48-ounce packs (904 grams)cream cheeseat room temperature
1 1/4cup (251 grams)granulated sugar
1 teaspoonvanilla extract
1tablespoonlemon zestfrom 1 medium lemon
4largeeggsat room temperature
1poundsweet potatoesmashed (see notes for roasting sweet potatoes at home)
1/4cup (60 milliliters)heavy cream
For the Pecan Praline Topping
2cups pecanstoasted until fragrant (or about 10 minutes at 350°F)
1cup (200 grams)granulated sugar
1cup (200 grams),packedlight brown sugar
1/2 teaspoonvanilla extract
Prepare the Graham Crust
Preheat your oven to 350°F (177°C).Combine the graham crumbs, melted butter, and sugar in a bowl and mix them together.
Once mixed, press the graham mixture into a 9" springform pan.Bake the crust for 10 minutes in the preheated oven that's been preheated to 350°F.
Once baked, remove the pan from the oven, leave the oven on for baking the cheesecake later.Allow the pan to cool to the touch before wrapping it in two layers of heavy duty aluminum foil.
Prepare the Sweet Potato Cheesecake
Set a pot of water (about 4 cups) on the stove to boil for creating the water bath to bake your cheesecake in.In a small mixing bowl, stir together the cornstarch, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and cloves until combined.
Blend together the cream cheese, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla bean paste on low speed in a separate, large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer or your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.Once the mixture is creamy and smooth, begin adding the eggs- one at a time- to the bowl. Scrape down the bowl and beaters after each egg is incorporated.
After all of the eggs have been added, slowly mix in the mashed sweet potatoes and the heavy cream.Finally, add the spice blend you mixed earlier. To avoid creating a gummy texture in the baked cheesecake, blend the spices just until incorporated.
Bake, then Cool the Sweet Potato Cheesecake
Pour the sweet potato cheesecake batter into the prepared cheesecake pan, then place the prepared, graham crust-filled cheesecake pan into a large pan. There should be at least two-inches of clearance on the sides of the cheesecake pan.
Carefully pour the boiling water into the larger (outer) pan until it reaches midway up the sides of the foil-wrapped cheesecake pan.Carefully place the pan setup into your preheated oven and bake the cheesecake for 1 hour.
Once the baking time has elapsed, turn the oven off and prop open the oven door with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to cool slowly in the oven for another hour. After the final hour, remove the cheesecake from the oven and the water bath. Remove the protective foil and allow the sweet potato cheesecake to cool to the touch on the countertop. Transfer the pan to the fridge and allow it to chill for 8-12 hours (or overnight).
Prepare the Pecan Praline Topping
Arrange the toasted pecans on the surface of the cheesecake in a decorative design.Return the sweet potato cheesecake to the fridge while you prepare the praline topping.
In a large pot with sloping sides*, stir together the two sugars, baking soda, vanilla bean paste, and the evaporated milk. Stir until the sugar is dissolved- this should take about 5 minutes. Heat the mixture over medium heat to bring it to a boil while continuing to stir.
Clean the Sides of the Pot
While you're waiting for the sugar to come to a boil, use a pastry brush- dipped in water- to brush down the sides of the pot. It is important to remove the sugar crystals that were left clinging to the sides of the pot after you stirred the mixture. The sugar crystals, if left on the sides of the pot, will drop back into the liquid, causing it to seize up (or crystallize). Remember to keep dipping the brush into the clean water as you wipe down the sides. The sides of the pot should look clean as whistle when you've finished.
Finish the Praline Syrup
After the sides are clean, leave the sugar- without stirring- to boil and caramelize. Boil the mixture until it reaches 230°F, then remove it from the stove.Add the unsalted butter to the toffee and stir rapidly- this is when the mixture will bubble up, so be careful!
As you stir, the mixture will go from foamy, to dark, to opaque. Once it appears opaque, stop stirring.
This topping can be made up to one week in advance. Keep it stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.To use: warm it in the microwave until it is fluid.
Top the Sweet Potato Cheesecake and Serve
Remove the sweet potato cheesecake from the fridge and drizzle the praline topping over all of the pecans. Save the rest of the praline topping for drizzling on individual slices after serving.
This praline topping develops a crust as it cools, which only makes it even more like the pecan pralines we love. Warm the blade of a knife in hot water to get through that crisp coating without messing up the aesthetics.
Enjoy the Sweet Potato Cheesecake with Pecan Praline Topping within 72 hours of baking.Keep any leftovers store in the fridge.
For Making Sweet Potato Puree:
Mash the sweet potatoes days- or even months- in advance. You can store the mashed sweet potato sealed in freezer storage bags in the freezer anywhere from 6 months to a year.If you're using canned sweet potatoes:
drain the syrup from the can and rinse the potatoes.
mashed the sweet potatoes until smooth.
If you're opting to make this recipe entirely from scratch:
Preheat your oven to 400°F.
Pierce the clean, dry sweet potatoes with a fork, pricking holes in the skin to vent the potatoes while they bake.
Place them onto a sheet pan and bake them for 1 hour, or until soft. You can also peel, quarter, then boil the potatoes, but I find the sweet potato flavor is weakened through boiling.
Once the potatoes are soft (a knife should slip in and out with no resistance), remove them from the oven and cover them with a clean kitchen towel. Leave the potatoes to steam under this towel for 20 minutes.
After you've allowed the sweet potatoes to steam, peel them.
Mash the sweet potatoes or puree them in a food processor until smooth.
Set the mashed (or pureed) sweet potatoes aside.
*Using a large pot is very important because, later on in the recipe, the mixture is going to bubble and expand. This precautionary step will keep you from being burned by the hot sugar.
After cutting slices from the cheesecake, press a piece of plastic film or wax paper against the exposed cheesecake to keep it from drying out in the fridge.
If you want to freeze the cheesecake, do so prior to topping it with the praline topping. The praline topping, when frozen, changes texture upon thawing.
To freeze the sweet potato cheesecake: cool it completely, then wrap it well in plastic wrap. Freeze the cheesecake for up to two months. Thaw it in the fridge before topping with the praline.