This is one of those recipes that came from total necessity.
Necessity to make a dessert that had an apple bottom.
I figured chocolate always has all the fun with black bottom pies why can’t we celebrate the apple bottom? Of course there were a whole slew of recipe ideas I had to incorporate the apple bottom like pies, cakes, trifles, etc. but in the end cheesecake bars won the apple bottom dessert olympics™.
Gold, silver, bronze, all to the cheesecake.
I mean, basically this is a handheld apple pie cheesecake hybrid of a beast that’s perfect for your thanksgiving dessert. The apples sort of cut through that rich cream cheese feel which means you don’t get that feeling that maybe you just ate a bottle of elmer’s glue that you sometimes get right after you eat a face size slice of cheesecake that was meant for more than two people.
But it’s also great that the apples don’t necessarily steal the show, everyone works together and makes you make multiple trips to the fridge for just one more piece until half the pan is gone.
The bars happen for several reasons:
- easy grab from the fridge
- scalability (this easily doubles for a 9×13″ pan for a larger crowd)
- no need for a springform pan
- no water bath
- easier to sneak pieces before you take it to dinner and not have anyone notice
All good reasons, including the fact that they should totally be made a day or two before so it’s one less thing for you to worry about on turkey day, and if you’re stressing out about other dishes, it’s cool, I’ve got a couple more things coming your way this week.
Until then plan for these cheesecake bars, no boots with the fur.
Apple Bottom Cheesecake Bars
Makes an 8×8″ pan* for 12-16 bars, depending on how big you cut them.
This recipe has a few different components that might look a little daunting but just approach it with a positive attitude and go into like a meditative coma while you’re making it so it’s more relaxing than anything.
*you can easily double this recipe and bake it in a 9×13″ pan, it might need an additional 5 minutes or so of bake time.
For the Crust:
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (should be the total from one sleeve)
3 tablespoons white granulated sugar
For the Apple Bottom:
3 baseball sized braeburn or honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored and diced (about 3 cups of diced apples)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (if you used a fresh stick of butter for the crust then just use the rest of that, it’ll be 2 teaspoons more but you don’t need that sitting in your fridge)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, heaping 1/4 if not using freshly grated
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
For the Cheesecake:
2 8oz bricks of FULL FAT cream cheese, very soft, very room temp, this helps with a smooth cheesecake
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
Start off by prepping the 8×8″ pan. Try and use a metal one if you have it. Grease and line with parchment paper so there’s 2 sides that have sort of a parchment handle or line with aluminum foil and grease that. This all leads to easy removal which means easier bar cutting.
Preheat your oven to 350* F
Make the crust by melting the butter in a medium saucepan over a medium low heat until it’s almost melted then take off the heat and let the residual heat melt it the rest of the way. You probably need to make the crumbs (use a food processor and pulse until it resembles coarse sand) so do that then once the butter’s melted add the crumbs and sugar and mix until it’s combined. Add it to the prepared pan in an even layer and use something round, like a shorter drinking glass or a measuring cup, with a flat bottom to press the crust into the pan so it’s fairly compact. Place the pan in the fridge for the crust to sort of firm up while you make the rest.
To make the apple bottom prep all the apples. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan then add the apples with the rest of the apple bottom ingredients. Cook over a medium heat until apples have softened a little and most of the liquid is gone, leaving you with sort of a thick syrup coating the apples, about 5 minutes. Set this aside while you make the cheesecake.
To make the cheesecake, place the cream cheese, sugar, salt, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a large bowl if using a handheld electric mixer) and use the paddle attachment to beat it all together until smooth and combined, about 2 minutes, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times to make sure it’s super incorporated. Now on the slowest speed mix in the eggs, one at a time. Make sure the first egg is completely mixed in before you scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the second one. The scraping along with the slowest setting is important because we want as little air as possible beaten into the cheesecake so we have the lowest chances of getting cracks in the cheesecake bars.
Once the second egg is mixed in turn off the mixer and set aside the filling.
Remove the pan from the fridge and carefully spread the apple bottom over the crust. Pour the cheesecake filling over that then lightly drop the pan on the counter a few times to get rid of possible air bubbles. Place in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, until the center is just set (no jiggle jiggle) and the edges are very lightly golden. It’s probably poofed up but it’ll go down as it cools.
Let it sit out and cool to room temperature then place in the fridge to cool completely and set, about 3-4 hours. When it’s time lift the cheesecake bars from the pan using the parchment or foil (you might have to run a knife along the edge where the cheesecake meets the pan) and cut into bars. Serve as cold as possible.