November 3, 2011 by Flora Dawn
I saw a gorgeous photo of a Caramel Apple Cheesecake in a cookbook recently, and I knew immediately it would be the perfect Fall dessert for my mom’s birthday cake. And let me start out by saying that this recipe did not disappoint. And, it was one of the few desserts that actually looked as pretty as the glossy, cookbook photo.
The recipe comes from Bobby Flay. Although I typically think of him as a grilling guy, he won the “Cheesecake Battle” in an episode of Throwdown with this recipe, so I knew it would taste as good as it looked.
Of course I had to make a few minor changes to make it gluten-free, but this cheesecake was amazing. It had a lighter, airier texture than my usual New York style cheesecake recipe, which I thought was a nice change. It was still very rich, creamy, and over-the-top; all the components of a great cheesecake in my opinion.
Making cheesecake isn’t really complicated, however it does require some time and quite a few ingredients. I know a lot of people stress about the top cracking, but it doesn’t bother me. Honestly, you are going to add toppings, so who cares? Just my take on it.
This recipe required making a caramel sauce from scratch, however, I have to admit I burnt the first batch. My advice is to really watch the color of the sugar/water mixture. When it is light golden brown throughout, you’ve cooked it enough. If it cooks too long you’ll know, it smells burnt. You’ll have to start over. It’s not a huge big deal, as it is just sugar and water at this point and not an expensive mistake, but it is annoying.
I also thought the caramel sauce had too much brandy flavor, but others disagreed. I am not a drinker, so I suppose it’s going to be an issue of personal taste and overall love of brandy. Next time I make this I am gong to reduce the amount of brandy or omit it altogether. You could just purchase a jar of caramel sauce for topping if making your own caramel seems intimidating or too time consuming.
To make the crust I used my own graham-like crackers, crumbed. I have two recipes that I use (Graham-Like Crackers and Almost Graham Crackers), which I make frequently because I have preschooler that misses graham crackers. However you could use most any purchased, crispy gluten-free cookies for the crust (animal cookies, gingersnaps, etc). You just pulse the cookies in a food processor or place in a resealable bag and roll over with a rolling pin until the crumbs are fairly fine.
*The recipe has walnuts and eggs, two things I typically avoid due to my daughter’s food allergies. However, she hates cheesecake, so I didn’t worry about those ingredients.
Caramel Apple Cheesecake
The recipe calls for muscovado sugar, which I actually had on hand. It is a coarse, brown, minimally processed sugar that tastes of molasses. It is available in specialty stores like Williams-Sonoma and at finer grocery stores. It’s great for gingerbread and pumpkin pie, so it’s worth tracking down this holiday season!
- 1 1/2 cups gluten-free graham type crumbs
- 1 cup lightly toasted walnuts, chopped and divided
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar (I used light)
- 5 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons muscovado sugar
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- springform pan and aluminum foil
- To make cheesecake, preheat oven to 350. Grease or spray with cooking spray the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan.
- Combine the graham cracker crumbs, 1/2 cup of the walnuts, and the brown sugar in the bowl of a food processor, pulse until finely ground. With the motor running, pour in the melted butter and process until the mixture comes together. Pat the mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, or until set. Cool completely on a cooling rack.
- Combine 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar and orange zest in the bowl of a clean food processor, and process until combined. (I am a huge fan of this method for zest. Typically zest leaves a strange texture in an otherwise smooth cheesecake. Processing it with the sugar is brilliant! You get all the citrus flavor, none of the citrus texture.)
- Put the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with paddle attachment until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add the orange sugar, remaining granulated sugar, and moscovado sugar and beat until sugar is thoroughly incorporated. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until just incorporated, scraping down the bowl if necessary. Add the vanilla, salt, and heavy cream and mix until just combined.
- Set the springform pan on a large sheet of aluminum foil and fold the foil up the sides to thoroughly wrap the bottom. I typically do this twice, just to be sure it is tightly wrapped and waterproof. Pour the cheesecake batter into the prepared, cooled crust.
- Place springform pan in a large roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet. Place in preheated oven and carefully pour hot tap water into the roasting pan/rimmed baking sheet (up to half way up the sides of the springform pan; I don’t have a pan this deep, so my cheesecake got about 1/2 inch water bath). Bake for about 55 minutes, or until edges are slightly puffed and golden. It will still be a little jiggly. Turn off the oven and prop open the oven door slightly with a wooden spoon. Leave cake in the oven, in the water bath, for an hour.
- Remove the cheesecake from the waterbath and and cool on a wire rack for 2 hours, or until room temperature. Then refrigerate cheesecake until chilled completely, about 2 hours. (The cheesecake can be covered and refrigerated overnight or up to 24 hours).
- Slice into thin slices and top with apples, caramel sauce, and remaining walnuts!
- 2 cups apple juice
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
- 3 fuji apple, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup apple brandy (I used AppleJack)
- To cook apples, in a large saucepan bring apple juice and sugar to a full boil. Cook until reduced to 1/2 cup; about 10 minutes. Stir in the butter, once melted add the apples and cook until caramelized and soft; 8-10 minutes. Add the apple brandy and simmer until reduced by half. Transfer to a plate or bowl and allow to cool slightly.
Watch how dark you let this get, it goes form caramel to burnt rather quickly!
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 3/4 cup heavy cream, hot
- pinch of salt
- 3 tablespoons apple brandy (I think this was bit much, others enjoyed it!), optional
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Cook over high heat, swirling the pan occasionally to even out the color. Cook for 10-12 minutes, or until evenly amber in color.
- Slowly add the hot heavy cream and salt, whisking until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in the brandy and vanilla. Serve warm.