Chocolate, caramel, and pecans, all wrapped around a cheesecake? I think I've died and gone to heaven! Oh, and while it is cooling on the rack, all the calories simply fall out of it! (Right!)
When you include the cool-off and refrigerating time, the total time to prepare one of these is about 7-8 hours. I usually make them a day ahead, as they do well in the refrigerator.
Adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 325°. Put a couple quarts of water on to boil for the bain marie. Cover the bottom of a 9" spring-form pan with two layers of heavy duty aluminum foil to create a water-tight seal. Butter the inside bottom and sides of the spring-form pan.
In a food processor or blender, break up the chocolate sandwich cookies, complete with their filling, into pieces. Process them in pulses until they are about the consistency of wet sand. Transfer the crumbs to a medium mixing bowl and combine them with the melted butter until they are thoroughly mixed. Press the mixture evenly into your prepared pan, covering the bottom and about 2" up the sides.
In a small microwaveable mixing bowl, microwave the caramels and milk on HIGH in 1 minute increments, stirring after each minute, until the caramels are completely melted, about 3 minutes. Stir in the pecans. Pour half the mixture into the crust. Refrigerate the pan for 10 minutes. Refrigerate the remaining caramel mixture for later use.
Using a hand- or stand mixer, beat the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until they are well blended. One at a time, add the eggs, mixing on low speed after each just until it is blended. Pour this mixture over the caramel layer in the crust.
Place the spring-form pan into a roasting pan and add boiling water up to half the height of the spring-form pan. Slide the pan into the preheated oven and bake it until the center is almost set, but with the center still a little jiggly, about 1 hour 5 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes. Remove the cheesecake (still in the bain marie) and run a sharp knife around the rim of the pan to loosen the edge of the cheesecake. It will shrink slightly while cooling and if you have not loosened the edge, the top may crack. Allow the cheesecake to cool for 1 hour in the water bath and another 1 hour on a cooling rack before removing the pan's rim. Refrigerate the cheesecake for at least 4 hours.
Microwave the reserved caramel mixture for 1 minute and give it a stir. Pour it over the cheesecake. Melt the chocolate as directed on the package and drizzle it over the cheesecake.