BWD: Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake

Well, it’s not the most gorgeous photo, but I can assure you that the picture doesn’t do this fabulous cheesecake justice!  I got to choose this week’s Baking with Dorie challenge, and had originally chosen the apple pie.  However, since I knew this was going to coincide with Thanksgiving, and my in-laws always bring some form of pie, I decided to switch it up and bring something different. 

I’ve only made cheesecake once, and it wasn’t from scratch either.  When the husband and I first started dating, I attempted to make us a nice dinner, even though I had no cooking ability whatsoever.  For dessert, I bought one of those Jello No-Bake Cheesecake kits, and it was awful.  At least I was able to charm him with my good looks and witty personality!  Thankfully my cooking ability has improved over the years. 

Anyway, onto this cheesecake.  I was a bit nervous about making a cheesecake from scratch, but it really was rather simple, just a big time consuming.  The crust is a mixture of gingersnap cookie crumbs, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter, and comes together easily in the food processor.  The cheesecake itself comes togther quickly in the stand mixer with cream cheese, brown and white sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, apple cider, eggs, sour cream, and heavy cream.  The standout of this cheesecake is the apple  layer.  After placing about 1/3 of the cheesecake batter in the pan, you layer in sliced apples sauteed in butter and brown sugar and top with the remaining batter.  Bake in water bath for awhile, let it cool, refrigerate overnight, and you can have some cheesecake for breakfast the next morning (I may have done that this morning…maybe….). 

I actually made this twice and it turned out much better the second time, which says a lot considering this was the only dessert fully demolished at the in-laws Thanksgiving dinner a few weeks ago.  I had multiple requests for the recipe.  Guess they’ll never ask me to just bring a relish tray again!  I made this again last night so I could get some pictures, and eat it again.  Because it was that good.  Trust me, you need to make this!  To see how the other bakers enjoyed this, check out the BWD blogroll.  You can find this recipe on pages 238-239 of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours (which you should go buy right now, or add to your Christmas list, because this is a phenomenal book).  I’ve also posted it below.

Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake

For the Crust:

30 gingersnap cookies (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 eights
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 confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)

To Make the Crust:

Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan.

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 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 frozenfor up to 2 months).

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

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 filling.  Leave the oven at 350 degrees.

To Make the Apples:

Melt 2 Tbsp 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 Tbsp 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.

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.

To Make the Filling:

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with the 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 it 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.

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.

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.

Run a blunt knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the crust, open the pan’s latch and release and remove the sides.