Because this cheesecake is fairly substantial, we needed a solid crust to give it sturdy legs. A graham cracker crust would be nice, especially using ones already laced with cinnamon, but we went with a spicer route and ground up crunchy gingersnaps! If either of those two wouldn't work for you, we've used animal crackers before with much success. With a touch of brown sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt added to the crumbs, we moistened the mass with just enough melted butter to bind. Pressed over the bottom and up the sides of a large springform pan, we placed the pan into the freezer while the oven heated up. The crust then needs to slip into the oven for just a few minutes, setting the crust and turning it a light golden hue.
Before I could get my hands dirty making the cheesecake batter, we needed to deal with autumn's natural sweet treat - the apples! Using peeled and sliced Golden Delicious apples (try Fuji here if you like), we tossed half the amount into a skillet of melted butter and left them to cook briefly, turning just a single time, until they gained a touch of color. A very light dose of brown sugar later, the apples were ready to be turned out onto a plate to start cooling down with the next batch going in to cook. Be sure the second batch has enough time to cool as you don't want to try and layer hot apples into the batter!
Luxuriously smooth and dotted with specs from our favorite fragrant Vietnamese cinnamon, the cheesecake batter is an extravagant combination of cream cheese, sour cream and heavy cream, sweetened with brown and granulated sugar. Along with the aforementioned cinnamon, vanilla and a shot or two from our fall staple, apple cider, were also blended into the batter with a few eggs to finish it out. Once the first egg is dropped in, mix the batter long enough to just mix the egg in before adding the next - you don't want to overwork the batter at this point.
Enough of this tan, thick liquid is poured into the cooled crust to cover the bottom, then those caramelized apples are arranged over to form a hidden surprise layer inside. The rest of the cream cheese mixture is added into the pan and sent off to bake in the oven until the cheesecake is almost completely set - you should have just a bare jiggle in the center when it's ready. Plenty of cheesecakes are baked in a water bath for a gentle heating, but I've had a few that even being well-wrapped with heavy duty foil still end up with a soggy crust from water somehow leaking inside. I've gone to a method here where you simply put a pan of heated water on the rack directly below the cheesecake and let it work its magic - however, if you are more comfortable with setting your wrapped pan in a direct water bath, feel free!
As with most cheesecakes, this one too is best left to rest at room temperature until completely cool, then stashed away in the refrigerator overnight to completely chill down. You can get away with a 6 or so hour stint in the refrigerator, but the extra time allowing the flavors to develop and letting the texture settle down is worth it, in my opinion.
Dense, so creamy and seriously pleasing, Jeff and I decided to share a piece so he would have more to take in. Talk about a war with forks - it was a battle between savoring each forkful, before realizing that if you didn't get your next bite ready, all you might hear is the clank when the tines hit an empty plate! As if the cheesecake wasn't enough, that layer of soft buttered apples inside was just what this guilt-inducing cake needed to round it out. It you want to fancy up the top, warm up a few tablespoons of apple jelly and brush the top for a shiny glaze. With as good as this was, neither of us gave it a second thought as to what it looked like though!
Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake