Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Brown Sugar Apple Cheesecake

I don't know whether it's because I'm getting old (or perhaps just busy), but I've been forgetting my colleagues' birthdays, and so the cake has been arriving in the office a week late on average. Still, as long as it gets to the office, who really cares right?

This time though, I'd forgotten two birthdays, which means two cakes. One simple, one slightly more complicated (just to balance things out). The banana chocolate cake was fairly straightforward, but this Brown Sugar Apple Cheesecake involved slightly more effort, with a large dose of patience. The end result was well worth all the trouble. Being me, I tweaked the recipe to my tastes by substituting some of the cream cheese for ricotta (I felt like making a light cake this time around) and simplified it from the original (one type of sugar, one type of cream). 

The recipe itself is a pretty standard cheesecake recipe; prepare the crust, prepare the filling, then bake together in a water-bath. To make the crust, it's a matter of crushing some Ginger Nut biscuits (which reminds me that I really need to get a food processor!), mixing in sugar and cinnamon, then using melted butter to hold things together. 

Crushed Ginger Nut Biscuits
After pressing the crust mixture into a buttered spring-form pan, it needs a little time in the freezer, a little time in the oven, then it's ready to go! 

Crust Ready to Go!
The filling consists of two parts; an apple part and a cheesecake part. To make the apple filling, you essentially cook the apples in butter, and coat them in sugar. 

Sugared Apples
The cheesecake filling involves a substantial amount of mixing; cream cheese, ricotta, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, eggs and thickened cream all go into the batter in stages

Cheesecake Filling
A bit of layering of cheesecake-apple-cheesecake filling and the cheesecake is ready to go into a water-bath in the oven.

Apple and Cheesecake Filling
After an hour and thirty minutes (in which your kitchen will be filled with the wonderful scent of baking apples and cinnamon) the cake should be ready to take out of the oven. Treating the cake as a 'Fragile' item is recommended as cheesecakes are notorious for cracking, with this version being no different. 

The last dose of patience required is letting it sit in the fridge (uneaten) for at least six hours to set. Then you can eat to your heart's content (and share some too if you think that's the right thing to do).

Brown Sugar Apple Cheesecake

Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake
Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan via Joy the Baker

For the crust
  • 250 g Ginger Nut biscuits
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 
  • 115 g unsalted butter, melted
For the apple filling
  • 115 g unsalted butter
  • 3 large Fuji apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
  • 2 tbsp (packed) light brown sugar
For the cheesecake filling
  • 250 g cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 500 g ricotta, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup thickened cream
Method:
Make the crust: 
  1. Crush the Ginger Nut biscuits (in a food processor if you have one), then mix in the sugar and cinnamon.
  2. Pour over the melted butter and combined until the mixture is moist. 
  3. Turn the crumbs into a buttered 25 cm spring-form pan and, using your fingertips, firmly press them evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan as far as they can go.  Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven to 160°C.
  4. Remove the pan from the freezer and wrap the bottom tightly in aluminium 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.
  5. Transfer to a rack to cool while you make fillings.  
Make the apple filling
  1. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large non-stick 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 (3 minutes).  
  2. Sprinkle the apples with 1 tablespoon of the sugar and cook them, turning, just until coated (1 minute). 
  3. Scrape the apples onto a plate, wipe out the skillet and repeat with the remaining apples.  Let the apples cool while you make the cheesecake filling.
  4. Getting Ready to Bake:  Have a roasting pan large enough to hold the spring-form pan at hand.  Put a kettle of water on to boil.
Make the cheesecake filling
  1. With a tabletop (paddle attachment  or hand mixer, beat the cream cheese and ricotta on medium speed, scraping down the bowl often, for about 4 minutes, or until it is velvety smooth.  
  2. Add the sugar and beat for another 2 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla and cinnamon.  
  3. 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 thickened cream, beating just until the batter is smooth.
  4. 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.  
Baking:
  1. Place the spring-form pan in the roasting pan and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the spring-form pan.
  2. 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 centre if the centre 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 (preferably overnight).
  3. 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.
Brown Sugar Apple Cheesecake
Sorry about the photo quality - although you can't expect much though when it's in the office and in the process of being consumed.