For the crust:
1 1/8 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup ground pecans
3 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
For the filling:
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. Chinese 5 spice
1/4 tsp. salt
1 lb. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
For the marshmallow topping:
3/4 cup egg whites
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
½ t. vanilla
Preheat an oven to 350°F (180°C).
For the crust:
With an electric mixer beat the graham crackers, pecans, brown sugar and butter on low speed until combined. Press the crust into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake until lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Reduce the oven to 300°F
For the filling,
Combine the cinnamon, nutmeg, 5 spice and salt in a small bowl and set aside. With an electric mixer beat the cream cheese and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the sweet potato puree, vanilla and spice mixture and beat until again on medium until well incorporated and smooth; about 1 minute. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
Wrap a double layer of aluminum foil around the bottom and sides of the springform pan. Add the filling and smooth the top. Place in the center of a roasting pan. Pour hot water into the roasting pan to reach halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm but jiggles slightly in the center, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool in the water bath before topping with the meringue. The cheesecake can be refrigerated overnight.
To make the meringue, in a saucepan, bring 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water to a simmer. Place the egg whites, brown sugar, corn syrup and vanilla in a bowl and set over but not touching the simmering water. Whisk by hand until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is hot, about 2 minutes. Transfer to an electric mixer bowl and beat with the whisk attachment on high speed until the meringue cools to room temperature and stiff peaks form, 5 to 6 minutes.
Lightly pat the cheesecake with a paper towel to remove moisture. Mound the meringue on top and spread it to the edges. Using a spoon, create mountains of meringue around the surface. Lightly brown with a kitchen torch. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 6 hours. Serves 8 to 12.