apple pie cheesecake bars

So, some of you may notice…this isn’t really a new post. By that I mean, I didn’t make these. I mean, I did make them, just not today. Or this month. Or this calendar year.

Yeah, I decided that my egregiously lengthy hiatuses between updates needed to be broken up somehow, but I’ve not had the time to actually sit down and bake something. So, a great big apology, dear readers, but at least you can have some pretty photos in the mean time. Why am I reposting these, specifically? Well, easy:

  1. It’s almost autumn, and
  2. They are literally one of the most delicious things on the planet, and you are not really living until you’ve had one.

It has been an extremely busy start to the fall term, which is the exact opposite of what I was hoping to experience for my fourth year of uni. But it’s been alright; I like being busy, after all. Otherwise I get antsy and do silly things like spend my free hours baking dessert that I have absolutely zero need to be eating.

Still, all the time I’m not baking – and am using to procrastinate on the mountains of German homework that I should be studying – is spent thinking about food. Unsurprising. You know me by now. But the weather has finally cooled down some, and it’s beginning to feel a bit like autumn, and so naturally my thoughts drift toward apples picked from the nearby orchard (on my to-do list for the immediate future), cans of pumpkin that are about to become hellsa cheap (I’ve allotted some of my next paycheck for specifically this purpose), and curling up with bowls of lentil stew to absentmindedly munch on through fall television series (Doctor Who and Supernatural are calling my name, loud and clear).

These were baked last December to take to Matt’s for an absolutely delicious dinner party his parents very graciously invited me to attend. They didn’t ask me to bring anything, of course, but I knew even before I accepted their invite that I would not be coming empty-handed.

Apple Pie Cheesecake Bars
Adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything
Yields 24-36 bars

Ingredients for the crust:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 sticks butter, softened and cut into cubes

Ingredients for the cheesecake layer:

  • 3 8-oz packages of cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Ingredients for the apple layer:

  • 3 large apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (Grannysmith, Gala, and Golden Delicious are ideal, or any combination of the three)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Ingredients for the streusel topping:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 stick butter, softened

Ingredients for the caramel:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Method to prepare the bars:

Preheat oven to 350F and line and grease a 9×13-inch pan. To prepare the crust, combine flour and brown sugar in your food processor. Add butter and pulse until dough has the consistency of bread crumbs. Plop dough on bottom of the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 15 mins, until golden brown. Do not turn off the oven.

While crust is baking, prepare the cheesecake layer by beating cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add vanilla and stir. Pour the filling onto the baked crust and spread evenly with the spatula. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, toss the apples, 2 tbsp sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg until apples are well-coated. Evenly spread the apples on top of the cheesecake layer.

In a large bowl, combine the streusel ingredients and blend with a pastry cutter (or your hands) until crumbly. Sprinkle the streusel evenly atop the apples. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 40-45 mins, until cheesecake is set. Let bars cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Method to prepare the caramel:

In a medium saucepan over medium-high flame, whisk sugar and water until blended. Allow syrup to come to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until the syrup reaches an amber color, about 7-10 mins. Watch the syrup carefully, as it is quick to burn once it starts to color. Once syrup has reached the correct color, slowly pour in the heavy cream, whisking constantly while doing so. The mixture will sizzle and foam up spectacularly, but is quick to calm. Once the cream is added, remove saucepan from the heat and continue whisking until mixture has reached the consistency of smooth caramel. Let caramel cool 15-20 mins before using.

Once bars are chilled, remove them from the pan and slice. Arrange bars on a serving tray and, right before serving, drizzle a generous amount of caramel on top.

There’s really nothing pie-like about these things, save that I baked them with apples and it was autumn when I did so, but the name had a lovely little ring to it. Plus, I distinctly remember that, with his face muffled in my shoulder in an enormous, snuggly hug, Matt mumbled that they tasted like apple pie wrapped in a cheesecake. The contented grin on his face when he pulled away and dove into his second bite was inspiration enough for the title. They were a big hit with his fam, too, so I was more than pleased.

As for autumn 2012, I don’t foresee a whole, whole lot of baking, which is unfortunate. Not with the way my schedule has been these past three weeks, but I’m also holding out for some down-time, pronto. If anything, maybe I’ll drive far, far away for a weekend and spend it living out of my car, if only to get away from textbooks and laptops and academic obligations.

I did give up gluten 100% starting at the beginning of the month, and thus far it’s been pretty easy-peasy (not for ‘fad dieting’ reasons, mind, but for health reasons). Also could be a major reason why I haven’t baked much; the idea of substituting floury baked goods – particularly pastry – with gluten-free alternatives sounds less than appealing to me, though I do hope to take this opportunity to try out some custards and mousses, almond flour baked goods, and richer ingredients like avocado and ricotta cheese.

So, although there may not be too much pie in my future, but there will definitely be some pumpkin-swirled cream cheese bars. Stay tuned, and I might even update before 2013…

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