Fall is in the air and that means apple season! While apples are not on the top of my list of favorite fruits, I love apples baked into desserts; Apple Pie, Apple Streudel, Apple cake, Apple Crisp! The smell of apples and cinnamon baking is heavenly. This Apple Blossom Cheesecake with Cinnamon Graham Cracker Pecan Crust really captures the essence of these delicious Fall flavors.
I know, baking a cheesecake (especially one that looks fancy but really isn't), can be intimidating but is actually pretty easy when you follow the basic rules for baking cheesecake:
1. Your cream cheese and eggs absolutely must be at room temperature. This means taking them out of the fridge several hours before you use them. Cold cream cheese is a no-no and will make it difficult to blend resulting in a lumpy cheesecake batter.
2. Don't overmix. This incorporates too much air into the batter which may result in a cracked cheesecake.
3. Bake low and slow. Your oven temperature should be no higher than 300-325F max. Trust me on this one. A fussy water bath is not needed when you bake at a low temperature.
4. Don't peek! Opening and closing the oven too many times affects the oven temperature which can cause cracking.
5. Cool slowly. Again, this prevents cracking. The cool down process can take several hours. Be patient, it's worth it.
6. Don't stress! If, after all your best efforts, your cheesecake happens to crack, just cover it up with a topping! In the end, it's the flavor that matters anyway...
7. Plan ahead - cheesecakes are best when allowed to refrigerate overnight or 10 hours minimum.
So now that you're a cheesecake "expert", I hope you'll give this recipe for Apple Blossom Cheesecake with Cinnamon Graham Cracker Pecan Crust a try this Fall while apples are in season.
Apple Blossom Cheesecake with Cinnamon Graham Cracker Pecan Crust
Makes one 8-9" cheesecake (serves 10-12)
3 8oz packages cream cheese, softened to room temp
1 1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs, room temp
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
Apple Topping Ingredients:
4-5 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced into 1/3" slices
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Make the apple topping:
Melt the butter in a large sauce pan or skillet. Add the apples, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cook over medium-low heat until apples are softened (approx. 5 minutes).
Transfer to a large bowl and cool completely.
Make the crust:
Preheat oven to 350f
Add the graham crackers and pecans to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the pecans are finely chopped.
Place the crumbs into a medium size bowl and add the cinnamon and melted butter. Toss with a fork until well combined and crumbs are moistened.
Press into the bottom and up the sides of your 8-9" spring form pan. Bake for 5-6 minutes. Remove from oven.
Make the filling:
Reduce oven temp to 300f
Place the cream cheese in a large bowl and beat with your electric hand mixer at low speed just until creamy. If your cream cheese is properly softened, this should take less than 15 seconds.
Add the brown sugar and vanilla extract at beat at low speed until combined. Tip: Make sure your brown sugar doesn't have any lumps before adding.
Beat in the eggs one at a time at low speed mixing just until combined and scraping down the sides & bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition.
Pour the filling into the springform pan. Place on a baking sheet.
Arrange the apple slices in a circular pattern (slices should be facing in the same direction) starting at the outer edges and finishing in the center.
Bake at 300 for approx. 60-70 minutes. or until sides are set but center is just slightly jiggly.
Turn oven off and prop oven door open slightly with a wooden spoon. Allow cheesecake to cool slowly in oven for 1 hour.
Remove from oven and cool on counter until room temperature (approx. 1 more hour).
Cover and refrigerate overnight or at least 10 hours.
Before serving, gently trim off any overly browned edges off of the apples (if desired) and lightly brush the apple topping with a little apple jelly to give the topping a shiny look. Tip: You can also sub apricot jelly if you don't have apple jelly. Be sure to stir the jelly to loosen it up before brushing it on if needed
Slice and serve with a dollop of fresh cinnamon whipped cream!