Maple Cheesecake with Roasted Pears – Contest Winner!

Looking for a new twist on cheesecake we went with this recipe from Martha Stewart. After making a practice version a few weeks ago we gave it another shot so we could enter Maple Cheesecake with Roasted Pairs into a company Christmas party baking contest. The competition was stiff with over 12 amazing desserts; fortunately, we came out on top! We made a few adjustments from the first effort – such as light cream cheese to help lighten just a little bit. A great dessert for the holidays, it really has fantastic flavor with the nilla wafers and maple syrup.

For Crust:

6 Oz vanilla wafers (about 2/3 of a box)
3 Tbsp sugar
1/4 Tsp coarse salt
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, pulse cookies until finely ground (you should have about 1 1/2 cups). If you don’t have access to a food processor you can use a blender or use a meat tenderizer and smash the cookies in a ziploc bag. Add sugar, salt, and butter and pulse until combined.

Firmly press crumb mixture into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie plate. (If using a springform pan, press crumbs halfway up sides.) Bake until crust is dry and set, say 15 minutes. Let the crust cool completely before filling.

For Filling:

2 bars (8 ounces each) light cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
2 medium pears, sliced lengthwise 1/8 inch thick
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese on high until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup maple syrup; beat until smooth. In a medium bowl, beat cream and sugar on high until soft peaks form (see picture). With a rubber spatula, stir about one-third the whipped cream into cream cheese mixture, then fold in remainder. Transfer to crust and refrigerate until firm, 3 hours (or up to 1 day).

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Arrange pear slices in a single layer on sheet and brush with 2 tablespoons maple syrup. Roast until pears are soft, 20 minutes. Remove from oven and heat broiler. Brush pears with 2 tablespoons maple syrup and broil until browned in spots, about 4 minutes, rotating sheet frequently. Keep a sharp eye on the pears under the broiler as they can go from brown to burned quickly. To serve, arrange pear slices, overlapping slightly, on cheesecake.