Step 1: For the Crust
2 cups ginger snap cookie crumbs
2 tablespoons brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. You’ll need a 9-inch pie plate and a 9×13-inch pan for boiling water (You can either use a baking sheet or a 2-3” pan for this – I recommend the deeper pan as it is much easier to pour the water into without spilling).
To make the crust, place cookies in the bowl of a food processor and grind to a fine crumb. If you don’t have a food processor you can crumble cookies in a zip lock bag with a rolling pin. The finer the crumb, the easier and more stuck together the crust will be. Once you have a fine crumb, add brown sugar, salt, and butter. Toss together, coating all the crumbs with the butter mix. Pour the mixture into a 9-inch pie plate and press with fingers until sides and bottom are evenly coated with crust.
Place into the oven, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes. The crust may have puffed up slightly from the heat – if this is the case, just use the back end of a spoon to press down gently on the crust and press it thinner. Remove from the oven and allow to cool while you make the cheesecake filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
Place a tea kettle of water on the stove top to boil. You’ll be using this to add hot water to the 9×13-inch pan to place under the baking cheesecake. Alternatively, you can place the pan in the oven at this point and then pour lukewarm water into the pan when you place the cheesecake into the oven – it will bubble and froth a bit, but the effect is the same.
Step 2: For the Cheesecake Filling
1 pound (2 blocks) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
While the crust cools, in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together cream cheese and granulated sugar. Make sure that you scrape all the cream cheese off the wrappers, or the inside of the tub so you have enough cream cheese. Beat until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in salt and vanilla extract until well incorporated. Add eggs, beating one at a time between each addition. You may need to scrape down the inside of the beater and sides of the mixer as you go along, so that everything is completely incorporated. You don’t want raw egg bit in your cheesecake. Once creamy and smooth, slowly beat in the cream, beating on medium high until creamy and luscious. Add lemon zest if using, it will add a nice little zing to the cheesecake mixture.
Pour cheesecake mixture into the prepared cheesecake crust.
Place 9×13-inch pan in the bottom shelf of the hot oven. Carefully pour in hot water, and fill to 1/2 full. Push into oven. If you have chosen to leave the pan in the oven earlier, carefully pour in some water from a glass into the hot pan – it will bubble and hiss, then push the pan back into the oven.
Place cheesecake on the upper oven shelf. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until cheesecake is browned and puffed. When cheesecake is puffed and doesn’t have a loose jiggle in the center, turn the oven off and use a towel to prop the oven open slightly. Let cheesecake rest for another 45 minutes in the cooling oven. Remove from the oven and cool completely, for at least 4 hours. Overnight is best, as this will allow everything to coagulate and firm together completely. The less time you allow the pie to cool, the more it will fall apart when you cut it.
While the cheesecake cools, make the caramel so it can cool as well.
Step 3: For the Salted Caramel
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
To make the caramel, add sugar, water, and corn syrup to a medium saucepan. When you measure the corn syrup, consider measuring a bit on the generous side, as it tends to stick to the spoon, and a little extra sugar won’t hurt your caramel. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring as often as needed. Once you have brought it to a boil, allow to brown.
NOTE - Here’s a tip for easy unburnt caramel. Constantly keep an eye on your caramel mixture. Remove the pan from heat just as it starts to brown. The bottom of the pan will retain heat and continue to cook the caramel. If you need it slightly browner, you can always return it to the heat. Make sure to stir the bottom of the pan, as well as the rest of the caramel, or it will burn, and you will have to start over.
Once sugar has browned to a medium amber color, remove from heat and immediately add heavy cream and butter. Mixture will boil and foam. Stir well. Add salt and stir well to incorporate. Caramel may seem thin… that’s just fine. Place in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and cool in the fridge for at least 4 hours, overnight is best.
Step 4: For the Finish and ENJOY!
Pour the cooled caramel over the cooled cheesecake, then return to the refrigerator until ready to serve. Sprinkle with a dash of sea salt then slice and serve.
The pie will last for up to 4 days, if well wrapped in the refrigerator.