Because I actually cannot believe this is a (mostly) improvised, pseudo-original recipe. Honestly, it’s pretty glorious. Ok fine, if that’s a little too much undeserved self-praise, I guess I’ll just say that darn, I’m one enlightened cake-maker. A mixing of some fine ingredients, a thrusting of good pink ladies on the top, a sudden decision to say…
YES, I really do think salted caramel will go nicely with that.
Off the whim, all too sudden. Yesterday was the due date for the IB’s Extended Essay, so I feel it very fitting to celebrate with this recipe. It was a short return to my childhood of tree-climbing and grazed knees, after which I’d come home to find a well-sized slice of cheesecake my mother or grandmother bought from some gourmet store, which I enjoyed anyway because… cheesecake. I never found the rich tang displeasing as a kid; it was one of the few sorts of cakes I didn’t mind having at birthday parties. The flimsy, airy stuff never fascinated me. I lusted after half-cloying goop. I admit that this batch actually could have used twice as much salt in the caramel topping to counter the lemony, apple-y sweetness of the cheesecake, so I’ll put the better amount in for your benefit.
And with that, let’s go.
For the base:
- 1 cup flour
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (113g) softened, unsalted butter. Good butter, please.
For the filling and apple top:
- 2 packages Philadelphia cream cheese, left to soften at room temperature (this would take at least a good half hour)
- 1/2 cup white castor sugar
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 cup sour cream (or Greek yoghurt, which was what I used since I didn’t have sour cream on hand)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 3 eggs
For apple topping:
- 2 small pink lady apples, or any sort which you enjoy eating on its own. Grab a green one if that’s all you have; doesn’t change the final product a whole lot. It actually depends how much of a flamboyant apple character you want your cake to have– the more the merrier, though I find thin layers atop the filling work well to even out the caramelisation process during baking.
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- one teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the divine gift of God that is salted caramel (makes a medium batch so it may be used in the future):
- 1 cup white sugar
- 95g salted (!!) butter
- 3 teaspoons fine salt
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (either single or double is fine)
Before I start, I just want to say that I’ve recently become more inclined to writing method in prose, mostly due to how I had to do so for my extended essay, and I enjoy the more personal feel it establishes. But yes, cheesecake.
Start of by preheating your oven to 200 degrees C (400 degrees F), and grease a 9-inch round cake tin.Thinly slice your apples and toss them in a medium-sized bowl with the sugar and cinnamon. Set aside for now.
Make the base: With a wooden spoon, or if you’re 80% Neanderthal like me, your hands, mix the five ingredients together well in another medium bowl. Press into base of your cake tin and half an inch up the sides. Make sure the bottom is even. If you live in a supremely hot climate like I do, put the base in the fridge to prevent the butter from melting and causing the pressed-up sides to sink and go limp.
Make the filling: Using a whisk (not the electrical sort, just the single whisks), cream the cream cheese and sugar together till no more sugar lumps are present in mixture. Add in the eggs one by one and whisk well between each addition. Then, add in the fresh lemon juice, sour cream/greek yoghurt and vanilla. Use a wooden spoon to mix the last few ingredients in order to incorporate as little air as possible. I found this really helped with the final texture of the cheesecake.
Assemble and bake: Take tin out of fridge and pour filling on top. No pre-baking of crust, no nothing. Just pour and plop in the oven. Oh, after you scatter those moreish, cinnamon-y apples on top, of course. Please don’t forget that bit. As I said earlier, I find that thin layers arranged in rings starting from the edges serve to kick the look factor up 10 notches. Just so… Pretty. I could’ve been neater, but I was too excited embarking on this exciting baking expedition. Literally an expedition too, because I was running around grabbing ingredients and whatnot. I need to organise myself. Anyways, once the layers are done (I just did one nice layer), put the cheesecake into the preheated oven and bake it for 15 minutes. Once 15 minutes is up, turn down the temperature to 190 degrees C (375 degrees F) and bake for another 30-35 minutes. I took mine out after 33 minutes, because that’s the way I did it the first time I baked a cheesecake this method, and there were no cracks whatsoever. Works a dream.
Make the salted caramel (adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction): Heat sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally with wooden spoon. Continue to do so until all the sugar melts into a pool of dark, glossy amber liquid. Once this stage is reached, add the salted butter. It’s a pretty vigorous reaction, this one. Stir with spoon to help the melting process. Once all the butter has melted, slowly add in heavy whipping cream. This part is even more vigorous that the previous one; it will spit and rise as it starts to boil. Let the mixture boil like this for another minute before taking the pan off the heat. Let cool for another couple minutes before stirring in the salt. Store in an airtight container for future use, and reserve a half cup for later.
Once cheesecake is done in the oven, carefully take out. It should still be a little wobbly and tender in the middle. Leave to cool in the same pan on a cooling rack for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, microwave half of the reserved caramel (it would have gone a little thicker and less liquidy) for a few seconds and liberally drizzle all over top of the cheesecake. Place the cake inside the fridge and leave for at least 4 hours or overnight. It’s good to make this kind of thing the day before. No sweat.
After at least 4 hours (or overnight), take cake out of fridge. Microwave the remainder of the reserved caramel and drizzle it over the top, however you like, however much you want. You’ll probably have some caramel left.
Bam. Double salted caramel whammy.
I’m thinking grape and crisp rice cheesecake next time, just because.