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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Cheesecake With Brandied Apricots
Is there anything that can outclass cheesecake? You can dress it up, or leave it plain and it is stupendous either way. My absolute favorite is a lovely piece of plain New York style, piled high in an ever so slightly sweetened, buttery graham crust, topped with a gorgeous rim of tart pure sour cream. And nothing, absolutely nothing needs to accompany it. No chocolate (I know, bite my tongue!), no fruit, liqueurs, just plain and simple. : }

Out of all of our family I know only two individuals that can't stand cheesecake. I've looked for a support group for them, just because they are the minority of our lot, and I kind of feel sorry for them! (ha-joking) But alas there doesn't seam to be one. I feel sorry for them only until I remind myself that it means that there's more to go around! 

I don't know how many types of cheesecakes I've tried, but it's a lot. Most of them have been pretty good, some way more than others. 
Several years ago when I was at a friends backyard party, the big table stacked with desserts caught all of our eyes. In the center were two large Costco cheesecakes. Theirs are quite good in taste and definitely price wise. I chose a nice piece of that, only when I bit into it, I had to look for the garbage can to dump it into. Everyone else had the same idea. The problem? They forgot to put any sugar into them! So here we all were ready for a nice piece of chilled cheesecake to finish off a great spread of Mexican food including a Mother and Daughter team that just sat and prepared fresh tortillas, and the Husband and Son grilling meats. Instead of a sweet creamy dessert we got a creamy sour one. Totally unpalatable! So sad. So, that of course triggered me to bake one the next day.

So here you go - there are two adjoining recipes for Jeanne' GF AP Flour Blend and her GF Graham Crackers - although I've made slight changes in the crackers for personal taste

Apricot Brandied Cheesecake
Special equipment needed:
parchment paper
non-stick cooking spray
kitchen shears or large sharp butchers knife
*10-12 inch springform cheesecake pan
             *Lightly spray the bottom and in-sides of the springform pan, then cut a 4 x 22-24 inch strip from the parchment paper and affix to the inside of the springform. Next, tightly with foil, crimp and seal the outside of the pan. This will help to ensure that the water from the Ban Marie doesn't infiltrate the cheesecake filling.
Large baking pan with at least 2 inch tall sides

1 1/4 cups brown rice flour
1 1/4 cup white rice flour
1 cup tapioca starch/flour
1 cup sweet rice flour
2 scant teaspoons xanthan gum
Store leftover blend in an airtight container and use with in 3 months.

GF Graham Crackers
1 1/4 cups Jeanne's GF AP Flour blend
1 cup sweet sorghum flour
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, *if using table salt cut amount in half
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 heaping teaspoons ground cinnamon - we like a lot of cinnamon, adjust to your taste
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-8 Tablespoons Iced water

Cheesecake Filling Ingredients:

2 cups plump dried apricots, some brands are very, very dehydrated! 
2 cups apricot brandy
1 cup Torani Peach Syrup
1/2 cup apricots preserves
pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon orange blossom honey, or any other light flavored honey                                               

Cream Filling:
2-8 ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature 
2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese, room temperature
3 large eggs
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out
1 1/2 cups sugar 
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch Kosher salt

Crust Ingredients:
3 cups GF graham cracker crumbs - recipe included above
1/4 to 1/3 cup melted unsalted butter
3-4 Tablespoons sugar
Crust Method:
1. Crush the graham crackers as fine as you like for your crust, (I whizz mine in the food processor.)  In a medium bowl add graham crumbs, the melted unsalted butter, the sugar and mix well.
2. Pour the graham mixture into the springform pan and press firmly up the sides about 1/4 of the way up and firmly onto the bottom.
3. Pre-bake the crust at 375°F. for about 10 minutes, this keeps the crust from becoming soggy. Set aside to cool.
Filling Method:
4. Lightly spray the kitchen shears or a knife blade, then snip or chop the apricots into medium-small pieces into a medium sized bowl. Place the brandy, and pinch of salt into a medium sized saucepan. Heat to just starting to boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to simmer and reduce to 1/2 cup. This will concentrate the flavors. 
Place the syrup, apricot preserves, and pinch of salt  into a medium sized saucepan and simmer for about 15 minutes to thicken up.
*Pour all but 2 tablespoons of the hot brandy sauce  - or the syrup and preserves over half (1 cup) of the apricot snips and let the fruit hydrate - this batch will be the topping, set aside. 
*In a separate small bowl with the other 1 cup apricot snips, mix in the reserved 2 Tablespoons of the hot brandy sauce - or the syrup and preserves, set aside - this batch will go into the filling.
5. In the bowl of your stand mixer beat the cream cheese, and sugar, then add the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla bean seeds, vanilla extract, and pinch of salt and beat together to a smooth cream, scraping the sides down with a silicone spatula. Add the ricotta cheese and beat well till smooth and creamy, scrape down the sides. Add the apricot mixture reserved for the filling and mix well.
6. Pour the cheesecake mixture into the prepared springform pan. Next place the springform pan into the dry baking pan, then fill with water 1/2 way up the springform pan. This is your Ban Marie - water bath.
7. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 20 minutes at 375°F. The cheesecake should be firm with a bit of a jiggle in the middle - just like pumpkin pie. Cool on a wire cooling rack for 2 hours before putting it in the refrigerator. If you put it in the fridge to soon, the heat will lower the fridge temperature and may compromise the rest of the contents. Keep the cheesecake chilled for at least 8 hours, but preferably overnight.
Don't worry if there's a crack on the top of the cheesecake, this happens for a myriad of reasons. You can expertly cover it with a sour cream topping or the reserved apricots.

8. In the small bowl with the reserved apricots stir week to distribute the brandied or syrup sauce. 
9. Sour cream topping: 1 cup pure milk sour cream and 3-4 Tablespoons super fine sugar. (Whizz your sugar in a clean spice grinder which helps to dissolve completely without any graininess.) Spread over the cheesecake at least 2 hours prior to serving, keep chilled.
To Serve: 
10. Present the entire cheesecake with the cold, brandied apricots on the top, or the sour cream layer, or both!
11. Slice and serve!