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Monday, April 27, 2009

Caramel Applejack Cheesecake: Another Daring Baker's Adventure

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge and this was my first homemade baked cheesecake (I've been known to make a few of those no-bake cool whip cheesecakes which are totally different!)

The original recipe for Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake was for a basic graham-cracker crumb bottomed classic cheesecake, and we were all given the opportunity to jazz up the basic formula with whatever flavors and toppings we wanted.

The Husband LOVES any kind of apple-y goodness as a dessert so I decided to go with a Caramel Applejack flavor combination (though I had personally wanted a coconut with dark chocolate 'Mounds' type of flavor for myself!) The applejack combination turned out delicious though, and I have no regrets. The cheesecake recipe is excellent, it was the creamiest cheesecake I've ever had and if I were to ever make another one, I'd make this recipe in a heartbeat.

I searched online for a Caramel Apple cheesecake recipe just to see how they did the toppings and found a Bobby Flay recipe on Food Network, which included an Apple Mixture and Apple Caramel Sauce recipe which I decided to try out. These were delicious! I had thought maybe there would be cinnamon but it was a pure apple flavor which was complimented by creamy caramel. The Apple Caramel sauce recipe and Apple Mixture recipe both called for "Apple Brandy" but what I had on hand was Applejack (an apple whiskey I think). Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake recipe also allowed for the addition of 1 tablespoon of your preferred liquor so Applejack also made its way into the creamy cheesecake as well.

The only other change I made to the cheesecake recipe was to add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to the graham cracker crust. It wasn't overpowering or anything but it was a great match for the creamy caramelly appley goodness going on.

I waited until the last minute to make the cheesecake - I got wrapped up in a movie on Saturday and was out that night so I realized I really had to make the cheesecake first thing Sunday morning and hope that it had enough time to chill before the sun went down Sunday night so I could get some pictures. I didn't even have anything good planned for who to share it with (besides The Husband) but lo and behold, we were invited over to a backyard barbecue to celebrate one of the nicest weekends Michigan has seen so far this spring, so my only concern was if there was enough time to chill it before serving dessert to the family.



I used an alumimum casserole pan as recommended in the recipe (they only had the deep one in a square shape) so that the foil could be cut away before serving. It worked out perfectly. I baked the cheesecake in the water bath without having to worry about any leaks, and let it rest for an hour in the oven, let it cool on the counter, and it had a chance to chill in the fridge for a good 3.5 hours. I know this is far from "chilling overnight" but once we were at the barbecue, I popped it into the freezer for about an hour, and then it chilled for maybe another hour or two. When I cut the foil pan off of the cheesecake, I was happy to see that I had no issues with not having enough chilling time, and I had no cracks. It was a perfect creamy color, no dark brown, and it cut into slices like a charm!



Without further ado, here are the recipes!


Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake
(as noted by Jenny of Jenny Bakes.

crust:
2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
(I also added 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon)


cheesecake:
3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake
(This is where I used Applejack)

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve. This resulted in 8 hefty servings of delicious cheesecake.

See my notes above about using an aluminum disposable pan and a reduced chilling time which worked out great in my case!

Apple(jack) Mixture
adapted from Bobby Flay's recipes found here

2 cups apple juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, reserved from the cheesecake mixture
1 tablespoon cold butter
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced
3 Fuji apples, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced
1/4 cup apple brandy (recommended: Calvados) -- I used 1/4 cup Applejack

Bring apple juice, sugar and vanilla bean to a boil in a large saute pan over high heat and cook until slightly thickened and reduced to 1/2 cup. Stir in the butter until melted. Add the apples and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized and soft. Add the apple brandy and cook until reduced by 1/2. Transfer the apples to a plate and let cool slightly.

Applejack-Caramel Sauce
Adapted from Bobby Flay's recipes found here

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream
Pinch salt
3 tablespoons apple brandy (recommended: Calvados) (I used Applejack!)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place sugar and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat (do not stir), swirling the pot occasionally to even out the color, until amber in color, 10 to 12 minutes.
While the caramel is cooking. Place the heavy cream in a small pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and keep warm.

When the caramel has reached the desired color, slowly whisk in the heavy cream and salt and whisk until smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the apple brandy and vanilla extract. Keep warm.

Notes about Apple mixture and sauce: I had no trouble making these a few hours in advance and simply reheating them in microwave-safe containers right before cutting the cheesecake, and it worked out perfectly.

Top cheesecake with apple mixture and drizzle with caramel sauce, and serve extra caramel sauce on the table for those who want a little extra. I hope you enjoy! Thanks to Jenny for an AWESOME daring baker's challenge, my first real cheesecake!

Note about photos: I tried to do a little better with photos this time around, trying to use daylight and my auto-white-balance option on my camera, and when I tried some new photos again this morning (pink plate) which turned out well, the apple topping was arranged a little prettier. Though it reminded me that I need to put away that Christmas-y table runner! My coworker was the lucky recipient of this photo model, the last piece of cheesecake! He said it was one of the best desserts he's ever had. Thumbs up, Jenny!!

Also, thanks for having us over again Megan, the barbecue was excellent!!

8 comments:

  1. I had my left over cheese cake today for my afternoon snack...super yummy again. The cinnamon in the crust was a lovely touch. I didn't even know it was there till I read the blog. Thanks again for bringing it - I'm super glad I got to have an Anne creation!

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  2. thanks for having us, Megan!! I forgot to taste for the cinnamon too. I'm glad it was tasty the 2nd time around and I hope we get a challenge that Bryan will like... the last one was riddled with parmesan cheese, another no-go for him!! :)

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  3. Your cheesecake looks great. The apple caramel combo looks great. But the coconut and chocolate option you also considered sounds delicious as well. You'll have to do that next time! ;)

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  4. Holy moly, that looks amazing. I love the way you arranged the caramelized apples on top of the slice, then drizzled it with the sauce. YUM and very nicely done!

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  5. This is your first baked cheesecake? Who would know. It is beautiful, and I love the flavor combination you did. Thanks for being a part of the challenge!

    Jenny of JennyBakes

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  6. That cheesecake looks amazing!

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