I bought a huge bag of apples the week before thanksgiving for munching and baking. OCT and I love eating the honey crisp out of hand and Fuji in a Chinese dessert soup.(See photo at the bottom of this post) While I used most of the apples in the Normandy Apple Tart, I found 3 Granny Smith sitting awkwardly in the fridge a few days ago.
If they can think, they must be wondering when will be their turn to shine, like their cousins Jonathan, golden delicious and MacIntosh in the gorgeous Normandy Apple Tart. The thing I like about apples is, they have a long fridge life. There was once I bought some apples and totally forgot about them until a month later. They were tranformed into an apple pie and tasted just as delicious as those plucked from the tree one hour ago.
I asked the Granny Smiths if they wanted to be apple pie in their afterlife, but they promptly declined. They wished to be something sophisticated. "How about cheesecake?" I suggested. "Sounds yummy" Granny Smith granted me their approvals.
So apple cheesecake it is. I turned to the one apple cheesecake recipe I have bookmarked since last year and started to peel, core and slice the apples. They were then tossed with lemon juice to prevent discoloring. In the original recipe, cinnamon graham crackers are used for crust. But I opted for the vanilla wafers because I have some approaching expiring. Crushing them with my pestle in a mixer bowl until they become fine crumbs. I consider this as my dose of exercise for the day while watching Rachael Ray cooked on TV.
Next, I sauted the apple while leaving the crust to bake in a 350F preheated oven. When the crust has turned a golden hue after about 10 minutes, I removed it from the oven and turned the temperature to 325F. A higher temperature, as most experienced bakers would know will cause the cheesecake to crack, and lend it an unappealing look.
When the apples are soft and slightly caramelized, I let it cool on a spot near the window before laying them on the crust. Moving on to the cream cheese filling, I creamed 2 blocks of 1/3 Less Fat Neufchâtel cream cheese and one block of original cream cheese instead of using 3 blocks of original cream cheese. This is to save myself and other eaters some calories, so that we can have a bigger serving. After creaming the cream cheese + sugar mixture, I hesistated for 30 seconds, debating with my unadventurous self if I should add the 1/4 tsp of ground ginger into the mix. As much as I love using fresh ginger in my savory dishes, I am not familiar with its ground version. I dumped it in nevertheless, hoping that Tish Boyle is right.
At this point, the crust and cooked apples are cooled and ready to be used. I tasted one slice of the apples, find them addictively tasty and reached for second. Then I remembered I was supposed to line them on top of the crust..Opps. Luckily I have enough apples to cover the naked crust. Cream cheese filling was then poured in before I sent the cake into the 325F sauna oven.
According to the recipe, the cake is to be baked in a hot water bath but my roasting pan was already packed after Thanksgiving, ready to be given away. So I improvised by adding a pan of hot water in the 9x9 inch square baking pan on the lower rack.
Fast forward 40 minutes later, when I went back to check, the cheesecake cracked in the center, and all around its sides! I suspect my oven temperature is a bit off after working incessantly for the past years. I doubted the past tenants have it worked as hard as I do. Anyway, I make a mental note to get an oven thermometer soon.
I did my best to cover up the crack in the center with the remaining cooked apple slices, and rendered it a rustic look (cracked sides and all). Appearance aside, the apple cheesecake was surprisingly delicious. I am not blowing my own trumpet, it is afterall, Tish Boyle's brilliant recipe.
The cinnamon and ground ginger added a subtle but intriguing warm undertone to the cheesecake, while the cooked apple, slightly tart granny smith, cut through the creamy cheesecake and bear the reminiscent of an apple pie. My mouth is salivating while recounting the flavor of the cheesecake. I know my descriptions simply doesn't do it justice. So I urge you to give this cheesecake a try, if I may be ever so pushy. The granny smith hiding somewhere in your fridge will thank you.
Even better if you have that fancy schmancy butane/propane torch. For the original recipe - Apple Cheesecake Brulee has a layer of caramelized sugar covering the top. I can only imagine how fantas-licious it would be. I have to add the torch in my Christmas wishlist.
Other desserts that I made with the mixed bag of apples:
And of course, most of the apples went into this Normandy Apple Tart
adapted from Tish Boyle's- The Cake Book
2 medium Granny Smith apples
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons (1 oz/28g) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons (0.9 oz/ 25g) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons (45ml) heavy cream
Vanilla Wafer Crust
1 1/4cups (5.3 oz/150g) vanilla wafer
3 tablespoons (1.3 oz/ 37g) granulated sugar
4 tablespoons (2 oz/57g) unsalted butter, melted
Cream Chesse Filling
3 blocks of cream cheese (1 original and 2 1/3 Less Fat Neufchâtel ), softened.
1 1/2cups (10.5 oz/300g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup (4.2 oz/ 121g) sour cream, at room temperature
1 tablespoon cornstarch
4 large eggs, at room temperature
Brulee topping (optional)
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9x3 inch springform pan and wrap the sides with heavy duty aluminium foil.
To make the apple layer,
Peel, core and slice the apples into 1/4-inch. Toss with lemon juice until all slices are evenly coated.
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter is bubbling, add the apple and saute for 2 minutes. Sprinkle the sugar over apple and continue to cook, stir frequently until the apple slices are nicely browned, about 5 minutes. Add in cream and cook until apples are tender,about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set it aside to cool.
To make the crust,
In a medium bowl, combine the crumbs, melted butter and granulated sugar. Pat the mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. (I like to use a 1/4 measuring cup for this task.) Bake for 8 minutes until the crust turns golden.
Reduce the oven temperature to 325F after the crust is baked.
Let the crust cool on wire rack while working on the cream cheese filling.
When the apples are cool, arrange a tight circle of slices, without overlapping them, around the edge of the pan, on top of the crust. Arrange another circle of slices in the center, covering the crust completely. (Save the remaining apples for garnish/ camoflauge the cracks later)
To make the filling,
In a bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium low speed until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add granulated sugar and beat until blended. Add the vanilla extract, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, sour cream and cornstarch and mix until well blended. At low speed, add in eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
Scape the batter over the apple layer. Place the pan in a roasting pan or a large baking pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come about 1 inch up the side of the springform pan. Bake the cake in the water bath for 70 to 80 minutes (Mine was not baked in a water bath and hence was done in about 45 minutes.) until the center is set but slightly wobbly (the cake will continue to set as it cools). Remove the pan from the water bath, if using, and set it on a wire rack to cool completely.
Refrigerate the cheesecake for at least 4 hours before serving.
To make the topping (optional),
Let the cheesecake chilled for at least 4 hours. Run a knife between the edges of the pan and the cake to loosen. Remove the side of the pan. Sprinkle the sugar over the top of the cake, covering it with a very thin, even layer. Caramelize the sugar using a butane or propane torch, holding it about 2 inches from the surface of the cake and slowly moving it over the top until the sugar melts and turns golden brown (the sugar will not brown evenly; be patient- this process can take a while, depending on the kind of torch you use)