Finding a good gluten-free dessert is difficult, but this cider cheesecake with a pecan crust is moist, delightful and perfect for the up-coming Fourth of July weekend (or any day of the week, really).
Written by Rachel O’Brien
Photography by Elaine Ramos
As a vegetarian, I understand dietary restrictions, and their inconveniences, all too well. When people find out that I have made the decision not to eat meat, I often get hit with a barrage of questions, mostly curious and well-meaning. Do you eat fish? Do you eat chicken? Is it ok if there is a little bit of chicken stock in the soup I’m making you? Nope, no fish. DEFINITELY no chicken. And would YOU mind if there was even a little bit of something you absolutely deplore eating in your food, like Brussels sprouts? Dining out can be a similarly interesting experience, especially in places where even every salad on the menu, besides the small side salad, has globs of bacon or chicken, and the vegetable soup is chock full with sausage.
All joking aside, having a restricted diet is not a horrible thing, just something you learn to live with and face its minor annoyances with a sense of humor. It inspires creativity.
So when I found out that my little sister was told by doctors to cut down on her glucose intake for health reasons, I had a lot of sympathy for her, especially since this limited her options for the best part of any meal: dessert. It’s a bit more difficult to find tasty recipes and extra ingredients for things like brownies and cake. But cheesecake I found to be surprisingly easy to make gluten-free. The only part of a cheesecake that traditionally contains flour is the crust, living plenty of room to experiment. And with a sweet and crunchy pecan crust, you can’t tell me, mumbling through a mouth stuffed full of creamy cheesecake goodness, that you miss the usual graham cracker crust.
This cheesecake is baked, which is nice because this means any lingering alcohol flavor is cooked out, and all that remains is the sweet, tangy apple flavor. I really think that, though extraordinarily tasty, this cheesecake appears a little plain, so the addition of the candied pecans gives it a little extra flair for special occasions.
Cider Cheesecake with Pecan Crust
For the Crust:
1 ¼ cup pecans
2 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. cloves
4 tbsp. butter, melted, plus a little more for brushing the pan
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Give the pecans a rough chop, and then grind them in the food processor until they resemble a course meal. Transfer to a bowl, and add sugar, cinnamon, cloves and butter. Stir until thoroughly combined (hands are the best tool for this, in my opinion).
Using the extra melted butter, brush the inside of a spring form pan. Add the pecan mixture and press onto the bottom of the pan, forming an even layer. Bake for 10 minutes, until it is just beginning to turn brown.
For the Cider Cheesecake:
3 sticks of room temperature cream cheese, 8 oz each
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp. hard cider
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Keep the oven at 350 degrees. Start a large pot of water boiling for the water bath.
Mix the cream cheese and sugar together in a large bowl until fully combined. Add eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Mix in heavy cream, hard cider and vanilla until the batter is smooth and creamy.
Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan. If the pan is not airtight, wrap the bottom and sides with tinfoil, making sure that there are no holes or rips in the foil. This is very important, because you don’t want a soggy cheesecake! Place the springform pan into a larger pan (make sure it is large enough for the springform to sit flat on the bottom). Pour the boiling water into the larger pan until it reaches halfway up the cheesecake pan.
Bake 45 – 55 minutes, until the sides hold together and the center still jiggles. At this point, turn the oven off and let the cheesecake cool down inside the oven for an hour. This helps to prevent it from cracking. After an hour has passed, carefully remove the cheesecake from its water bath and cool on a rack. When the cheesecake is fully cooled, the springform pan can be removed and it can be chilled in the refrigerator.
For the Candied Pecans:
½ cup pecans
1 tbs. water
2 tbs. brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Combine the pecans, water and brown sugar in a bowl. Mix together until the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Pour onto the cookie sheet, and bake for 6-8 minutes, until the sugar is caramelized. Transfer to a plate to cool. When completely cool, add to the top of the cheesecake for decoration.