Sunday, November 13, 2016

Caramel Apple Blondie Cheesecake

Caramel...there is a lot of recent posts with this component, but it does seem to be a good pairing with many of your winter desserts.

A nice layer of sweet caramel on top of cheesecake does sound and look delicious. However, sometimes cheesecake can seem a bit heavy for dessert. That is why we see a lot of "cream cheese swirled" desserts. This cream cheese dessert does increase the spectrum of texture and taste with its unique layering while being lighter than cheesecake alone.

The first and bottom layer is chunks of toasty pecans. They provide a crunchy texture and a subtle nutty flavor. The second layer is a blondie. Not just any blondie, but one with cinnamon spice and chunks of tart apples. Lastly, there is a creamy vanilla layer of cheesecake topped with caramel. To turn it up a notch, in my tips and notes I have included a recipe for a layer of caramelized apples that can be ladled on top prior to the caramel sauce.

Now that I have your attention, let's get into the recipe.....

Caramel Apple Blondie Cheesecake
adapted from Southern Living Magazine, 09/2012

Ingredients/bottom layers
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/2 cup of melted butter
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1 egg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups peeled/diced apples (Granny Smith/tart green apples recommended)

Ingredients/Cream Cheese & caramel layer
2-8 oz pkg cream cheese (room temp)
3 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
6 tbs melted butter
3 tbs whipping cream
3 tbs honey

Grease and flour the interior of a 9-10 inch springform pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour the pecans into a shallow or pizza pan and smooth out to a thin, even layer. Place pan in the oven and let the pecans toast for 4-5 minutes. Remove pan and stir, smoothing out to a thin layer again. Put pecans back in oven for another 4-5 minutes. Once toasted, sprinkle pecan pieces evenly into the bottom of the springform pan. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

For the other layers, the process will be mixed. This is so the blondie batter will not sit for a long time, having the baking powder react too much prior to baking.

Start by sifting together the cinnamon, flour, baking powder and salt together into one medium size bowl. Then take out another bowl and fill with the brown sugar, 1 egg and melted butter, stirring until you have a smooth batter. Set both bowls aside.

Now you will use a stand mixer bowl. Fill it with the granulated white sugar, cream cheese and vanilla extract. Beat the ingredients together, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Once smooth, add one egg and beat until blended. Repeat the process with each of the remaining eggs. Remove bowl from stand mixer and set aside.

Go back to the first two bowls (one with brown sugar mixture and one with sifted ingredients). Combine the two, folding the dry ingredients in with the wet. Once thoroughly mixed together, stir in the apple chunks. Spoon this batter on top of the pecans in the springform pan. Carefully smooth the batter into an even layer. Then pour the cream cheese mixture on top.

Place pan in oven and bake until top is no longer shiny and cream cheese layer is set. This should take about 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes (depending if you are using a silver pan or a dark pan). Once done, set pan on rack to cool. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, but do not remove the springform ring. Let cool for about 2 hours prior to topping.

To make the caramel topping, fill a saucepan with whipping cream, melted butter, honey and brown sugar. Place the saucepan over medium high heat. The mixture will need to be stirred constantly. It will heat up and come to a boil. Continue to stir and let boil for 2 minutes. Remove and let cool for at least 15 minutes prior to topping cheesecake.

Tips and Notes:
1. The smaller the pan the thicker the layers. I used a 10 inch springform pan.

2. The recipe stated to "spoon" the cream cheese batter over the other layer. The cream cheese batter was very pourable.

3. The cream cheese layer and blondie layer were of even thickness after baked. The photo with the recipe indicated that the cream cheese layer was much thicker and the blonde layer much thinner. This may have to do with the size of the pan used.

4. Should you want more of a pronounced apple flavor, below is a recipe for an apple topping. The apple topping goes on before the caramel layer.
Apple Topping:
Peel and core 5 apples. Slice apples into 1/2 inch wedges. Then fill a skillet with 1/4 cup butter, 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and 1 tsp lemon juice and place over medium heat. Stir constantly, letting mixture cook for about 5-10 minutes. Add the apple wedges. Mix, coating the apples with the sauce. The apples will need to cook with the sauce for about 15-18 minutes to become tender and caramelized. Be sure to continue to stir. Let cool for about 20 minutes prior to topping cheesecake.

5. Should you want to make in advance:create and bake the blondie and cheesecake layer and refrigerate when cool. Then make the sliced apple layer and caramel sauce just prior serving and ladle it on top.
                             **LAST YEAR:Grasshopper Cupcakes**