3 bricks (1 cup/250g each) cream cheese, room temperature
1-¼ cup (280g) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons (40g) cornstarch
3 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons (10ml) vanilla
2/3 cup (158ml) 35% cream
¼ cup (60ml) water
1 cup (225g) granulated sugar
1 cup (250ml) 35% cream
3 tablespoons (45ml) whiskey, optional
2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla
½ teaspoon (3g) sea salt
Salted pretzel twists, optional for décor
Heat oven to 350F (176C). Spray an 8-inch (20cm) springform with cooking spray; set aside.
For the cheesecake base, pulse pretzels to coarse crumbs. Add flour, brown sugar and butter and pulse just to combine. Press into the bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool 15 minutes.
Wrap outside of pan in plastic wrap followed by tinfoil to within an inch of rim, ensuring plastic wrap is covered completely by tinfoil. Place pan into a 9x13 inch (23x33cm) baking pan. Boil a kettle of water.
For the cheesecake filling, beat one brick cream cheese, ¼ cup (60g) of granulated sugar and cornstarch together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on low until creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add in the remaining cream cheese and granulated sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
Increase the speed of the mixer to medium and beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping bowl often. Add vanilla and cream and beat until combined.
Pour the filling into the cooled crust (already wrapped and set into baking pan). Place in oven and pour boiling water into pan around cheesecake until half way up sides. Bake until the edges of the cheesecake are lightly golden and the centre barely jiggles, 60 to 70 minutes. Remove from oven and remove from water bath. Remove foil (to release any trapped water that will make the crust soggy) and cool cake to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 5 hours.
For the caramel, pour the water into a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add granulated sugar and without stirring, allow the water and sugar mixture to boil until golden, 7 to 9 minutes, swirling pan gently near end of cooking time if mixture is browning unevenly.
Remove the caramel from the heat and carefully whisk in the cream and whiskey, if using. Return the caramel to the heat and cook, stirring frequently over medium-low, until the caramel is thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Once thick, remove the caramel from the heat and whisk in the butter, vanilla and salt. Set aside to cool.
When ready to serve, run a knife around the cheesecake and remove it from the springform pan. Pour about 1 cup of the caramel over the cheesecake. Serve with extra caramel and pretzel twists, if desired.