Take help from the grocery store by using prepared applesauce, apple pie filling, and/caramel saucePrep times do not include making the streusel and caramel sauce, but does include a 7 hour 45 minute cooling time for the cheesecake.
4tablespoons (1/2 stick or 57 grams)unsalted buttersliced into 4 equal pats
Prepare and Bake the Graham Cracker Crust
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
In a mixing bowl, stir together the melted butter, graham crumbs, and granulated sugar until it holds its shape when gripped in your hand. If the mixture crumbles when you loosen your grip, add more melted butter, a little at a time, until it is the proper consistency. If butter seeps through your fingers as you squeeze, add more graham crumbs until it's corrected.
Use a measuring cup to press the graham cracker crumb mixture into an even layer in the bottom (and 1/4-inch up the sides) of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake the graham cracker crust in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.
Once baked, remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool to the touch. Wrap the bottom and sides in two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil taking care not to puncture the foil when wrapping as this will cause the wrapping to retain water, which can get into the cheesecake. Set the foil-wrapped pan aside while you prepare the apple cheesecake batter.
Mix the Apple Cinnamon Cheesecake Batter (see notes for options)
Before starting the batter, set a pot of water on the stove to boil. This will be used later to make a water-bath in which to bake the cheesecake.Grab a pan that is a few inches larger than the springform pan you lined the graham crust with. Set the foil-wrapped cheesecake pan inside of the larger pan.
In a large mixing bowl, use your electric hand mixer (or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment) to blend the cream cheese, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, and lemon zest together on medium-low speed until they are smooth or 1 minute.Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and the beaters.
Add one egg to the cheese mixture in the bowl. Blend the egg into the cheese on medium-low speed until it's fully incorporated. Scrape the bowl, then repeat this step with the remaining eggs. Add the vanilla with the last egg, blending them into the batter until combined.Scrape down the bowl and beaters once again.
Add the applesauce and the heavy cream to the bowl with the cheese. Blend this addition into the cream cheese mixture on low speed, just until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and beaters.
Lastly, add the sifted flour to the mixture in the bowl. Blend just until the flour is no longer visible. Blending the mixture too much after adding the flour will cause the cheesecake to bake up tough.
Once the batter has been blended, scrape it into the graham cracker crust in the springform pan. Pour boiling hot water you started earlier into the outer pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the foil-wrapped pan. Carefully slide the pans into the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour 15-minutes.
Prepare the Apple Pie Topping While the Cheesecake Bakes (or a couple of days ahead)
Melt two tablespoons (or pats) of unsalted butter in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the apples, lemon juice over the apples, tossing the apples around to coat them in the butter and the juice.
In a separate bowl, combine the brown sugar, cornstarch, ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Once combined, sprinkle the mixture over the apples in the pot. Stir to coat the apples evenly, then bring them up to a simmer. Once the apples begin to release their juices, lower the heat slightly.
Cook the mixture until the apples start to release their juice, and the cornstarch mixture causes that juice to thicken, or for 3-4 minutes. Stir frequently to keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pot and scorching. Once the sauce sounds like rustling newspapers when you scrape the bottom of the pot, it's ready to come off the stove and cool.
After removing the pot from the stove, stir in the remaining slices of butter until they are melted and evenly coat the apples. Allow the apple pie topping to rest at room temperature while the cheesecake continues to bake.
Top the Baked Apple Cinnamon Cheesecake with Apple Pie and Streusel
Once the apple cheesecake has baked for 1 hour and 15 minutes, carefully remove the larger pan that contains the cheesecake pan from the oven and place it on the stovetop. Gently spoon the apple pie filling onto the surface of the cheesecake. Do this delicately as the structure of the cake hasn't had a chance to develop yet.
After spooning the apple pie topping on evenly, sprinkle the streusel topping over it.Return the apple and streusel-topped cheesecake to the oven (still in the water bath) and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the streusel topping is golden brown.
Cool the Cheesecake Gradually and Completely
Once the topping has browned, turn the oven off. Prop the oven door open slightly and allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven for 1 hour.
After an hour of cooling in the oven, remove the larger pan to the counter. Take the cheesecake pan out of the water-bath and remove, then discard, the protective aluminum foil wrapper. Allow the cheesecake to cool on the counter for 30-45 minutes before covering in plastic wrap or foil and refrigerating for 6 hours or overnight.
Add the Caramel Sauce to the Chilled Cheesecake
Remove the collar of the springform pan from around the cheesecake. I like to run a hot knife around the edges of the cheesecake first to prevent any sticking.
Warm the prepared caramel sauce slightly: just enough to make it fluid. Use a spoon to drizzle the sauce over the surface of the cheesecake or spoon the sauce into a disposable piping bag and pipe strands of caramel over the surface of the chilled, de-panned cheesecake.
Once it's baked, cooled, and sauced, store the cheesecake in the fridge covered to prevent the apple pie topping from drying out in the chill air. Serve and enjoy within 3 days of cutting the cheesecake and no longer than 4 days after baking.
To Switch Up the Cheesecake Crust, consider using these in place of plain graham cracker crumbs:
cinnamon graham cracker crumbs
gingersnap cookie crumbs
molasses cookie crumbs
Biscoff cookie crumbs
Be sure to use crisp and hard cookies as soft cookies will result in a mixture that's too loose and saturated with the melted butter. Also, don't add granulated sugar to crusts made with these cookies as there's already enough sugar in the cookies.
Notes on the Apple Pie Topping:
If the apple pie topping isn't thickening add more cornstarch to the mixture in the pot:
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of cold water.
Once this mixture is smooth, whisk this slurry into the center of the apple pie topping over low heat. Add the slurry in a slow, steady stream while constantly whisking to avoid creating lumps in the sauce.
Heat the apple pie topping once again, stirring frequently, until it thickens. The final sauce should look like a thick gravy.
On the other hand, if your sauce is too thick, thin it with a little water. You can replace this homemade topping with one can of apple pie topping. Try to strain off 3/4s of the syrup from the apples to avoid a messy cheesecake.
Alternative Topping for the Cheesecake (Replaces the Streusel):
3/4 cup chopped nuts (I recommend toasted pecans, walnuts, or almonds)
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup chopped graham crackers (or any of the cookies you used to make the crust)
The graham crust and cheesecake should be made the day you plan to bake it. They are not make-ahead friendly.
The sauce can be made a week in advance and stored in the fridge.
Streusel Topping can be frozen for 6 months.
The apple pie topping can be made 2-3 days in advance and stored in a container in the refrigerator.
Once the cheesecake has been cut, press a piece of wax or parchment paper against the exposed cake to prevent it from becoming gummy and hard.
Freeze the cheesecake after cooling but before topping it with the caramel sauce.
It's best to leave the cheesecake in the pan to keep it from being dented in the freezer:
Wrap the pan in a double-layer of plastic wrap, followed by a layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil.
If you need the pan for another recipe: chill the cheesecake thoroughly (or overnight) to harden the crust. To de-pan it: place a layer of plastic wrap on the cheesecake's surface and flip it over. Pry the bottom of the pan from the graham crust and carefully flip the cheesecake back over. Put the cheesecake on a freeze-safe plate or a cardboard cake circle and wrap it in a double layer of plastic wrap, followed by foil.
Freeze the Apple Streusel Cheesecake for 2 months.
A day before you plan to serve the cheesecake, allow it to thaw in the refrigerator. Unwrap it and drizzle it with caramel sauce before serving.