Friday, August 19, 2016

The Ultimate Cheesecake for Fall with Pumpkin Spice, Maple, and Pecans

So, every once in a while, the nice folks at General Mills Cereal send me a little care package. Recently, the package contained exactly one thing: a box of Pumpkin Spice Cheerios.

I've said many times that Cheerios have been my favorite cereal since I was a kid. Chex are a close second, but if you offered me a bowl and some milk and told me to choose a cereal from every possible option, I'd choose Cheerios every time.

Pumpkin Spice Cheerios, though?

The first thing I thought of when I saw the box was cheesecake. I happen to love pumpkin cheesecake, and I thought the Cheerios would be perfect as a crust. And once I got the idea into my head, I absolutely had to do it.

Of course, pumpkin reminds me of fall, and once I had those ideas in my head, my imagination went a little wild. What could I flavor the cheesecake with?


How about a little maple? And then I started thinking about pecan pie ... I thought about adding pecans to the crust, but then decided to top the cheesecake with a little dulce de leche and chopped pecans.

This cheesecake is like all of fall's desserts wrapped into one tiny little dessert.

And I mean small. Very small. Not quite a single serving, but small enough that it only uses one single 8-ounce package of cream cheese.

This recipe is inspired by the pressure cooker cheesecake in The Great Big Pressure Cooker Book. If you have a pressure cooker - either electric or stovetop - you should get that book. It's amazing!

Tastes Like Fall Cheesecake
With Pumpkin Spice, Maple, and Pecans

1 cup Pumpkin Spice Cheerios (These are seasonal - use another type if you can't get them.)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 8-ounce package cream cheese (not lowfat or fat-free)
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg at room temperature
2 tablespoons creme fraiche* (or sour cream)
2 teaspoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon maple extract
Dulce de leche, for garnish (optional), as needed
Chopped pecans, for garnish (optional) as needed

Set a rack into your electric pressure cooker (I used my Instant Pot) and add 2 cups of water. Have a 6-inch springform pan standing by.

Note: I have what appears to be a 5(ish) inch springform pan, which is pretty unusual. I suggest using a 6-inch springform pan for this recipe, if you have one. Your cheesecake will a little wider and a little less tall than mine, but that's fine. Mine overflowed the pan just a little bit, but you should be fine with a normal 6-inch pan.

Use your food processor fitted with the steel blade to turn the Cheerios into tiny bits and crumbs. If you have a food processor with multiple bowls, use the small bowl so you don't have to wash the bowl after. Add the butter and process until the Cheerio bits are all wet. You can also mix by hand.

Add the crumb mixture to the springform pan. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and a little but up the sides.

Put the cream cheese and sugar in your food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until smooth. Wipe down the sides of the bowl as needed to make sure everything is well mixed.

With the processor running, add the egg and process until smooth. Next, add the creme fraiche, then the flour. Process for 1 minute.

Add the lemon juice, and vanilla, and maple extract and process again until it's combined. Scrape down the bowl as needed to make sure it's all well-mixed.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Don't cover it. I know you want to, but don't.

Fold a double-thickness of foil (about 24 inches long) in half lengthwise. Use this to form a sling that will hold the pan and allow you to lower it into the pressure cooker and to remove it when the cooking is done. Lower the pan into the pressure cooker and crimp the ends of the sling to fit neatly inside the pot.

Note: my metal rack has handles, so I didn't make the sling. I've used a metal sling before, and it's pretty handy.

Lock the lid on the pressure cooker.

In an Instant Pot or other electric pressure cooker: Cook at high pressure for 20 minutes. When the time is up, turn cooker off so it doesn't switch to the warming setting and let it reduce pressure naturally. After 15 minutes, vent any remaining pressure manually. (I haven't made this in a stovetop pressure cooker, so I don't know the timing for that.)

Unlock the pot and carefully remove the pan.

Let the cheesecake cool until you see that it has stopped deflating. It only takes a few minutes. Dollop small amounts of dulce de leche over the top of the cheesecake. Use as much dulce de leche as you like. I love the stuff, but I didn't want it to overwhelm the cheesecake. Let the dollops sit for a minute or so to warm up and soften, then spread the dulce de leche over the top of the cheesecake. Sprinkle the chopped pecans over the top of the cheesecake.

Let the cheesecake cool for 1 hour on a rack, then refrigerate it overnight before removing it from the pan to serve. To make it easier to loosen the ring, run a thin knife around the inside edge of the pan before opening the lock..

*Creme fraiche can be expensive, if you buy it. I make my own. Instructions are here to make it in and Instant Pot. Here's how to make it the old-fashioned way.

Thanks to General Mills for sending me fun products to work with! I was not obligated to write about this, or even eat it. But I just had to. Because ... cheesecake!