Today’s dessert really needs no preamble, and not just because the recipe itself takes up most of the space. To see (and to taste) this Toffee Apple Walnut Cheesecake Tart is to love it. But as the Diwali fireworks fade like a retreating army, the nights turn nippy and our food thoughts turn to comfort and warmth, it would be remiss of me not to point out that the flavours of today’s recipe simply scream rustling leaves and woolly hats. That the walnut-laced pastry shouts autumn windfalls high in the Himalayas, while the toffee apple recalls rosy cheeks around childhood bonfires. If that wasn’t enough, the soft, creamy filling brings all the cheese, vanilla and citrus flavours, not to mention the moreishness, of a classic cheesecake.
Together, they produce a beautiful flourish at the end of a special dinner. Also, despite the rather daunting-looking ingredients list, this is a straightforward recipe. Nothing, apart from the pastry case, which can be made the day before, has to be baked. The apples and cream too can be made ahead. Then all you have to do is assemble the tart. By the time you serve up, you might feel as if you’ve used every bowl and ingredient in the kitchen, but the dreamy look on your guests’ faces will be worth it. Give it a go—an autumnal dessert that (almost) speaks for itself.
Making it easy: The pastry case can be prepared the day before. Photograph by Priyanka Parashar/Mint.
Toffee Apple Walnut Cheesecake Tart
180g plain flour
60g icing sugar
2 tbsp walnuts, finely ground
100g cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg, lightly beaten
1-2 tbsp iced water
100ml double cream
300g cream cheese, or kwark
90g icing sugar, sifted
The seeds from one vanilla pod
Finely grated zest of one orange and one lemon
Toffee Apple Topping
3-4 green apples
3 tbsp of demerara sugar or powdered jaggery
2 tbsp white sugar
150g golden syrup
125ml double cream
Sift the flour and icing sugar into a large bowl. Stir in the ground walnuts. Rub the butter into the flour mixture until it looks like breadcrumbs. Stir in the egg and enough iced water to bring the mixture together. Form into a ball, wrap in cling film, then put in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
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Take a baking tin about 20cm wide, preferably with a removable bottom. On a floured surface, roll out the pastry to about 5mm thick. Carefully lift into the tin and press into the corners. Put in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Bake blind the pastry—this means baking the pastry shell on its own before adding the filling. Put a piece of parchment paper or foil over the pastry, then tip in some dried lentils to weigh it down—this ensures the pastry doesn’t bubble up during baking. Bake the pastry in the oven for 15 minutes. Take the tin out of the oven and remove the paper and lentils. Bake the pastry again for about 5-10 minutes until cooked and golden brown.
The pastry case can now keep until you’re ready to make your dessert.
To make the cheesecake cream, put the cream, cream cheese, icing sugar, vanilla seeds, orange and lemon zest into a bowl and mix until all the ingredients are well mixed. Chill for about 30 minutes to let the flavours infuse.
To make the toffee sauce, melt the butter, both sugars and golden syrup in a saucepan. Let it boil for 2 minutes to thicken slightly, pour in the cream and boil for another minute. Leave to cool slightly.
Peel, halve and core the apples, then slice each half into four lengthways and each slice into two. Squeeze some lemon over the apple pieces to stop them browning.
Melt a little butter in a frying pan, then add the apple pieces. Sprinkle with some brown sugar and cook for a few moments to caramelize the apples.
When ready to serve the tart, spoon the cheesecake cream into the pastry. Arrange the caramelized apple pieces on top of the cream and pour a little of the sauce. Pour the remainder of the sauce in a jug and serve alongside slices of tart.
Pamela Timms is a Delhi-based journalist and food writer. She blogs at Eatanddust.com
Write to Pamela at firstname.lastname@example.org