Apple Cheesecake Tart

I made this tart, which is really a cross between a tart and a cheesecake, for a party. Huge hit! It’s apple season so why not make a rich and creamy dessert that features this most-loved American fruit?

Though this isn’t a true cheesecake, some of the hints in my Cheesecake – You crack me up! post are also relevant here. It is vital that your cream cheese and egg are at room temperature. You will get a lumpy mess if you try to make this without having the foresight to warm up your cream cheese and egg.

Apple Cheesecake Tart
(makes 1 9″ tart, serves about 12)

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup + 1/2 cup sugar
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large apples (I like Honeycrisp but Jonathan or Cortland are also good)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, 1/4 cup sugar, a pinch of salt, and lemon juice. Gently stir in the flour until well blended.

Press the dough evenly into the bottom and at least 1″ up the sides of a 9″ non-stick springform pan. Refrigerate while you work on the filling.

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

In a clean large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and brown sugar. When this mixture is fluffy and there are no lumps, beat in the egg and vanilla. Beat again until smooth.

Peel, core, and cut the apples into 1/4″ slices.

In a large bowl, combine 1/2 cup of sugar and cinnamon. Add the apples and toss to coat evenly.

Place the pan on a rimmed sheet pan (just in case your pan leaks). Pour the cheese filling into the tart shell. Gently cover with the apples, scraping out all the sugar and cinnamon. Move the apples around to cover the filling completely.

Bake for 15 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, and bake for another 40  minutes.

Remove from the oven. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to release the crust. Release the springform but don’t try to take the sides off until the tart cools for 10 minutes. It’s just too hot to handle right out of the oven. When you remove the springform, if some pieces stick to the pan sides, scrape them off and put them on the top of the tart. It’s a rustic tart. No one will notice.

Allow tart to cool completely before serving. Once the tart is completely cooled you can remove the pan bottom by running a knife under the bottom crust and then carefully using a large flat spatula to release the crust all the way to the center. Gently slide the tart onto a serving plate. Or not, you can serve it on the pan. I do all the time!

This tart can be refrigerated overnight before serving. Any leftovers (yah, right) can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Recipe adapted from Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier, Storey Publishing, 2001.

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Apple Fennel Sauerkraut

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A friend had a bumper crop of cute lady apples (a type of crabapple). I picked a few quarts. Some went for a plum-apple jam. What to do with the rest? Ooooh! Sauerkraut! You don’t need to use crabapples. Any apple will do.

I love sauerkraut and this is really good sauerkraut. This is a true sauerkraut, fermented for about 3 weeks (you can make it more or less tart by varying the ferment time). At 3 weeks, it’s crunchy and tangy perfection. The apples do not make the sauerkraut sweet. The sugars in the apples are food for the bacteria, making it tangier than typical. Which is just fine with me!

Some notes on making sauerkraut:

  • You are going to need a good sized crock or plastic container. You don’t make small batches of sauerkraut. This recipe requires a 2 gallon container. Crocks are traditional but they are awfully heavy. I prefer a plastic container, which you can get at restaurant supply stores (brand name is Cambro). It’s lightweight, easy to see what’s going on, and inexpensive. I discovered that the plastic does retrain some of odor of fermentation. From now on, it will be my sauerkraut bucket. At about $5, a very worthwhile investment.

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  • It’s vital that you massage the salt into the cabbage to get the cabbage to release its liquid. The resulting brine is where the magic happens. You want enough brine to keep the cabbage covered.
  • On keeping the cabbage covered – it will float, and you will need to weight it down. I mention this here because you need to consider this when selecting your crock. You want to make sure that you can easily fit something – a plate, a bowl – into your crock that you can place a weight on. This will keep your cabbage submerged.
  • Sauerkraut doesn’t need a lot of care during its ferment. You are supposed to spoon off any scum. I admit that I did not (I was away on vacation part of the time). Seems it turned just fine with my neglect. I never noticed anything funky growing in it, at least while I was home. Funky growths like mold don’t usually clear up on their own, so my guess is that nothing ever started. It helps if you keep everything well submerged in the brine.
  • Temperature is important. Higher temps make for faster fermenting and more sour flavors. You also run the risk of bad actors invading. I started this batch in early September, when the temperature in my house was consistently in the low 60’s. You can make sauerkraut even when the temps are running around 70-72 but the fermentation will go faster. It’s not recommended that you try it in temperatures much above that. Cold temperatures slow the fermentation. At refrigerator temp (40 degrees), it stops entirely. Given all this, I wouldn’t try making sauerkraut in the heat of summer, unless you have A/C and keep your house rather chilly!
  • Many modern books say to use unrefined sea salt because of extra stuff in refined salt. I use pickling salt. There is nothing extra in pickling salt – no anti-caking agents, no iodine added. Just plain ole NaCl. It works and it’s cheap.

Apple-Fennel Sauerkraut
(makes about 1 gallon)

3 Tablespoons pickling salt
7 1/2 pounds green cabbage (about 1 1/2 large heads)
1 3/4 pounds apples, thinly sliced
1/2 pound onions, thinly sliced (1 medium)
5 teaspoons fennel seeds

Peel off the large outer leaves of the cabbage and reserve. Cut the cabbage into 1/4’s, core and shred. Place 1/2 the cabbage in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 Tablespoons salt and massage vigorously to release the juices. Don’t be shy. I split it into two batches because a) it’s a lot of cabbage, and b) when you are massaging the salt in, you need extra space so cabbage doesn’t go everywhere. Place the first 1/2 in another bowl. Repeat with remaining cabbage. Mix all the cabbage together with the apples, onions, and fennel seeds. Taste for salt. The salt level is somewhat up to taste. At 3 Tablespoons, I found it about perfect. But, you may want more.

Pack it all into your 2 gallon container. And I mean pack. No air bubbles and totally immersed in the brine. Place the large outer leaves on top. Then place a plate or bowl on top of that. Weight that down with something heavy – I used some heavy jars. Cover the whole thing lightly with plastic wrap. Don’t seal it tightly because you need to allow the CO2 a way out. Place your container on a rimmed sheet pan to catch over-zealous fermentation. Put the whole thing in a spot out of direct sunlight and where the temperature remains fairly constant, within the parameters discussed in the notes above.

Check daily for fermentation. You’ll know it’s happening when bubbles start to form. If any scum forms, skim it off and push down the kraut so it stays submerged. Same for any mold. For more troubleshooting tips, visit Fermentation Gone Bad. Lots of great tips and photos to help you out.

I let my sauerkraut go about 3 weeks. Your mileage may vary. Temperature, your local flora, and your own tastebuds determine when you say it’s done. Taste it and see what you think!

Once the sauerkraut is to your liking, pack into jars and refrigerate. This will stop the fermentation. Consume within a few months for best crunch. It will soften up as it sits.

Recipe proportions from Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten K. Shockey and Christopher Shockey, Storey Publishing, 2014.