Caramel Pecan Cheesecake

1 1/4 cups chocolate cookie crumbs, store-bought
1/4 cup pecans, toasted and ground
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 cup soft caramels
2 tablespoons evaporated milk or whipping (35%) cream
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate chunks
1 pound cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

For the Crust: In a bowl, combine cookie crumbs, ground pecans and butter. Press into bottom of 9-inch cheesecake pan or springform pan with 3-inch sides, and freeze.

For the Filling: In a small saucepan over low heat, melt caramels in evaporated milk, stirring frequently, until smooth. Reserve about 3 tablespoons; cover and refrigerate. Pour remaining caramel mixture over frozen crust, spreading evenly and leaving a 1/2-inch border uncovered. Sprinkle chocolate chunks over caramel. Set aside.

In a mixer bowl fitted with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese, sour cream and sugar on medium-high speed until very smooth, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in vanilla. Fold in chopped pecans by hand. Pour filling over frozen crust, smoothing out to sides of pan.

Bake in 350-degree oven until top is light brown and center has a slight jiggle to it, 45 to 55 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 2 hours. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before decorating or serving.

For the Decoration: Reheat reserved caramel mixture in the microwave or in a small saucepan over low heat until melted. Drizzle over cake.

Recipes and photos from The Cheesecake Bible Second Edition by George Geary.