Red delicious. Granny Smith. Macintosh. I love them all.
I hope to conquer my fear of baking my first apple pie later this fall (with the help of my buddy Stacey from Boston Sweetie), but this week I tackled my first cheesecake recipe – a caramel apple cheesecake with candied pecans from a recipe in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. A few weeks ago I purchased my first 9-inch springform pan so I knew I must make this recipe as soon as possible.
This project was — seriously – a labor of love. In the end, though, I was rewarded with a fantastic cake that wasn’t over-the-top sweet and had all the great hallmarks of both the sweetly tart apples, creamy caramel, smooth cheesecake and sugar-coated crunchy pecans.
Caramel Apple Cheesecake
Originally appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
- 15 graham crackers, crushed
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter (divided)
- 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar (divided)
- 3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons cornstarch
- 12 ounces sour cream
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 eggs
- 2 medium-size Gala apples, diced (I’m not quite sure what type of apples I used but they were yellow)
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup caramel sundae sauce
Putting it all together
Making the cheesecake actually turned into a project for an evening and part of one morning so it is a bit time intensive. You can’t flick a magic wand and expect a cheesecake to just appear out of thin air.
To start, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Next, in a food processor, mix the graham crackers, four tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup granulated sugar together to make the crust. The mixture should be crumbly yet everything should be incorporated. Press the mixture into the bottom of 9-inch springform pan. Bake the crust in the oven for 10 minutes. I actually let it go just a twinge longer – more like 12 to 13 minutes because it still didn’t have that nice golden-brown crust color. Once finished, remove the crust from the oven to cool completely on a wire rack.
While the crust is cooling, you can begin to make the filling. In a large bowl using an electric mixer, mix cream cheese, remaining 1 cup granulated sugar and the cornstarch. Add sour cream, orange juice and vanilla and blend until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time, blending until just combined and removing any lumps. Avoid over-beating your eggs because that will incorporate too much air (we’ll get into that a bit more in a few secs.)
Pour the mixture into the cooled crust. Bake until center moves only slightly when cake pan is shaken, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. (I checked mine around 1 hour and 30 minutes and it was done so this will depend on your oven.)
Ok, this is where my cheesecake experience took a bizarre turn. Take a look for yourself:
This is where overbeating the eggs I think made my cheesecake rise – and when I say rise, whoa, it rose. It was almost reaching the broiler element inside my oven. Shocked by this I posted the picture to my Facebook page. I heard suggestions like there could be a draft in my oven and never use cornstarch.
About 20 minutes of cooling later, this is what happened to the cheesecake:
The cake had fallen dramatically and the top also deepened to a deep golden brown. I shaved off part of the top to even it out. A few nibbles I had indicated that whatever happened didn’t affect the taste so next I carefully took a knife around the outside edges of the pan, removed the springform sides and transfered to a wire rack to cool. Then, I refrigerated the entire cake overnight to chill thoroughly.
The instructions call for melting 4 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over high heat, then adding the apples and pecans, coating with the butter. And, this is where my commonsense went out the window. Butter + high heat = lots of smoke.
Here I am in a smoky kitchen, late to turn on the vent and open the windows. The smoke detectors in our new apartment start blaring. Brett barrels down the stairs with a towel yelling, “Take it outside!” I’m in my pajamas and slippers with a smoking hot concoction of butter and apples standing outside in the drizzling rain.
Meanwhile, Brett is grabbing a chair to climb to reach the smoke detectors which won’t turn off since they are hardwired. I leave the pan outside, frantically, try to find the phone number to our 24-hour assistance number at our apartment complex to make an emergency call for help.
Finally, about 25 minutes later, Brett is able to unwire the smoke detectors and end the mind-numbing screeching. Suprisingly, none of our neighbors came to check on us. How friendly.
When the madness subsided, I brought the apple-pecan-butter mixture back to the stove (now only on medium-high heat), where I added the brown sugar and stir until sugar dissolves and liquid comes to a boil, about 3 minutes. Finally, the completed mixture was transferred with a spoon to the chilled cheesecake. I drizzled some caramel sauce on the top of the cake and then brought it to work with extra sugar-coated pecans.
After all of the smoke and the strange rising, the end result was fabulous. My key takeaway from this is don’t put butter on high heat – and – cheesecakes can be made my just about anyone. Enjoy!