December 18, 2011

Some Serious Treat

My dear Reader, I’ve been a terrible blogger this year. By the time you read this post, Thanksgiving frenzy has already died down and hence marks the midst of Christmas rush. Does that say a lot to you about me?

In this part of the world, where Thanksgiving is often unheard of (and so it’s not a public holiday, apparently), I was out on the streets, filling in as an adjunct “reporter” (or interviewer, or whatever-you’d-like-to-call-it) for a colleague, videotaping interviews with my multitalented boss for a client. Plus, I was slogging away the three days before for some massive events. Who would have thought I had the opportunity to be in the presence of Rohani Jelani, Malaysia’s renowned recipe developer and food stylist, and to meet up — for the first time — with Pick Shan, another fellow Malaysian blogger, at a culinary event at Bayan Indah. “Look what your job had led you to!” exclaimed my boss. Yeap. Albeit tiring, all these experiences had been immensely rewarding, and I’m thankful for that.

Actually, I’ve been in a holiday-season mood. I’d planned to write a Thanksgiving post and put an autumn recipe up on this blog, but I failed on both counts. During the Thanksgiving week, when I saw the emails from my American sisters — Anna and Abbi who are in Minnesota — and my American best friends — Becky and Ryan who are in Bangkok — about how they celebrated theirs, I felt elated and nostalgic for America at the same time. It’s that sense of belonging, that’s all that matters.

Whitney crab apple tree
The Whitney crab apples in my American family's orchard (circa August 2009).

At the festive table, if the apple trees in my American family’s orchard bear a fruitful ending to the season, apple pies would usually wind up as one of the few desserts served. Apple pies are an American classic, and a treat in their household.

Now that I’m no longer in America, apple pies have become a treat for me as well. I hardly make them, even though apples are everywhere. I guess I haven’t found an apple pie recipe that I like and can be loyal to.

But fret not! I have something slightly unconventional to make up for that: apple-pie cheesecake.

I found this interesting recipe in [The] Cheese Cake Book, my go-to source for cheesecake inspirations whenever cheesy yen surges. But I feel it’s more of a hybrid of apple pie, apple tart, and cheesecake. It’s not as tall as the New York cheesecake, but almost as short as the French apple tart. The apple-pie-ish element comes from the apple slices that are lying snugly in the luscious cinnamon-perfumed, slightly but refreshingly tart cheesy custard filling (or topping?). Working together in a symbiosis, the latter and the delicately cinnamony, wheaty-nutty crust scream to my tongue and then the brain, Yo! Cheesecake here.

This dessert is a play of the mind, satisfying your senses all the way through.

I guess this compromise ain’t bad, after all. This apple-pie cheesecake makes for some serious treat, too. I’m good without apple pies for now, but I’m sure I’ll be back with one. Someday. (Oh, if you have a good apple pie recipe, do share it with me, please.)

Apple Pie Cheesecake 蘋果批風芝士蛋糕

Apple-Pie Cheesecake
Adapted from [The] Cheese Cake Book [sic] 《我愛芝士蛋糕》, by Junko Fukuda (福田淳子), Kumiko Yanase (柳瀨久美子), and Yasuyo Shida (信太康代)

For baking apples, my favorites are Granny Smiths, which I love for their distinctive blend of fruity sweetness and puckering tartness, and, if in season and available, Golden Delicious, which I love for their floral, juicy sweetness and slight tartness.

200 grams honey graham crackers or digestive biscuits, pulverized
2/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon

60 grams unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

150 grams cream cheese, softened
30 grams unsalted butter, softened
70 grams superfine or granulated sugar

40 grams plain yogurt
1 large egg, lightly beaten and at room temperature

2½ teaspoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

2½ — 4 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
1½ — 2 medium-size apples, or to adjust as necessary

About 60 grams apricot jam
1 tablespoon water

Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 16-centimeter tart pan that has a removable base, then line its bottom with parchment. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 170°C.

In a medium-size mixing bowl, toss together (A), then stir in the melted butter to combine. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom and against the sides of the prepared tart pan, and chill in the refrigerator until just before baking.

In another medium-size mixing bowl, thoroughly cream together (B). Mix in the yogurt, and then followed by the egg — stir that in in two to three batches. Sift in (C) and mix well, then pour in the lemon juice and combine.

Remove the prepared tart pan from the refrigerator and set in a larger baking pan. Pour the cream-cheese mixture into the crust, and partially bake for about 20 minutes or slightly less than that. Meanwhile, stem, core, and cut the apples into two- to three-millimeter-thick slices. Try not to cut the fruit up too early to prevent its browning.

After baking for 20 minutes, remove the partially baked cheesecake from the oven. Arrange the apple slices on top of the cream-cheese custard — however you want to, so long as the cheesecake looks presentable in the end. Bake for another 20 minutes or so, until the top looks lightly golden. Remove from the oven, and set the cheesecake — still in its mold — on a cooling rack to let cool completely. Chill the cooled cheesecake for at least three hours before serving.

Just before serving, melt together (D) in a small saucepan over gentle heat for a glaze. Brush it over the cheesecake. Slice and serve.
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