Place caramels and evaporated milk in a heavy saucepan. Heat over medium low heat, stirring continually, until smooth, about 5 minutes. Stir in ½ cup of chopped pecans. Pour into pie crust.

1. Combine the cream cheese and milk in the blender. Process until smooth. Add pudding mix; process for about 30 seconds more.

2. Pour pudding mixture over the caramel layer, covering evenly. Chill, loosely covered ( or maybe tightly to keep poking fingers out) until set, about 15 minutes.

3. Drizzle the fudge topping over pudding layer in a decorative pattern. Make some zigzags for fun. Sprinkle the top of cake with the remaining pecans. Chill, loosely covered keeping an eye out for Little Jack Horners until serving time. Serves 12.

For a gooey sweet variation, drizzle ¼ cup of caramel topping over the cheesecake instead of the fudge topping.

Some hints you might find helpful:

  • Nuts are easier to chop when they're warm. You can heat them in the microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes or in the oven at 350º for about 5 minutes.
  • Would you like to quick way to drizzle the fudge topping? Put it in a re-sealable plastic bag, snip off a corner of the bag, then pipe away with the topping over the pudding layer!
  • You can do a make ahead with this recipe through to step 3. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate. (Hide it in the vegetable bin, they'll never think of looking there;) Add the topping and decorate with the pecans just before serving.
  • You can make your own homemade pie crust with chocolate sandwich cookies. Mix 1 ½ cups of cookie crumbs with 3 tablespoons melted butter. Press into a 9-inch pie plate. Bake at 350º for 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Goes great with some hot mint tea and your best friend.

    24 oz cream cheese
    1/2 lb white chocolate
    1/2 lb semi-sweet chocolate
    4 eggs
    Pecans (to taste, as it were)

First important note, the cream cheese really needs to be at room temperature before you start. You don't want it hot or anything, but the softer it gets, the fewer lumps you're going to have once you start mixing it, and this is a good thing, when it comes to cheese cake.

You can use either a stand mixer or a bowl and spatula for the initial mixing, but it's a lot less effort with the stand mixer, and you get a smoother finish to it.

You can use a double boiler for melting the chocolate, but a microwave will quite honestly do just as well. Put your chocolate in a wide bowl or dish (pasta dishes are great for this) and microwave for a minute at a time, letting it rest between goes, and stirring before putting it back on the heat. Watch the white chocolate very carefully, it burns much easier than the semi-sweet.

You will probably have picked up 3 eight ounce packages of cream cheese. Split one in half, and mix the batches separately, so that you wind up with two bowls of cream cheese. You can use the same bowl for the whole thing, but do the white chocolate first.

Once you've rendered the cream cheese into a consistency of sour cream, mix in the white chocolate to one bowl of cream cheese, and mix the semi-sweet into the other, and two eggs to each batch. Eggs should likely also be at room temperature (aren't you glad now that you read the recipe before starting to make it? You didn't?)

Now, get your spring form pan ready. It should be at least a 9 inch pan. Butter the bottom and sides, and then put down a layer of parchment paper (the easiest way to do this is just put it under the ring part of the spring form and carve around the edge with a knife, so that you get a roughly round piece of parchment that fits inside). Butter the up side of the parchment paper as well.

Pour in the white chocolate batter first, and spread it evenly. Next, take as many pecans as you like and run them through the food processor (or, if you were thinking ahead and felt like splurging, you may have picked up precrushed pecans) until they're chunky. You're not looking for flour here, just little chunky bits. Spread them across the top of the cheesecake to the desired amount. Next, put the semi-sweet chocolate batter on top, and smooth it out.

Place the springform pan into a raised sided pan (a pyrex 9 x 13 dish will usually do) and fill the pan with half an inch of water, forming a bain. This will help the center of the cheesecake to cook evenly with the sides. The oven needs to be set at 300 degrees F, and it needs to bake for 55 to 65 minutes (depends on how hot your oven actually runs, and how evenly it cooks). When it seems about time, try a toothpick near the edge of the cheesecake. If it comes out clean, try it again, more toward the middle. The center should still be a bit gungy. Take it out, dry it, and stick it in the fridge for 3 to 4 hours.

When it's done cooling, the edges of the cheesecake will have pulled away from the springform pan. Release the sides, then put a plate on top and carefully flip the cheesecake. The bottom of the springform should release. Peel off the parchment paper, apply pecans as a garnish, and serve with caramel sauce. Diet heavily for the next several weeks.

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