Luscious and creamy, Salted Caramel Cheesecake with Fall Fruits is a seasonal dessert that is like a reliable friend. You can depend on it to cure your sweet tooth and more!
Old school buddies
The flavor of salted caramel be can complemented by any number of things. Chocolate is one of the first things that comes to mind. Maybe it's the sweet bitterness of chocolate against the salty-sweet flavor of caramel sauce.
But at this time of year, fall fruits are the old-school buddies of salted caramel. Apples, tart, sweet, or crisp are a natural choice. But why not deepen the flavor profile by using a couple of varieties. One of my favorite fall fruits, pears add that syrupy graininess. A hint of cinnamon and nutmeg married with brown sugar and vanilla are the glue that marries all the ingredients with the salted caramel cheesecake.
Salted caramel should be salty
The first step in making this cheesecake recipe is to make the salted caramel. There are two secrets I depend on when making caramel sauce. I like to use the wet method, dissolving sugar in water, on low heat. I feel I have better control over the caramelization of the sugar. There is a little more room for error. The other secret I feel is important is to brush down the side of the pan with water to prevent sugar grains from sticking. These grains can lead to sugar recrystallizing. Once that happens, you can have a chain reaction in no time. The caramel will not be the correct consistency. It may start to separate.
But equally important, salted caramel should be salty. This is not the time to spare the salt shaker. Especially if you are using the caramel for a cheesecake. The salted flavor needs to be pronounced so that you can taste it over the cream cheese. It is the pairing of salty versus sweet that works here.
The crust is a combination of graham cracker crumbs and crushed pretzels. Leave the pretzels a wee bit chunky. The almost burnt flavor of pretzels is a perfect partner for the salted caramel. Take the saltiness of the pretzels into consideration when you are making the salted caramel.
I like to triple wrap the springform pan. Since the cheesecake is baked in a water bath, this is a vital step. Early in my restaurant career, a pastry chef started me on the triple wrap habit, one that I continue today. Nothing worse than a soggy crust.
How disappointing is finding a big crack in the center of a cheesecake after baking? There are two helpful steps to prevent this from happening. First, have the cream cheese out of the fridge to come to room temperature. It is much easier to get a smooth consistency if the cream cheese is not cold.
Second, do not whip the cream cheese at a high speed. This only incorporates air into the batter which in turn will cause cracks. Blend slowly, at a minimum. It only takes 5 or 6 minutes to incorporate all the ingredients.
Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula often. This will thoroughly combine all the ingredients.
Put the unbaked cheesecake in a bain-marie also known as a water bath. The water should be hot and come up the sides of the pan. (This is why you triple wrap!) The water bath will help to regulate the oven temperature so that the cheesecake bakes gently. The moist environment of the oven will prevent the cheesecake from drying out as it bakes.
Fall Fruits Compote
While the cheesecake is baking, I like to make the compote. Use what fall fruits you prefer - I used Granny Smith apples for tartness and texture and Honey Crisp for sweetness. The Bartlett pears add creaminess and a syrupy flavor.
I add a small amount, 1 tablespoon, of unsalted butter. The apples are added to the melting butter, over medium-high heat. I like to lightly brown the surface of the apples. It enhances the flavor of the compote. I add a cinnamon stick, a vanilla bean, and a few grates of nutmeg when I throw the apples into the hot skillet. However, don't overcook the apples. Just when it seems they are starting to cook, maybe after 5 minutes, I add the pears. I want the fruit to keep its shape rather than disintegrate into a kind of applesauce. A small amount of brown sugar is added to the pan. This not only melts but also leaches a little liquid from the fruit. Let the mixture cook for about 5 minutes to evaporate some of the water. A lovely syrupy sauce will envelop the fruit.
Last step to success
When the cheesecake has baked for 1 hour and 15 minutes, check the top. It should feel set and firm. If the middle giggles a slight bit, that's okay. The edges of the cheesecake will feel firmer than the middle. If the center is still a little liquidy, put the cheesecake bake in the oven for 10-15 more minutes.
To help the cheesecake remain uncracked, turn off the heat. Prop open the oven door with a wooden spoon. Let the cheesecake remain in the oven for another hour. The method of slowly letting the cheesecake cool and coming to room temperature will help stop cracks from forming. Drastic temperature changes lead to cracks. Think low and slow. After an hour the cheesecake should be cool enough to handle. Put it in the refrigerator for a couple of hours to continue firming up.
A fan favorite
I spent a summer working on a base recipe for cheesecake. I worked on a basic vanilla that had the creamy texture that I wanted but also a sweet tangy flavor. Once I felt I had the recipe for that cheesecake, I started working on different flavors. After a summer of this, we couldn't eat any more cheesecake. There was just too much.
My son was studying karate at the time. He was at the dojo a lot. When I picked him up, I would drop off the day's work and have everyone give me a critique. The Salted Caramel Cheesecake with Fall Fruits was described by one of the taste testers as bad a--.
