Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Apple Cream Cheese Pie

I thought about titling this recipe "Bake cheesecake in haste, repent at leisure." Except we didn't repent: it turned out really well. But that was certainly more due to the strength of the recipe than my cooking skill or forethought.

It was Saturday evening, and we had guests coming for Sunday lunch. I was going to go to the store as soon as I'd finished all my grading. When I looked up from my computer, the sun was still shining brightly and I was sure it was only 5 or so. Uh, no. Now that it gets dark at about 10, 7:30 is the new 5. Oops, store closed.
Moment of panic: Cheesecake has to be made the night before! So I texted Sami, who was working on his car at his parents' house, to ask him if he could pick up cream cheese and spice cookies before the giant superstore near his parents' house closed at 9:30. No problem, he said. I should just write a detailed list and he'd send his parents.

In the meantime, I located all the ingredients for the apple filling and put myself to chopping and sautéing. Mmm...apples and raisins and ginger and walnuts.
So Sami came home with the spice cookies...and a tub of mascarpone. I'm afraid I didn't respond very graciously to that offering. "You can improvise," he said hopefully. "This is all my mom could find."
"You can't make cheesecake with mascarpone," I snapped. And then I went to bed, wondering whether I should change my planned dessert after all.
But no, I got up bright and early and made a lovely crumb crust with the speculoos cookies Sami had brought home. And then I went out to the market for all the meat and cheese and vegetables and bread I would need for a giant lunch. And I bought the proper kind of cream cheese.
I'm sure it was 10:30 or later by the time I got to actually making the cheesecake batter. Fortunately, cheesecake batter takes about 5 minutes to make. Since I'd done everything else in advance, the cheesecake was ready to bake as soon as the oven was preheated. In between roasting a leg of lamb and asparagus and making gougères and barley pilaf, I put the baked and cooled cheesecake in the freezer and crossed my fingers. By some miracle I had just about everything ready to go when the guests arrived.
Well, it all worked out great. One thing I had not taken into account, of course, was that this was a proper Sunday lunch, so even though the guests arrived around 12:30 and we started eating shortly thereafter, dessert didn't actually roll around until 4. The cheesecake was properly chilled but not frozen. And it was delicious.
"Wow, there's a lot going on in this cheesecake," our friends said as we polished off every bite. They had no idea.

Here's the recipe. Make it when you have time. Or not.

Apple Cream Cheese Pie

1-1/4 c. (5.3 oz.) graham cracker crumbs (I used speculoos because graham crackers are hard to find here, and I therefore eliminated the sugar and spices)
1 T. sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. ginger
Pinch allspice
6 T. (3 oz.) butter, melted

(Assuming you already have your cream cheese, now's a good time to get it out of the fridge.) Heat the oven to 350. Line a deep 9-inch pie plate with aluminum foil. In a food processor, grind the graham crackers with the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice. Add the butter and pulse until it's all combined. Pour the buttered crumbs into the foil-lined pie plate and press them into the bottom and as far up the sides as you can safely go.
Bake the crust for about 10 minutes, until beginning to brown. Let cool, and then freeze for at least an hour. Very carefully remove the crust by the foil, peel off the foil, and put the crust back in the pie plate. Let the crust sit at room temperature while you make the fillings.

2 large or 3 medium tart apples, like Granny Smith, Braeburn, or Pink Lady
1 T. butter
3 T. (1.3 oz.) brown sugar
1-2 t. lemon juice
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/4 c. (1.25 oz.) raisins
1/2 c. (2 oz.) walnuts, chopped medium-fine
3-4 T. chopped candied ginger

Peel, quarter, and core the apples and cut them into 3/4-inch chunks. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the apples, sugar, and lemon juice. Stir to coat the apples, then cover the pan and let the apples cook a few minutes until they begin to become tender. Take off the lid and continue to cook until the liquid is almost all evaporated. Add the raisins and cook a minute for them to plump up a bit, then add the walnuts and ginger and take off the heat. Let stand to cool while you make the cream cheese filling.

12 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. (3.5 oz.) sugar
1/3 c. (2.6 oz.) cream or sour cream
2 large eggs

Heat the oven back up to 350. In the bowl of a mixer, beat the cream cheese until soft and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and sugar until mixed, then beat in the cream, and finally beat in the eggs one at a time. You don't need to beat this a long time--just until everything is smooth.
Now pour the sautéed apples onto the crumb crust. Carefully pour the cheesecake batter over that. Maida notes, and I have a note from many years ago, that you might have more batter than will fit in the pie plate. If so, pour it into little custard cups--you can bake those for an extra "chef's bonus". This time around I didn't have that problem. Maybe my apples were smaller.
In any case, put in the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes--the top will be browned in spots. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate overnight or freeze until everyone has had their cheese course. Expect no leftovers.

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