1 1/4 cups finely crushed chocolate cookie crumbs*
20 caramels, unwrapped
1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup sour cream
1 (12-ounce) package (2 cups) real semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup shortening
Heat oven to 350°F. Line 8-inch square baking pan with double thickness of aluminum foil, extending foil over ends of pan. Spray foil with no-stick cooking spray.
Combine all crust ingredients in bowl. Press onto bottom of prepared pan.
Combine caramels and half & half in bowl. Microwave 1 minute; stir. Continue microwaving 30 seconds; stir until smooth. Pour over crust in pan. Sprinkle with pecans. Refrigerate while preparing cream cheese mixture.
Combine cream cheese and sugar in bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add egg and vanilla, beating just until combined. Stir in sour cream. Pour over caramel mixture.
Bake 35-40 minutes or until just set 2 inches from edge of pan. Cool on cooling rack 2 hours. Loosely cover; refrigerate at least 4 hours.
Lift cheesecake from pan using foil ends. Cut into 36 squares.
Place cooling rack over large piece of waxed paper on counter.
Combine chocolate chips and shortening in 1-quart saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, 4-5 minutes or until smooth. Pierce each cheesecake square with fork. Spoon chocolate over top and sides of each cheesecake square, letting excess chocolate drip back into pan. Place onto cooling rack. Let stand about 20 minutes or until chocolate is firm. Store refrigerated.
*Substitute finely crushed chocolate sandwich cookie crumbs.
A gentle touch is the key to beating cheesecake batter. Beat just until the ingredients are combined. Overbeating incorporates too much air which causes cheesecakes to rise during baking, then fall and crack during cooling.