The team at America’s Test Kitchen wanted to use maple syrup to sweeten cheesecake for an autumnal twist. Adding pecans to their tried-and-true graham cracker crust provided a nutty accent to a maple-y filling. For maximum maple impact, they added a lot of maple syrup: 1¼ cups for 2 pounds of cream cheese. Do not substitute pancake syrup — which is corn syrup — based and cloying — for the maple syrup. Reduce the oven temperature as soon as the crust is finished baking, and use an oven thermometer to check that it has dropped to 225 degrees before you bake the cheesecake. Thoroughly scrape the processor bowl as you make the filling to eliminate lumps. Serves 12 to 16
For the Crust
- 4 whole graham crackers, broken into pieces
- ¼ cup pecans
- ½ cup (2½ ounces) all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup (2⅓ ounces) sugar
- ¼ teaspoon table salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the Cheesecake
- 2 pounds cream cheese, softened
- 1¼ cups maple syrup
- 4 large eggs
For the Topping
- ⅓ cup granola
- ½ cup maple syrup
- For the crust: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan. Process cracker pieces and pecans in a food processor until finely ground, about 30 seconds. Add flour, sugar, and salt and pulse to combine, about 2 pulses. Add melted butter and pulse until crumbs are evenly moistened, about 5 pulses.
- Using your hands, press crumbs into an even layer on the prepared pan bottom. Using the bottom of a dry measuring cup, firmly pack crumbs into the pan. Bake until the crust smells toasty and is browned around edges, about 18 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 225 degrees. Let the crust cool completely.
- For the cheesecake: In a clean, dry processor bowl, process cream cheese and maple syrup until smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. With the processor running, add eggs, one at a time, until just incorporated, about 30 seconds total. Pour batter onto cooled crust.
- Firmly tap pan on counter and set aside for 10 minutes to allow air bubbles to rise to top. Gently draw tines of fork across the surface of the batter to pop air bubbles that have risen to the surface.
- Once the oven has reached 225 degrees, bake cheesecake on an aluminum foil-lined rimmed baking sheet until the edges are set and the center jiggles slightly when shaken and registers 165 degrees ½ inch below surface, about 3 hours.
- Transfer pan to wire rack and let cool completely, about 2 hours. Refrigerate cheesecake, uncovered, until cold, about 6 hours. (Once fully chilled, cheesecake can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 4 days.)
- To unmold cheesecake, run the tip of a paring knife between the cake and the side of the pan; remove side of pan. Slide thin metal spatula between crust and pan bottom to loosen, then slide cheesecake onto serving platter. Let cheesecake stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- For the topping: Sprinkle granola around the top edge of the cheesecake. Drizzle maple syrup inside the ring of granola. Spread with the back of a spoon, as needed, to fill the area inside the granola ring.
- Cut cheesecake into wedges and serve.
Top photo by Steve Klise/America’s Test Kitchen LLC.