My friend Jon can make me laugh for an hour straight if he does his impression of a southie for me. Not many people can accurately imitate a Boston accent, and since I grew up thirty-five miles south of the city, I have a good ear for it and can tell when someone is off. Jon is nearly pitch perfect. And it’s hilarious.
But I think I love hearing his southern accents even more. He grew up there and can demonstrate several different drawls from around where he lived. The best is when he breaks into telling me about his first job scooping ice cream at Baskin Robbins. Butter Pecan was pretty much the only flavor anyone ever ordered—the other thirty flavors were just there for show.
A week or two ago, when I needed an idea for a cheesecake, I asked Jon for something that would be perfect for fall. He suggested Butter Pecan (in his southern accent), with one pecan placed on the top of each slice. Here is what I came up with.
butter pecan cheesecake squares
for the crust:
1 2/3 cup almond flour (or 1 2/3 cup raw almonds finely ground in a food processor)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 tablespoons butter, melted
for the filling:
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup chopped pecans, finely chopped
for the topping:
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup brown sugar
pinch of kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar
16 pecan halves (about 1/3 cup)
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line a 9 inch square pan with a strip of 9 x 14″ parchment paper. (If paper keeps falling down, use metal clips to keep it in place). Set aside. In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, pulse together almond flour, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Pour in the melted butter and process until the mixture comes together. Press nut mixture into the pan and bake for 20 minutes, just until the edges barely begin to brown. Remove from oven to let cool.
2. Reduce heat to 325ºF. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together cream cheese, sugar, molasses, and salt until smooth and fluffy. Beat in vanilla extract, and eggs, one at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Add in cream and flour, and mix until just incorporated. Fold in pecans. Pour cream cheese mixture into crust.
3. Place a clean kitchen towel in the bottom of a large casserole dish or a roasting pan, and place the cheese cake on top. Pour cool water in the roasting pan, directly on the dish towel, until it comes to about halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the center of the cheesecake is almost not jiggly. Turn off the oven, and keep the oven door partially open while the cake cools. Remove after about 1-2 hours, and allow to cool completely. Transfer to the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Cover with plastic wrap only after cake is completely cold. (To achieve cleaner slices of cheesecake, freeze the cheesecake at this point for 45-60 minutes.)
3. Prepare the topping. In a small saucepan, whisk together cream, brown sugar, and salt. Set over medium heat and bring to a boil. Boil for about a minute. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla and powdered sugar. Keep whisking until most of the lumps of powdered sugar are gone. Stir in pecan halves.
4. Remove cheesecake from the refrigerator or the freezer, and use the sides of the parchment paper to gently lift the cake from the pan. With a warm sharp knife, cut the cake into 16 squares, cleaning the knife after each cut. Top each piece with a praline pecan.