Thank you to Jaime of Good Eats ‘n Sweet Treats for choosing this week’s recipe, Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake. I am a lover of all things cheesecake; I don’t think I have ever met a cheesecake that I didn’t like. So needless to say when this week’s recipe was revealed I was beyond thrilled. I have always had success with cheesecakes, so I wasn’t worried about this recipe, but that is not to say that it went off without a hitch.
I got my crust put together, baked off and cooled. The trouble began with the carmelization of the apples. My large non-stick pan was dirty and I didn’t feel like washing it just to saute some apples, so I took out a slightly smaller stainless steel pan. Easy enough. Moments later the kitchen was flooded with a wretched burnt butter and apple smell that was less than pleasant. I had foiled the first batch of apples, so I decided to slice what I had left in half so that I would still have the same number of apple wedges, albeit a little smaller.
With the apple crisis averted, I moved on to putting together the cheesecake filling and it came together easily and without incident. Since I used a 9″ springform pan instead of a 10″ I ended up baking my cheesecake for about 20 additional minutes, for a total of 2 hours and 5 minutes. When I took the pan out of the water bath and unwrapped the (triple-wrapped) foil I was disappointed to find a puddle of water had gotten through the foil. Although it didn’t appear to affect the crust, Nikki suggested using heavy duty aluminum foil to avoid such problems in the future. Thank you for the tip Nikki!
You’d think that this would be the end of the cheesecake saga, right? Well, the rest revolves around my food-obsessed, yet darling golden retriever. He appears to have stretched in length overnight because even though the cheesecake was pushed against the back counter to cool, he still managed to snag a chunk out of it. Needless to say, I was not happy.
While Dorie suggests garnishing this cheesecake with a thin layer of apple jelly or a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, I had planned to drizzle the cheesecake with the remaining butter/brown sugar mixture from carmelizing the apples. I think this would be fabulous; however, I am not able to report on how it tasted because the dog managed to find that plate as well. ::sigh::
Aside from all of the trials and tribulations, what was my final take on this cheesecake? I absolutely loved it! The brown sugar in the batter made for a deliciously sweet and creamy cheesecake, and the apples complemented the cheesecake’s flavor perfectly. Being an apple lover, I would probably opt to pile even more apples on next time. The amount in the recipe wasn’t enough to cover a single layer of the pan, so I would certainly up the apples to cheesecake ratio. Overall, another perfect dessert from Dorie!
For the Crust
30 gingersnaps (or a scant 2 cups graham cracker crumbs)
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
For the Apples
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter
3 large Golden Delicious or Fuji apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
2 tbsp (packed) light brown sugar
For the Filling
1 1/2 pounds (three 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
6 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp apple cider
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy cream
Apple jelly, for glazing, or confectioner's sugar, for dusting (optional)
1. To Make the Crust: Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan.
2. Put the gingersnaps in a food processor and whir until you have crumbs; you should have a scant 2 cups. (If you are using graham cracker crumbs, just put them in the food processor.) Pulse in the sugar and cinnamon, if you're using it, then pour over the melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are moistened. Turn the crumbs into the springform pan and, using your fingertips, firmly press them evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan as far as they'll go. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven. (The crust can be covered and frozen for up to 2 months.)
3. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
4. Remove the pan from the freezer and wrap the bottom tightly in aluminum foil, going up the sides. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is set and lightly browned. Transfer to a rack to cool while you make the apples and the filling. Leave the oven at 350 degrees F.
5. To Make the Apples: Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When the foam subsides, toss in half of the apple slices and cook, turning once, until they are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the apples with 1 tablespoon of the sugar and cook them, turning, just until coated, another minute or so. Scrape the apples onto a plate, wipe out the skillet and repeat with the remaining apples. Let the apples cool while you make the filling.
6. Getting Ready to Bake: Have a roasting pan large enough to hold the springform pan at hand. Put a kettle of water on to boil.
7. To Make the Filling: Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium speed, scraping down the bowl often, for about 4 minutes, or until it is velvety smooth. Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes. Beat in the cider, vanilla, and cinnamon. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Finally, beat in the sour cream and heavy cream, beating just until the batter is smooth.
8. Pour about one third of the batter into the baked crust. Drain the apples by lifting them off the plate with a slotted spoon or spatula, and spoon them into the pan. Cover with the remaining batter and, if needed, jiggle the pan to even the top. Place the springform pan in the roasting pan and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
9. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 to 45 minutes, covering the cake loosely with a foil tent at the 45-minute mark. The cake will rise evenly and crack around the edges, and it should be fully set except, possibly, in the very center--if the center shimmies, that's just fine. Gently transfer the cake, still in the pan, to a cooling rack and let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate it for at least 6 hours; overnight would be better.
10. Run a blunt knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the crust, open the pan's latch and release and remove the sides.