A water bath? There it was, mocking me and my rather incomplete set of baking pans and dishes. Where in the world was I gonna get a pan big enough to hold even my smallest springform pan? Oh sure, there was one at the store, but with no room in the budget to spare this month, no way was I gonna make a case for getting a pan for the sole purpose of holding a cheesecake, hah! Right then… ya know, on Myth Busters the other day they made a balloon out of foil, why not a roasting pan? Try to follow the logic here…

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You can’t really use tape on something you’re gonna put in the heat, but if we scrunch the layers of foil up the right way (of course they ain’t the wide foil, ugh) and put it on the baking sheet… It managed to hold the water well enough, and the cheesecake was on!

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It ain’t the fanciest food processor, but it does manage to have two speeds and a blade, so the gingersnap crumbs got all nice. Y’all love me, which is why we ain’t gonna speak about how I read it wrong first and ended up with 20 gingersnaps and two sticks of melted butter. Ew. Beating the dyslexia back with a whip and a chair, I figured it out and made a nice little crust. Most of the gingersnaps made it into the crust, only a few brave little ones sacrificed themselves to my gingersnap obsession.

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The batter was so easy to make, it was like a little cheesecake party! What had me fearing I was gonna be stressed, ended up being fun. Ain’t it pretty?

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D ain’t a big fan of cooked apples in pies and such, so I used the apple butter variation. It ain’t nothing, you put some apple butter in the batter after it’s in the pan, and swirl it around with a knife. The apple butter is heavy, so you gotta swirl and hope for the best really.

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It looks like a cheesecake don’t it? It’s the first one I ever made, and I couldn’t be more proud. It’s very tasty, and I’m doing a dance to know I can make cheesecakes now! The only crack in the cheesecake was a little one when my thumb poked it too hard taking it out of the oven. Who knew, the redneck water bath worked! Could eat half of this cheesecake by myself. Dorie Greenspan, I love you!

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Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake

For the Crust
30 gingersnaps (or a scant 2 cups graham cracker crumbs)
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted

For the Apples
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter
3 large Golden Delicious or Fuji apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
2 tbsp (packed) light brown sugar

For the Filling
1 1/2 pounds (three 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
6 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp apple cider
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy cream

Apple jelly, for glazing, or confectioner’s sugar, for dusting (optional)

To Make the Crust: Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan.

Put the gingersnaps in a food processor and whir until you have crumbs; you should have a scant 2 cups.  (If you are using graham cracker crumbs, just put them in the food processor.)  Pulse in the sugar and cinnamon, if you’re using it, then pour over the melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are moistened.  Turn the crumbs into the springform pan and, using your fingertips, firmly press them evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan as far as they’ll go.  Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven.  (The crust can be covered and frozen for up to 2 months.)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove the pan from the freezer and wrap the bottom tightly in aluminum foil, going up the sides.  Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is set and lightly browned.  Transfer to a rack to cool while you make the apples and the filling.  Leave the oven at 350 degrees F.

To Make the Apples: Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  When the foam subsides, toss in half of the apple slices and cook, turning once, until they are golden brown, about 3 minutes.  Sprinkle the apples with 1 tablespoon of the sugar and cook them, turning, just until coated, another minute or so.  Scrape the apples onto a plate, wipe out the skillet and repeat with the remaining apples.  Let the apples cool while you make the filling.

Getting Ready to Bake:  Have a roasting pan large enough to hold the springform pan at hand.  Put a kettle of water on to boil.

To Make the Filling: Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium speed, scraping down the bowl often, for about 4 minutes, or until it is velvety smooth.  Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes.  Beat in the cider, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Reduce the speed to low and beat in the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in.  Finally, beat in the sour cream and heavy cream, beating just until the batter is smooth.

Pour about one third of the batter into the baked crust. Drain the apples by lifting them off the plate with a slotted spoon or spatula, and spoon them into the pan.  Cover with the remaining batter and, if needed, jiggle the pan to even the top.  Place the springform pan in the roasting pan and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 to 45 minutes, covering the cake loosely with a foil tent at the 45-minute mark.  The cake will rise evenly and crack around the edges, and it should be fully set except, possibly, in the very center–if the center shimmies, that’s just fine.  Gently transfer the cake, still in the pan, to a cooling rack and let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate it for at least 6 hours; overnight would be better.

Run a blunt knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the crust, open the pan’s latch and release and remove the sides.

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