Friday, October 16, 2009

Weekend Fare: Apple Cheesecake & Pie

Cheesecake is one of those desserts that always impresses, always gives the impression of difficulty, and nearly always tastes very good!  They are, however, fairly easy to make from scratch.

This is one of my favorite seasonal cheesecakes and it turns out beautifully every time.  I make sure to slice my apples very thin so they are not too crunchy. The addition of the nuts on top (which you can omit if you have an allergy or dislike of nuts) adds the perfect texture and flavor.

Apple Cheesecake is a wonderful ending to a fall meal and great for weekend entertaining. You can make it ahead at least 24 hours - just make sure you wrap it completely so it does not absorb any flavors from the refrigerator.

Impress your friends with your culinary abilities and enjoy this delightful and easy fall treat!

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APPLE CHEESECAKE

CRUST *:
1 c. graham crackers crumbs
3 Tb. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. butter, melted

FILLING:
16 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. sugar
2 lg. eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon

TOPPING:
4 c. thinly slice apples**
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. chopped pecans (opt. but definitely recommended!)

Combine crust ingredients and press onto bottom of 9-in. springform pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 min.

Combine cream cheese and sugar, mixing until well blended. Add eggs one at a time. Blend in vanilla and pour over baked crust.

Toss apples with combined sugar and cinnamon. Spoon apple mixture over cream cheese. Sprinkle with pecans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Loosen cake from rim of pan, cool before removing rim of pan. Chill for a minimum of 4 hours before serving.

10 servings. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

*Crust Variation:
1 c. cinnamon graham crackers, crushed
1/4 c. butter

**Use an apple variety that bakes well like granny smith, jonathan, or gala.

Another seasonal favorite is apple pie. It is so delicious and is probably the national pie. Sometimes I make a crumb crust on mine and sometimes just a regular double crust. I like to use a couple of varieties of apples because I think the textures and flavors blend well together. Some of my favorites are granny smiths, jonagolds, jonathans, and winesaps but you can use whatever you prefer.

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APPLE PIE

DOUBLE CRUST:
2 c. flour
1 c. butter
1 Tb. sugar
1 tsp. salt
6 Tb. ice water

Combine flour, butter, sugar, and salt. Cut in butter.

FILLING:
8 c. apples, thinly sliced
2 Tb. flour (omit if doing gluten-free or use cornstarch)
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Combine filling ingredients and pour into prepared crust. Brush edge with water or milk and place second crust on top, pushing together to seal the edge. Crimp edges. Cut slits (or a design) on top of pie to vent the steam. Brush with milk and sprinkle with 1 Tb. granulated sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until apples are tender and pie is bubbling. (May need to cover edges with pie guard or aluminum foil if getting too brown. Cool slightly and serve warm with ice cream or fresh whipped cream or serve at room temperature.

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