Despite what many people think, cheesecakes really are pretty easy to make. This one was a little bit involved because of all of the different yumminess that goes into it...but WELL worth it. I opted to cover mine with caramel sauce, as you can see. I'll post the recipe for the easy caramel sauce as well...hold your horses.
My two brothers and my in-laws were coming over for dinner a few Sundays ago, and I decided to test this out on them for dessert. As I started serving this cheesecake, the room all of the sudden became quiet, and then I realized that more than one person was going "mmmmm..." outloud. Ahhh...music to my ears.
One of the big secrets to making a good, smooth cheesecake is to have ALL of the ingredients at room temperature. I would suggest setting everything out on the counter about 4 hours before you're ready to start making your cheesecake....yep, even the eggs. Oh, and don't even TRY to use light cream cheese...shame on you. I think that another great secret in making a deliciously smooth cheesecake is the water bath. BUT...don't stop reading now. I have made plenty of cheesecakes without the water bath. Don't freak out.
If anyone is a recipe blog stalker like I am, you will have probably heard of the "Tuesdays with Dorie" group. They all bake the same recipe out of one of Dorie Greenspan's cook books. This recipe is one of the recipes that the TWD group made, and then posted the recipe on their blogs. I wonder if Dorie is okay with all of her recipes being posted on blogs...oh well, at least I won't have to buy her cook book! She seems pretty brilliant to me, so far. Anyway, sorry for the ridiculously long post. This cheesecake is definitely Cheesecake Factory material. Try it...but beware that from start to finish, it took me about 3 hours.
For the Crust:
30 gingersnaps (or a scant 2 cups graham cracker crumbs) (NO...use the gingersnaps. please.)
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional) (I didn't add anymore cinnamon cuz my gingersnaps were really snappy)
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
For the Apples:
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter (I had salted...whatev)
3 large Golden Delicious or Fuji apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
2 tbsp (packed) light brown sugar
For the Filling:
1 1/2 pounds (three 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
6 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp apple cider (I just used apple juice, cuz that's what I had)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy cream
Apple jelly, for glazing, or confectioner’s sugar, for dusting (optional)
To Make the Crust:
Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan. Put the gingersnaps in a food processor and whir until you have crumbs; you should have a scant 2 cups. (If you are using graham cracker crumbs, just put them in the food processor.) Pulse in the sugar and cinnamon, if you’re using it, then pour over the melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are moistened. Turn the crumbs into the springform pan and, using your fingertips, firmly press them evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan as far as they’ll go. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven. (The crust can be covered and frozen for up to 2 months.)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Remove the pan from the freezer and wrap the bottom tightly in aluminum foil, going up the sides. (I used 3 pieces of foil and mine stayed dry...yeah!) Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is set and lightly browned. Transfer to a rack to cool while you make the apples and the filling. Leave the oven at 350 degrees F.
To Make the Apples:
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large nonstick 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, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the apples with 1 tablespoon of the sugar and cook them, turning, just until coated, another minute or so. Scrape the apples onto a plate, wipe out the skillet and repeat with the remaining apples. (I had a really big frying pan, so I just did this in one step...worked just fine) Let the apples cool while you make the filling.
Getting Ready to Bake:
Have a roasting pan large enough to hold the springform pan at hand. (I used an 11x15 Pyrex type pan) Put a kettle of water on to boil.
To Make the Filling:
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium speed, scraping down the bowl often, for about 4 minutes, or until it is velvety smooth. Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes. Beat in the cider, vanilla, and cinnamon. 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 sour cream and heavy cream, beating just until the batter is smooth.
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. Place the springform pan in the roasting pan (at this point, the pan is STILL wrapped in foil) and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 to 45 minutes, (I used a 9 inch pan, and it took about 1 hour and 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 center–if the center 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; overnight would be better.
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.
***it's me, Aubri, again***I found it easiest and prettiest when I sliced it with a knife that had been run under hot water for a few seconds. Do this between each slice, and you're cheesecake will look fabulous! Oh, and don't forget to drizzle it with caramel...yum.