Caramel Cheesecake with a Pecan Crust

Prep: 15 minutes | Bake: 85 minutes | Cool: 2 hours + overnight | Serves: 8 

For the crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

For the filling:
3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, room temp
1-1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
4 large eggs, room temp
1/2 cup jarred caramel sauce + the rest for garnish
1/2 cup whole milk

Preheat the oven to 375 °F and lightly coat a 9" spring form plan with non-stick spray. Place the pan on a baking sheet and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, add all of the crust ingredients and use a mixer to incorporate them until they resemble a loose, crumbly dough. Press the crust into the evenly into the spring form pan, going up about 1-inch on the sides. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Remove the pan and let it cool while you make the filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

Place the cream cheese, brown sugar, vanilla and salt in a large mixing bowl and use a mixer to fully combine them. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing each egg completely into the cream cheese before adding the next. Pour in the caramel and the milk, continue mixing for another 30 seconds, and then pour the cream cheese filling into the prepared crust in the spring form pan.

Bake the cheesecake for 40 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 300°F and continue baking for another 30 minutes, or until the cheesecake is nearly set - it will still appear jiggly in the middle.

Turn the oven heat off, crack the door of the oven, and let the cheesecake cool for one hour. Then, remove the cheesecake and let it cool for an additional hour on the counter at room temp. Lastly, refrigerate the cheesecake, covered, for at least 8 hours (but overnight is better).

Before serving, use the remaining jarred caramel sauce as a topper by pouring it on top prior to serving. Goes great with whipped cream and more chopped pecans!