Winter has finally arrived in Karachi and the cold weather is a signal to my brain that it’s time to start using ginger, all spice powder, cinnamon and nutmeg in my baking, because that is what my grandmother used to do when I was younger and her baking protégée. Lately, I’ve been thinking of how nice it would be to combine these winter flavours in a baked cheesecake. So I decided to bake a Salted Caramel Apple Cheesecake with pumpkin spiced walnuts. This recipe is a combination of many different things I’ve tried over the years and I’m so thrilled at how the aromatic winter spices come together with the creamy cheesecake. It’s easy to feel daunted by recipes with multiple elements, but if you spread this out over the course of two days — using day one to make the spiced walnuts, the base and the cheesecake, and day two to do the spiced apples, the salted caramel and the assembling — it should be fairly simple and the result will be delicious to say the least!
Salted Caramel Apple Cheesecake
Pumpkin Spiced Walnuts
1 egg white (you can freeze yolks to use in other recipes)
50g caster sugar
280g walnut halves
1.5 teaspoons pumpkin spice (combination of 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1 teaspoon ground cloves and 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg)
½ teaspoon sea salt
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Whisk the egg white until it is frothy. Add the caster sugar and whisk until combined. Fold in the walnuts, pumpkin spice and salt and mix well. Spread the walnut halves on a sheet/cookie pan and bake until the nuts smell fragrant and toasty, making sure that you open the oven and stir the nuts every 10 minutes. Reserve 50g of the nuts for decoration. If you like, you can toss the rest of the walnut halves in 100g of dark chocolate. Leave them to set in the fridge and enjoy them as a healthy snack or give them away in little baggies!
100g ginger biscuits
15g caster sugar
70g melted butter
Process the biscuits in a food processor (or use a rolling pin) until they are finely crushed. Combine with the sugar and butter, press the biscuit mix into the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan lightly greased with butter and bake in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees C for six to eight minutes.
450g cream cheese
135g demerara sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
½ teaspoon lemon zest
Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. In an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and salt and mix well, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Finally, add the vanilla essence, the lemon zest and the yoghurt and mix well. Pour the mixture over the cheesecake crust and bake for 50-55 minutes. The cheesecake should be firm but still wet in the middle when it comes out of the oven. Leave to cool completely at room temperature. Cover the pan with cling film and refrigerate until needed, preferably overnight or for at least two hours.
Salted Caramel Sauce
165g caster sugar
Pinch of sea salt
Put the cream and butter in a small saucepan, bring it to the boil and then set aside. Put the caster sugar and water in a large saucepan and keep stirring over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture begins to boil. At this point you will want to stop stirring but keep swirling the mixture until the sugar caramelises and becomes a medium golden brown. Take off the heat and immediately pour in the cream and butter mixture. Be careful, the caramel will sputter and foam. Mix well and return the caramel to the stove, cooking over a medium flame for about two minutes. Cool and reserve.
2 large apples (use firm green Granny Smith apples if possible)
170g apple juice
65g brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
14g cold butter
A pinch of salt
Peel, quarter and slice the apple thinly. In a wide and deep pan pour in the apple juice, the brown sugar, the cinnamon and the butter and bring to the boil. Cook the liquid until some of it has evaporated. Add the apples and cook over a low flame until the apples are soft but not mushy and all the excess liquid has evaporated. Add the salt and stir well. Cool the apples before use.
To assemble the cheesecake, unmould the cold cheesecake from the springform pan. Pour about half a cup of caramel sauce on top of the cheesecake and spread over the entire surface with an offset spatula. Pile the spiced apples on top of the cheesecake, add the pumpkin spiced walnuts (some whole and some chopped) and drizzle with more salted caramel sauce. Voila, your cheesy masterpiece is ready to enjoy! Bon appetit!
The writer holds a diploma in pastry from Le Cordon Bleu. She tweets @marylouandrew
Published in Dawn, EOS, November 24th, 2019