aren’t your thing (the horror!), you can slice up strawberries and place them on top in a decorative fashion. Then heat some strawberry jam in a saucepan and, with a pastry brush, coat the strawberries.
Here are a few tips when making this cheesecake recipe:
Freeze the Crust
Once your crust is made and in the pans, be sure to get them very cold. I think the freezer works best for this, and it should only take 15-30 minutes. While it’s in the freezer, make the cheesecake batter.
Use Heavy Duty Foil
When wrapping your springform pan in foil, it is imperative that you use long, heavy duty foil and make sure there are no seams of the foil on the bottom or sides. You are going to bake the cheesecake in a water bath. (Nerd alert: Doing so creates steam as the cheesecake bakes and prevents the top from drying out and cracking. It makes for a moist cheesecake.) When pouring water into the roasting pan, be careful. You do not want any of the water from the bath to get into your cheesecake.
Remember: the springform pan is made of two parts that come apart. If water leaks between the foil and the pan, it will get into the bottom of your springform pan where the two pieces connect.
Use Vanilla Beans
For the cheesecake batter, I highly recommend using two vanilla beans. The vanilla seeds look incredibly pretty in the cheesecake. For cost savings and not to overdo it, you should use two vanilla beans plus two teaspoons of vanilla extract. If you do not have vanilla beans, you can use 2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste plus 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. If you have neither vanilla beans nor vanilla bean paste, you can certainly use 4 teaspoons (or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) of vanilla extract.
Make the Blueberry Topping in Advance
If you are making the blueberry topping (I highly recommend it), I suggest making both the cheesecake and the topping the day before you intend to serve. Once made, be sure to cover the blueberry topping with plastic wrap actually touching the top of the berry mixture before placing in the refrigerator. Just before serving, pour the berries over the cheesecake. Over time, the berries may bleed into the cheesecake. Pouring the berries on when they are cold and just before serving will keep it all pretty for when you serve it.
How to Store Pecan Gingersnap Cheesecake
Store the finished cheesecake in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
Frequently Asked Questions About Making Pecan Gingersnap Cheesecake
What can I substitute for vanilla beans?
If you do not have vanilla beans, you can use 2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste plus 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. If you have neither vanilla beans nor vanilla bean paste, you can certainly use 4 teaspoons (or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) of vanilla extract.
What size springform pan should I use for cheesecake?
I recommend a 9-inch springform pan. You will have leftover cheesecake batter which you can bake in a separate 5-inch springform pan, a large ramekin or other baking dish. You can also bake them in cupcake molds. Having a little extra batter is a nice way to get a taste of final product while maintaining the integrity of the presentation of the large one.
Cheesecake with Pecan Gingersnap Crust
- 210 grams ground Anna's Ginger Thins or similar dry ginger cookie (once ground, you should have about 1½ packed cups) (about 1½ 5.25 ounce packages)
- 100 grams pecan halves (1 cup)
- 110 grams light brown sugar (½ cup firmly packed)
- 100 grams sugar (½ cup)
- 85 grams unsalted butter (6 Tablespoons)
- 904 grams cream cheese, at room temperature (4 8-ounce packages)
- 150 grams sugar (1½ cups)
- 30 grams ¼ cup all purpose flour
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- 453 grams sour cream, at room temperature (1 16-ounce container)
- 58 grams milk, at room temperature (¼ cup)
- 2 vanilla beans, split in half and scraped
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 400 grams blueberries, fresh or frozen (4 cups)
- 28 grams cornstarch or 22 grams (2 Tablespoons) Instant Clear Jel (4 Tablespoons)
- 134 grams sugar (⅔ cup)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- small pinch of ground cloves
- Crust. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease with butter the bottom and sides of a 9 inch springform pan. For easier release, place a 9 inch parchment circle on the bottom of the pan and butter the top of the parchment. Also grease a 5 inch round ramekin. (All the batter will not fit into the 9 inch pan. The ramekin is for the remainder to make a mini-cheesecake.)
