Gluten-Free Sea Salt Caramel Candied Bacon Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake With Gingersnap Crust

I’ve read a couple of articles in food magazines and on food blogs recently, in which food writers bemoan the continuing pumpkin cheesecake 7love affair we’re having (at least in the USA) with salted caramel and bacon. A cursory look at restaurant menus and baking resources online show that these trends have yet to play out. Salted caramel and bacon are showing up as flavors in everything these days, for sure, and seem to have reached every last market possible. Betty Crocker offers a maple bacon-flavored cookie mix; Vosages offers a chocolate bacon bar; J & D Foods offers Baconnaise (yep – bacon flavored mayonnaise); McDonald’s offers a salted caramel sundae; and even Walmart offers a salted caramel gooey butter cake.  I’m pretty sure the reason for the persistent popularity of these flavors among all stratification of society (the fad started in France, with French chefs, after all)  is that anything tastes better if it has either salted caramel, bacon, or both somewhere in the ingredient list.

Given that I am a regular Joe kind of foodie, rather than an originator of creative new trail-blazing food trends that titillate the taste buds and gastronomical desires of serious foodies everywhere, I tend to stick what I find pleasurable to eat, no matter how in, or out, of vogue my preferences may be. Salted caramel and bacon remain among my preferences, either as stand alone flavors, or in combination. In fact, I recently combined these two flavors to make an out-of-this-world flavor-packed pumpkin cheese cake. Thanksgiving just a little past, and Christmas just a little forward, my pantry is stocked with seasonal flavors. I decided to use a can of organic pumpkin, left unused Thanksgiving day, to bake a pumpkin cheesecake. I had in mind only a simple, unassuming cheesecake, but I decided to add a topping and naturally I thought of salted caramel: the two flavors seem make for each other. The day I planned to bake the cheesecake, I was in Whole Foods doing a little grocery shopping. As I picked up a package of bacon to put into my basket, I thought of the cheesecake I planned to bake when I got home and realized that candied bacon would make a delicious finish to the cheesecake. I decided to throw in some pure maple syrup for good measure! The pumpkin – maple – salted caramel – candied bacon flavor combination turned out to be more than scrumptious; it was magnificently delectable.

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For this cheesecake, I used an 8.5 inch pan instead of the larger pan I usually use. We had no plans for company that week, and Phillip and I don’t need to eat a larger cheesecake all by ourselves. It was an experiment for me, since I have never made so small a cheesecake. The adjustments I made to down size worked out just fine. I used a recipe to make an easy caramel sauce; it, too, worked perfectly for the topping. I ended up using only half the sauce, however, so I’m using the other half of the sauce to add to hot chocolate and coffee. I confess that I also use it as a topping for chocolate ice cream Phillip made – let those who would criticize the appetite of my sweet tooth remove the planks from their own eyes before they judge ; )  Make this cheesecake for your family for Christmas, or New Year’s Day, or just to say “I love you.” Your family will adore you!

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Gluten-Free Sea Salted Caramel Candied Bacon Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake

Crust

1 1/2 cups Midel Gluten-Free Gingersnap crumbs (a little more than half a 9 oz bag)
1 tbls organic raw sugar
4 tbls melted butter

– Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
– Prepare an 8.5 inch spring-form pan by lining the bottom with foil, then placing snapping it into the pan sides.

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– Grease the bottom and sides of the pan with butter or oil (do this step even if you are using a non-stick pan).
– In a food processor, process the cookies until they form fine crumbs.
– Add the melted butter, and stir together until well blended.
– Press the cookie / butter mixture into the bottom of the pan.
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– Place the pan in the oven and cook about 10 minutes.
– Let cool.

Cheesecake

2/3 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp Ceylon cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 8 oz packages of full-fat 365 brand or Challenge (NOT Kraft) cream cheese, softened at room temperature
3 eggs, room temperature
1 tbls pure maple syrup
1 cup organic canned (or home-made) pumpkin puree

-Stir together a sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.
-Using a mixer or food processor, beat the cream cheese until smooth.

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-Gradually add the sugar mixture and beat until smooth.
-Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
-Add the maple syrup and the maple, mix until smooth and well blended.
-Pour the filling over the cooled crust in the spring-form pan.
-Place the spring-form pan on a cookie sheet, to catch any drips, and place both pans on a middle rack in the oven.
-Place a pie plate filled with water on the lowest rack, to moisten the air in the oven.
-Bake the cake for thirty minutes at 350 degrees, then turn the oven down to 325 degrees and cook ten to twenty
minutes longer, until the cheesecake edges are puffy and its center is wet but jiggles a bit when the pan is shaken.
-Remove from the oven and cool.
-When the cake is cooled, place it (still in the pan) in the refrigerator until cold.

Classic Caramel Sauce (Taken verbatim from Epicurious.com)

3/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar (I use organic raw sugar)
2 tbls water
1 tsp honey
4 tbls butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla (I use Mexican vanilla)

-Bring the cream to a boil in a 1-quart saucepan over medium heat.
-Cook the sugar, water, and honey in a 3-quart heavy-duty saucepan over high heat until the mixture comes to a boil.
-Brush around the inside of the pan with a damp pastry brush at the point where the sugar syrup meets the sides of
the pan. Do this twice during the cooking process to prevent the sugar from crystallizing.
-Cook the mixture over high heat, without stirring, until it turns amber colored, 6–8 minutes.
-Lower the heat to medium and slowly add the hot cream to the sugar mixture while stirring constantly. The cream
will bubble and foam.
-Continue stirring to make sure there are no lumps.
-Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the butter until it is completely melted. Then stir in the vanilla.

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-Cool the sauce slightly. Pour over the chilled cheesecake.

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-Place the cheesecake back in the refrigerator.

Candied Bacon

Four strips of bacon
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp Fleur de Sel de Camargue sea salt

-Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
-In a bowl, dredge the bacon slices in the brown sugar.

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-Place the bacon on a baking pan lined with parchment paper or foil. Sprinkle the excess sugar from the bowl over the top of the bacon.

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-Place another sheet of parchment paper or foil over the sugared bacon slices.
-Place another pan on top of the parchment paper or foil, to keep the bacon strips from curling up while they bake.
-Bake the bacon until it’s brown and crispy.
-Cool the bacon until it can be handled.
-Crumble the bacon on top of the chees
-Sprinkle the Fleur de Sel de Camargue over the bacon.

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-Return the cheesecake to the refrigerator and chill for a few hours.

To remove the cheesecake from the pan, remove the sides of the pan. Then carefully lift the foil edges until the cake comes off the bottom of the pan. Carefully remove the cake from the foil, either with a cake lifter or with your hand, and place it on a cake plate. Try not to eat the entire cake at once. Trust me. You will want to!

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