Thursday, December 17, 2009

Once upon a time there was... Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie

Phew. Just writing that long title is exhausting. And that's nothing compared to the effort involved in making this pie. Of course, that has a lot to do with our two culinary disasters associated with it (see story below*). To give you an idea, from bottom up, this pie is 1) graham cracker crust, 2) caramel and pecans 3) slow cooked apple slices 4) thin layer of cheesecake 5) fresh whipped cream with caramel swirls.

*We tried to make our own caramel. Our first attempt used Annie's recipe, and we thought it went well until it started to cool. Then it started to separate and basically got worse looking the longer it sat. So, we decided to scrap it and try again. We found a different recipe that starts out by melting dry sugar. Well, our sugar started to melt, slowly and nicely. Just when we thought all the crystals had melted, within a matter of seconds it turned into black liquid billowing smoke. Billowing and billowing. We ran around opening windows and turning on fans. We melted our trash can. (In case you were wondering, dumping burnt sugar outside is probably a better idea than into a rubber trash can. But if you have already done this, all you have to do is fill the can with water and it will dissolve!) So you see even when we are failing, we learn things. But the most important lesson we learned was to never make caramel without a candy thermometer.

But even culinary disasters couldnt stop us from trying this amazing recipe. We found it at Annie's Eats and knew immediately that this was something we were going to have to make. So we bought a jar of caramel and made the recipe later in the week.

We think that we will try some modifications next time we make this (we'll tell you our thoughts as we go). And there will definitely be a next time, because the resulting pie is pretty fantastic.

9" springform pan
good knife to cut it (crust is hard and sticky)
parchment paper

crust ingredients
1.5 c graham cracker crumbs
3 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
5 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 c caramel (from a jar, trust us)
1 c chopped pecans

apple filling ingredients
6 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 c packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

cheesecake layer
8 oz philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Cal's note: the cheesecake layer is very thin, if you are looking for more cheesecake, double this part, but note that you will have to bake it for longer. Check out our pick at the bottom of what a slice looks like before you decide. This is a very rich pie without doubling it.

topping layer
3/4 c heavy whipping cream
4 Tbsp confectioners sugar
extra caramel and pecans for garnish
Cal's tip: instead you could choose to double this layer. a little extra whipped cream makes for a more dramatic topping!

1. prepare the crust.

a. preheat the oven to 375.

b. line your springform pan with parchment.

c. chop up your graham crackers and melt your butter

d. combine crumbs, cinnamon, sugar and butter in a bowl and mix with a fork

e. press into the springform, so the crust reaches up about halfway around the pan

f. bake for 6-8 minutes until golden brown
Cal's tip: you can turn off the oven. it'll be a little while before we need it again.

g. let cool for 10 minutes.

h. pour caramel into crust. top with pecans. refrigerate while you move on.

Cal's tip: While caramel is delicious, the amount of caramel you add will affect how easy it is to cut your pie later.
2. prepare the apple filling

a. peel, core, and thinly slice your apples (we recommend a food processor, or this could take a while)

Cal's tip: you can also use this opportunity to creative festive portraits with the apples.

b. melt butter in a really big skillet (we had to do 2 batches) over medium-high heat.

c. Add sugar, salt and cinnamon and heat until just bubbling, 1 minute

d. Add apples and cook, stirring occasionally, 15-20 min until tender and most the liquid is gone.

e. let cool slightly and then pour into your prepared pan.

it smells delicious...

3. prepare the cheesecake layer

a. preheat the oven to 350.

b. use an electric mixer to combine cream cheese and sugar until smooth .
Cal's tip: use a hand mixer. the kitchenaid stand can't reach the small volume very well.

c. mix in egg, lemon juice, and vanilla for 1-2 min until well blended and smooth.

d. pour/spread the cheesecake layer over the pie.

4. bake for 30 min or until a toothpick will come out clean. Allow to cool completely before refrigerating.

5. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

6. prepare the topping.

a. Whip cream until soft peaks form. Add sugar and beat until peaks are stuff and sugar is incorporated.

b. spread on top of pie

c. swirl caramel on top, and sprinkle pecans.

7. To serve, remove from springform and cut with very sharp knife!

This pie was really delicious. Thanks again to Annie's Eats for the amazing recipe.


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