- Spread pecans on a baking sheet. Toast pecans in oven for 5 minutes. Redistribute/mix the pecans and place back in oven 2-3 minutes. Be careful not to burn them. Let them cool to room temperature.
- While the pecans are toasting and cooling, melt the butter and allow to cool.
- Pull out a large piece of long, heavy duty foil. Place the springform pan on top of it, and pull the sides of the foil up the outsides of the pan. Use one piece of foil. Do not try to use two pieces, one covering the other, because you will have a seam on the bottom that will allow water to come in. I suggest double wrapping the pan in the heavy duty foil for extra protection from the water.
- Grind the ginger snaps in a food processor. (A blender will work too, you but may take longer and you may have to stop and mix more.)
- Once the pecans are fully cooled to room temperature, grind pecans in food processor. (If your food processor is large enough, you can add the pecans to the ginger thins and grind them all together with all the dry ingredients. Add the butter and pulse until fully combined and move to step 8.)
- Combine ground ginger snaps, ground pecans, sugars and melted butter in a bowl. Mix until the butter is evenly distributed and it has the consistency of sand.
- Press crumbs into greased pan about ½ inch thick on bottom of pan. You can also use crumbs to go up the side of the pan. (I have done both and think it's prettier – and easier -- to have the crumbs just on the bottom.) Use the bottom of a dry measuring cup to press the crumbs down. If you want a crust for your mini-cheesecake, pull out some of the crumbs and press into the ramekin.
- Place the foil wrapped pan with the crumbs in the freezer for 15-30 minutes. Alternatively, place in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to overnight.
- Cheesecake. Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese with the sugar, 1-2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well at medium speed to make sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding in the next one. Beat in the milk, vanilla beans, and vanilla extract until fully incorporated. Beat in the sour cream. Just before the sour cream is fully incorporated, slowly beat in flour.
- Pour batter into chilled crust, leaving about ¼ inch to the top of the pan. Pour the rest into the prepared ramekin.
- Place the foil wrapped springform pan into a larger pan like a roasting pan and place in oven. Pour hot water into the large pan, at least 1 inch high, being careful not to pour any water onto the cheesecake. Use another baking pan to place the ramekin in and also fill with hot water. (Baking the cheesecake in a water bath is essential. The steam prevents the top from cracking and ensures a moist cheesecake.)
- Bake at least 1 hour. The mini-cheesecake will likely be done, but the larger one may take a full 75 minutes. The top should be puffy and golden brown.
- Remove cheesecakes from oven and allow to cool while sitting in the water bath, 1-2 hours. (The cheesecakes will deflate slightly so that they look less puffy and more level.) Carefully remove the foiled pan from the water bath to avoid getting any water in the cheesecake. Remove foil from outside of pan.
- Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.
- Keep plain or top with any topping of choice just prior to serving.
- Blueberry Topping. Place all the fresh or frozen berries in a 3 quart pot. Pour the rest of the ingredients on top of the berries. On a medium-high heat, cook the mixture, stirring well at first to coast the berries in the dry ingredients. Once the liquid on the bottom of the pan starts to simmer, reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool. Place plastic wrap directly on top of the cooled mixture and store, airtight, in refrigerator for at least a couple of hours. Spread the blueberry topping on the cheesecake just before serving.
- This recipe actually makes 1 9-inch cheesecake plus 1 mini 5 inch cheesecake.
- Do not skip freezing or refrigerating the crust before baking. Doing so will leave your crust with butter running out of it. Baking the crust while it is cold allows the butter to remain set in the crust without it melting.
- Once the cheesecake is cold, it should be very easy to release it from the pan. Use a metal spatula around the sides. You may need to push down when you hit the crust. Work your way around the pan slowly with the metal spatula, wiping the spatula down with a paper towel as necessary. Release the outside part of the springform pan. Slide the metal spatula between the parchment paper and crust and place cheesecake on desired plate or cardboard circle.
- It is best to spread the blueberry topping on when it is refrigerator cold because the berries will be less likely to bleed into the cheesecake.