A gingersnap crumb crust underlies this spicy cheesecake, and caramel-coated pecans adorn the top, for an irresistible alternative to traditional pumpkin pie. Cut this rich dessert into small wedges to serve.
For the gingersnap crust:
1/4 lb. gingersnaps (about 20 small cookies)
1/3 cup pecan halves
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 lb. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup pumpkin puree
For the topping:
1/2 cup pecan halves
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 Tbs. granulated sugar
Preheat an oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 9-inch springform pan.
To make the crust, in a food processor, combine the gingersnaps and pecans and process until crumbly. Add the brown sugar and melted butter and pulse for a few seconds to blend. Transfer the crumb mixture to the prepared pan. Use your fingers to pat the mixture into the bottom and evenly all the way up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
To make the filling, in a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, ginger and cloves. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Using a rubber spatula, occasionally scrape down the sides of the bowl. Gradually add the brown sugar mixture, beating until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the pumpkin puree, beating until smooth. Using the rubber spatula, scrape the batter into the chilled crust and smooth the top.
Bake the cheesecake until set or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
To make the topping, set aside 10 pecan halves and coarsely chop the rest. In a small fry pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add all of the pecans, sprinkle with the granulated sugar and cook, stirring, until the sugar melts and the nuts are toasted and caramel coated. Transfer the nut mixture to a plate and let cool completely, then store in an airtight container.
Just before serving, sprinkle the chopped pecans over the cheesecake and arrange the halves evenly around the perimeter. Serves 10 to 12.