Ginger Pear Cheesecake

1 1/2 cups crushed ginger snap cookies
4 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

3 pears, peeled, cored, and cut into quarters
1 pounds cream cheese, softened (4 cups)
1/2 cup crème fraiche or sour cream (8 ounces)
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 Tablespoon Poire William (Willams Pear Brandy), optional
4 ounces candied ginger 

Making the Crust: 
Lightly butter the sides of a 10 x 3 inch springform pan.

Combine the ginger snap crumbs and the butter in the workbowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until the ginger snaps resemble corn meal.  Pour the crumbs into the pan and press evenly onto the bottom of the pan, about 1/4 inch thick, and as far up the sides as possible. Refrigerate the crust for 30 minutes.

Making the Filling:
Preheat the oven to 325° F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. 

Cut the pears into large chunks and place in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process to chop finely.  Add the cream cheese and crème fraiche. Process for about one minute until fluffy.  While the processor is beating gradually pour in the vanilla and sugar through the feeding tube.  Add the eggs through the tube, one at a time, beating all the while. Add the ginger and finally the Poire William. Turn off the processor and pour the batter into the springform pan atop the chilled gingersnap crust. Tap the pan gently on a flat surface to remove any air bubbles. 

Place the springform pan on the baking sheet, transfer the baking sheet with the pan on top to the oven, and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. The cheesecake should be slightly risen and still a little liquid in the center. Turn off the oven and prop the oven door open slightly with a wooden spoon to allow the heat to escape.  Leave the cake undisturbed in the oven for 1 hour. It will finish cooking in the turned-off oven. 

Remove the cake from the oven and place on a rack to cool for 1 hour.  Once the cake has cooled to room temperature, slice the ginger into very thin slices and garnish the top of the cake with candied ginger, covering any cracks in the cake with the ginger slices and making free-form designs by lightly laying the ginger atop the cake. Chop the remaining candied ginger into small pieces. Slide the cake onto a serving plate and spread the chopped ginger on the serving plate around the base of the cake. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

To serve, slice the cheesecake with a sharp, thin knife dipped in warm water and dried before each slice. Serve chilled.

Serves 10 to 12.