This cheesecake sings of the season with it’s apple and dulce de leche caramel topping over a sweet cream cheese filling tucked into a graham cracker crust.
There’s four components to this delectable cheesecake, every step simple and worth it, starting with the graham cracker crust that is made in a food processor and prebaked before filling.
Next comes the filling. It’s made of a pound and a half of cream cheese, sugar, a little lemon zest, eggs and sour cream, all beaten together and poured over the crust to bake in a water bath.
Some people hate when the top of their cheesecakes crack. Not me. Usually I’m just happy to have cheesecake. Luckily, this one didn’t crack.
Baking it in a water bath helps as does leaving it in the oven after it’s cooked to cool down a little with the door open. Also, be careful not to over-beat the filling. Over-beating causes it to puff up high only to crash down as it cools.
The caramel is dulce de leche, sweetened condensed milk caramel easily made in your oven. It sounds crazy if you never made it before but it is one of the best things on earth. A thick, sweet, soft caramel that is good on everything from ice cream to cookies. And especially your spoon. Or fingertips. Whichever is handier.
The apple topping is like an apple pie filling. Sliced apples are cooked in a frying pan with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. You can arrange them by hand or pile them on top.
I hate to say this because it’s so hard to resist diving into it right away but it’s better the next day, after chilling out in the refrigerator all night. Something magical happens as it sets, to the flavors and consistency. So you can split up the work and make the cheesecake first and the topping the next day.
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
- 12 graham crackers (3-by-5 inch)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 24 ounces of bar cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 + 1/4 cups sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup sour cream, take out of fridge 1/2 hour ahead of time
- Topping:1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 4 apples, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- a dash of vanilla
- a pinch of nutmeg
Make the crust:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 9-by-3-inch springform pan.
Using a food processor pulse the graham crackers into fine crumbs.
Add the melted butter, sugar, and salt. Pulse to combine.
Dump the crumb mixture into the pan and press it into the bottom as evenly as you can from edge to edge.
Bake 14 minutes and cool on a wire rack.
Reduce oven to 325 degrees F.
Make the filling:
Set a kettle of water to boil.
On low speed beat the cream cheese 2 - 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl once.
Gradually add the sugar and beat on low 2 minutes.
Beat in the vanilla and salt.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
Beat in the sour cream.
Wrap the bottom half of the pan in foil and set in a large roasting pan.
Scoop the cheesecake filling into the pan. Set the pan on the middle rack of the oven. Pour the boiling water into the roasting pan so it reaches halfway up the side of the springform pan.
Bake until just set in the center about 1 hour 25 minutes. Once it's set in the center turn off the heat, crack open the door and leave the cheesecake in there for another 30 minutes.
Remove the cheesecake from the roasting pan and cool on a wire rack then refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
Make the caramel:
Set a kettle of water to boil. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Grease a small casserole or loaf pan and pour in the sweetened condensed milk. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and set it in a roasting pan on the center rack
Pour boiling water until it reaches halfway up the side. Bake 1 hour. Remove and cool on a wire rack.
Make the apple topping:
Melt the butter in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the apples, sugar, lemon, cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg.
Cook, stirring often until the apples are fork tender but not mushy. Remove from heat and cool.
Assemble the cheesecake:
Remove the side ring from the pan and set the cheesecake on a cake dish or platter. Spoon some of the caramel over the top, enough to spread a thin layer from edge to edge.
Top with the apples. You can pile them on top or arrange them by hand. Start with the outer circle and work your way in. The apples will have some liquid to them you can discard it or save it to spoon over top when you serve it.
To serve: Dip a knife into hot water, dry it and cut the cheesecake into wedges, wiping the knife clean after each cut. Drizzle generously with the remaining caramel.
Refrigerate leftovers up to 5 days.
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