That description was not the first that came to my mind. Salty, fruity, creamy, tangy are the adjectives I was hoping to hear. But I will take it! I can't think of a better compliment. Try a Salted Caramel Cheesecake with Fall Fruits next time you want to elicit a big reaction.
Want another fruit topping for a Salted Caramel Cheesecake recipe? Try Candied Bourbon Cherries - https://tenpoundcakecompany.com/candied-bourbon-cherries
Salted Caramel Cheesecake with Fall Fruits
- springform pan
- sheet pan
- medium saucepan
- Saute pan
Salted Caramel Sauce
- 2 cups granulated sugar 16 ounces/446 grams
- ½ cup water 4 ounces/118 ml
- 1½ cups heavy whipping cream 12 ounces/360 ml
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 cups pretzels 3 ounces/85 grams
- 1½ cups graham cracker crumbs 2 ounces/56 grams
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 3.5 ounces/99 grams
- ½ cup light brown sugar, packed 2.8 ounce/80 grams
- 32 ounces cream cheese, room temperature 4 - 8 ounce packages/
- 1 cup granulated sugar 8 ounces/223 grams
- ¼ cup cornstarch 1.08 ounces/30 grams
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup salted caramel sauce 8 ounces/240 ml
Fall Fruit Compote
- 1 Granny Smith apple
- 1 Honey Crisp Apple
- 2 Bartlett Pears
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 vanilla bean
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ cup light brown sugar, packed 1.4 ounce/40 grams
- pinch ground black pepper
- If you haven't already, take the cream cheese out of the refrigerator to come to room temperature. This is important so that the cheesecake will be smooth and without lumps.
Salted Caramel Sauce
- Add 2 cups of granulated sugar to a medium saucepan. Add ½ cup of water, letting it be absorbed by the sugar.
- Start melting the sugar over medium heat. Make sure there are no grains of sugar stuck to the side of the pan. If there are, use a pastry brush dipped in water to clean the sides of the pan.
- As the sugar melts, it will come to a boil. Continue boiling the sugar/water for approximately 15 minutes.
- The sugar will start to turn brown as the water is boiled away and the bubbles will look thicker, more viscous. When the sugar is a dark amber color, add the cream. You can add the cream ½ cup at a time. It will start to boil up. Using a wooden spoon, stir the cream into the caramel.
- Let the caramel continue to cook for 2-3 more minutes, letting it slightly thicken.
- Take the pan off the heat and let the caramel come to room temperature.
- Add up to 1 tablespoon of kosher salt to the caramel. It will taste salty. It needs to be almost overly salty so that it is tasted when added to the cheesecake batter.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Crush pretzels into small pieces. You can use a food processor. You can also put the pretzels in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin.
- Melt 7 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Add the brown sugar to the butter, stirring together.
- Add the pretzel crumbs and the graham cracker crumbs to the butter/brown sugar mix. Combine until all dry ingredients are coated in butter.
- Wrap the bottom of the springform pan in three layers of foil. Press the crust into the bottom of the pan, flattening everything into a consistent layer.
- Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool while you prepare the cheesecake batter.
- Put the 2 pounds of room temperature cream cheese in a mixing bowl. Using a slow speed, mix the cream cheese with one cup of granulated sugar. Add the ¼ cup of cornstarch to the bowl. The cream cheese should be getting smooth. Make sure to occasionally scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula so that everything is fully mixed.
- Add the eggs one at a time, again scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula after each addition.
- Add the salted caramel to the bowl. I start with one cup. Depending on the salt level of your caramel sauce, you may want more or less.
- Once the caramel is thoroughly mixed in, stop the mixer. Whipping too much air into cheesecake batter will cause the cake to crack while baking.
- Heat 3-4 cups of water until steaming.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Put the pan on a sheet tray or in a roasting pan.
- Place the pan or sheet tray on the middle rack of the oven. Pour the hot water around the springform pan, until the water comes up an inch or two.
- Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Prepare the fall fruit compote while the cheesecake is baking.
- Check the surface of the cheesecake. If it feels firm and the center is not liquid, it has finished baking. The center may giggle - that's okay. If the center is still loose, bake the cheesecake for an additional 10-15 minutes.
- Once the cheesecake has finished baking, turn off the oven. Prop open the door with a wooden spoon. Let the cheesecake remain in the oven for an hour.
- After an hour, the cheesecake should be at room temperature. Put in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours to finish firming.
Fall Fruit Compote
- Peel and cut into medium dice a Granny Smith apple, a Honey Crisp apple, and 2 Bartlett pears.
- Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter to a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the apples, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, and ground nutmeg. Let the surface of the apples start to slightly brown.
- After cooking the apples for 6 minutes, add the diced pears. The fruit in the compote should remain in a dice. Cooked or stirred too much, you will make something like apple sauce.
- After the pears have cooked for three minutes, add ¼ cup of brown sugar. The sugar will start to extract juice out of the fruit. Let everything cook for 5 minutes until a thick sauce is enveloping the fruit. Sprinkle a pinch of ground black pepper into the fruit and stir. Use this as a garnish on top of the salted caramel cheesecake.