Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Impress Your Friends & Family" Pie

One of my Thanksgiving responsibilities this year was making dessert. I took a cue from tradition and opted for pies, trying two new recipes. The pumpkin pie recipe that I used was a keeper, but the real star of the show was my friend in the top right section of the photo above...Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie.

There is nothing remotely healthy about this recipe (well, perhaps the apples) and also no denying the fact that it is time consuming. However, if you would like to make a pie that is so good that you receive phone calls asking how many pieces are still left or come home to notes that say, "Save ME some pie!" because it is just *that* good, then this is the recipe for you. You will without a doubt impress your friends and family, proving that the time invested preparing this recipe is well worth it. (HELLO homemade caramel sauce!)

And since it is unlikely that most of us will be bringing dessert to the same dinner party any time soon, I thought I would share the recipe with you. Enjoy!

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie

For the crust:
1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoons. cinnamon
5 1/3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
½-¾ cup caramel (recipe below)
1 cup pecans, chopped

For the apple filling:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup packed light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5-6 Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored and thinly sliced

For the cheesecake:
8 ounces cream cheese (I used reduced fat - not sure why since it was a lost cause!)
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 tablespoon lemon juice

For the topping:
¾ cup heavy cream
3-4 tablespoon confectioners sugar
¼-½ cup caramel
Chopped pecans

For the caramel:
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup light brown sugar

To make the caramel sauce, combine the butter, heavy cream and brown sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Once it reaches a boil, lower the heat to medium and continue to boil until the mixture is thickened, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

To make the crust, preheat the oven to 375° F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round springform pan with parchment paper. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon and melted butter. Toss with a fork until all the crumbs are moistened and the ingredients are evenly mixed. Transfer the mixture to the prepared springform pan and press the crumbs in an even layer over the pan bottom and about half to two-thirds of the way up the sides of the pan. Bake for 6-8 minutes, until golden in color. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Pour a layer of caramel into the bottom of the crust and sprinkle evenly with the chopped pecans. Refrigerate the crust while you prepare the filling.

To make the apple filling, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Mix in the brown sugar, salt and cinnamon and cook for 1 minute, until bubbling. Mix in the apple slices and toss well to coat. Cook over medium to medium-high heat until tender and most of the liquid has been reduced, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes and pour into the prepared pie shell. Set aside.

Reduce the heat of the oven to 350° F. To make the cheesecake layer, combine the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Mix in the vanilla, egg and lemon juice until fully incorporated and smooth, 1-2 minutes. Spread the cheesecake filling into an even layer over the top of the cooked apples in the crust. Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

To serve, carefully remove the sides of the springform pan. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream and confectioners sugar on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form (be careful not to over beat like I accidentally did.) Spread gently over the top of the chilled cheesecake layer. Top with dollops of caramel sauce and swirl with a knife to create a marbled effect. Sprinkle with a handful of chopped pecans if desired. Slice with a long, thin knife to serve.

Source: Annie's Eats - adapted from Ezra Pound Cake, originally from Mimi Hodges, the winner of Good Morning, America’s “Pie of Emeril’s Eye” Contest, 2000