I don’t make or eat caramel apples during any other time of year, but once the chilly weather rolls in, I can’t wait to sink my teeth into them! Along with the avalanche bark that my Chief Culinary Consultant and I picked up at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory last Friday, we also snatched up a buckeye caramel apple. The combination of apples and caramels is such a natural marrying of flavors, and one that I cannot resist in any baked form. I’ve seen tons of salted caramel apple bars, caramel apple pies, and the list goes on and on. This one, however, stopped me in my tracks.
Apples… caramel… CHEESECAKE… nuts… fresh whipped cream.
It’s the holy grail of caramel apple desserts, and I couldn’t go another day without making it.
While this dessert has a long name and a seemingly endless list of ingredients, it’s actually rather simple to make. A classic graham cracker crust is pressed into a springform pan (or into a large, deep-dish pie dish). Then, a general layer of homemade salted caramel is spread on the bottom of the crust and sprinkled with chopped pecans. Thinly sliced Granny Smith apples are sauteed in a mixture of butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, cooked down until they are incredibly soft. Add those to the pan, then mix together the cheesecake layer and pour it over top. Once it’s cooled to room temperature, the pie should be refrigerated for at least a few hours, preferably overnight, allowing the flavors to set and meld together.
The result is an insanely delicious pie that tastes like a combination of some of the best fall desserts. The caramel and pecan layer on the bottom has a similar flavor to pecan pie, followed by apple pie, then cheesecake, then a cream pie topping with the fresh whipped cream. It’s utterly amazing and a dessert not to be missed. This is perfect if you’re looking for something a little outside of the box when it comes to Thanksgiving dessert!
A fabulous layered pie with a graham cracker crust, caramel, pecans, apples and cheesecake, topped with fresh whipped cream, more caramel and pecans.
For the Crust:
1½ cup graham cracker crumbs (about 12 full graham crackers)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅓ cup unsalted butter, melted
For the Caramel-Pecan Layer:
¾ cup salted caramel sauce
1 cup chopped pecans
For the Apples:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
For the Cheesecake:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Whipped Cream:
¾ cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
For the Garnish:
Salted caramel sauce
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Make the Crust: Whisk together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and cinnamon. Add the melted butter and use a fork to toss the mixture together until all of the crumbs are evenly moistened. Dump the crumbs into a 9-inch springform pan or a 10-inch pie plate and press them into an even layer over the bottom and two-thirds of the way up the sides of the pan. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.
3. Pour the salted caramel sauce over the bottom of the crust, gently spreading it into an even layer. Sprinkle the chopped pecans evenly over top of the caramel layer. Place the pan in the refrigerator while the apples are prepared.
4. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
5. Make the Apples: Melt the butter in a 12-inch skillet, then add the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt, stirring to combine. Cook the mixture until it is gently bubbling, about 1 minute. Add the apples to the pan and toss to coat with the butter mixture. Cook until the apples are very tender and just about all of the liquid has been evaporated, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then add to the pan on top of the caramel-pecan layer, spreading the apples into an even layer. Return the pan to the refrigerator.
6. For the Cheesecake: Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until completely smooth. Add the egg and beat until completely combined. Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract, and beat until completely smooth, another 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the cheesecake batter over the apples in the pan, smoothing it into an even layer. Bake until the cheesecake is set and doesn't jiggle in the middle, about 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
7. Make the Whipped Cream: Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment or a hand mixer, whip together the heavy cream and powdered sugar on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form.
8. Garnish and Serve the Pie: Remove the sides of the springform pan. Spread the whipped cream evenly over the top of the cheesecake layer. Dollop spoonfuls of the caramel sauce on top of the whipped cream and, using a butter knife or offset spatula, gently swirl the caramel into the whipped cream. Sprinkle additional chopped pecans on top. Serve immediately. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers.
Note: You can substitute store-bought caramel sauce for the homemade salted caramel, if you prefer.