I love autumn. As a little girl in Wisconsin, I played in the bounty of crunchy, multi-colored leaves, having always treasured seeing the difference in foliage. As an adult in Colorado, I enjoy feeling the crispness in the air, not mowing my lawn, and spying apples, ripe on the trees, ready for harvest.
It is for these reasons, and because my husband hails from Washington State (home of many apple orchards, including his sister’s acres of organic crops), that we ordered two heirloom apple trees for ourselves. We nurture our Rhode Island Greenings on a full-sized root-stock and Yellow Transparents on dwarf stock, and, despite our growing them in the wrong climate, they have still produced a wonderful crop annually.
I typically do not use apples in my kitchen for baking, choosing, instead, berries for their lower sugar content and high fiber; but the thought of caramel apples for fall was so tantalizing, I couldn’t resist. As well, I discovered that Granny Smith apples, in particular, contain a commendable amount of starch for an apple, which can help curb the effects of sugar absorption, creating longer satiety. Its slightly higher potassium content from other apples also help heart function.
Friends tested this decadent cheesecake recipe in the last week, and all have loved it dearly, whether they savored caramel apple bites over warm conversation or made the following recipe from scratch. The recipe contains several elements, but think of the process as four, easy recipes combining into one terrific finish, and you will appreciate the simple process for a dessert that looks and tastes anything but. I hope you will also consider trying my personal, favorite sweetener options and make your own white and brown sugar replacements from scratch, but yours will work wonderfully, too.
In terms of simplicity, you will notice expansive nutritional information I am providing to aid you in the process of making sweetener choices and choosing options for your dessert. You can elect to make only the cheesecake (with or without the crust), the apple topping, or the caramel, and combine as you see fit, based on your needs. I will also publish the topping, caramel and crust separately on the site.
While the fat content seems exorbitant, it is the satisfying factor in this gourmet recipe, whether it is found in the bulky decadence of the creamy, dense filling enhancing the flavor and the texture, the protein-enriched, flavorful crust, the silky-smooth caramel sauce dripping on your tongue, or the bright, chunky, sweet flavors of apple as the finishing pop of delight. You can certainly make your own substitutions to limit the fats; be sure to read labels in these products to assure the fats removed weren’t replaced with sugar.
One small slice of this caramel apple cheesecake does more than satisfy that yearning sweet tooth; it hearkens us back to more youthful days spent picking sweet apples and jumping in the bounty of crisp colored years of our happiest autumns.
Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free Carmel Apple Cheesecake
The delicate crunch of the Granny Smith apple lends just the right amount of acid to the sweetness of the brown sugar substitute and the earthy pecans. The autumn crust lends depth, while the caramel sauce, adapted slightly from Betty Crocker’s caramel sauce recipe, allows for both cheesecake use and an added drizzle over the top for serving.
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup macadamia nuts
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 Tbsp melted butter
1 Tbsp brown sugar equivalent in a substitute
Process walnuts, macadamia nuts, and sunflower seeds together until a coarse meal. Combine with butter and the brown sugar substitute. Line a springform pan with parchment. Press crust to fill the bottom of the pan in a thin layer. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
4-8 ounce packages room temperature cream cheese
1 cup brown sugar equivalent in a substitute
3 large eggs
½ cup sour cream
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine filling ingredients and pour into the cheesecake pan. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven. The steam from the water helps prevent the cheesecake from cracking. Bake at 325 for 75-90 minutes, or until the cheesecake is puffy and on the verge of golden-brown in some spots. In the last five minutes of baking, turn off the heat. Allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven for 30 minutes. Refrigerate. The cheesecake will fall as it cools. This is normal.
1/4 cup brown sugar equivalent in a substitute
1/4 cup white sugar equivalent in a substitute
1/8 cup (2 Tbsp) butter
1/4 cup water
1 mixed egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine all caramel ingredients. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly, and then remove from heat. Let cool. Pour the mixture to cover the top of cheesecake (you may save some for drizzling if desired). Refrigerate for at least an hour before adding the apple topping.
½ cup brown sugar equivalent in a substitute
1 peeled and diced (about 1.5 cups) Granny Smith apple
1 cup roughly chopped pecans
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup butter
Combine all ingredients and cook on the stove top in a medium saucepan over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The apples will begin to soften slightly, and the mixture will take on a more uniform appearance. Let cool completely. Spoon-drop the topping over the cheesecake and spread gently, using care to not disturb the caramel. Refrigerate until serving. Refrigerate leftovers.
YIELD: 16 servings
NOTE: This cheesecake can be frozen. Simply individually wrap slices and store in a freezer bag in the freezer for up to six months.
NUTRITION INFORMATION PER SERVING, all ingredients: Calories: 398.2, Carbohydrates: 8 grams, Fiber: 1.1 grams, Net Carbohydrates: 7 grams, Protein: 7.08 grams, Fat: 38.8 grams
CHEESECAKE: Nutritional Information per serving using sucralose as the sweetener: Calories: 232.8, Carbohydrates: 3.4 grams, Fiber: 0 grams, Net Carbohydrates: 3.4 grams, Protein: 5.7 grams, Fat: 22.2 grams
CARAMEL: Nutritional Information per 1/16 of the recipe: Calories: 19, Carbohydrates: .75 grams, Fiber: 0 grams, Net Carbohydrates: .75 grams, Protein: .18 grams, Fat: 1.7 grams
APPLE: Nutritional Information per 1/16: Calories: 85.2, Carbohydrates: 2.8 grams, Fiber: .5 grams, Net Carbohydrates: 2.3 grams, Protein: .3 grams, Fat: 8.5 grams
CRUST: Nutritional Information per 1/16 crust: Calories: 61.2, Carbohydrates: 1.1 grams, Fiber: .6 grams, Net Carbohydrates: .5 grams, Protein: .9 grams, Fat: 6.4 grams