Applewood Smoked Cheesecake
This post is sponsored by Mr. Wine Box Gardener. He is behind this impressive approach to dessert that not only involves making cheesecake, but includes smoking it on the grill. Yes, you read that right....smoked cheesecake. Its flavor is hard to describe, but "smoky, creamy sweetness" is the closest I can come. The smoke adds an element to the flavor you can't get just from baking. We used applewood chips for smoking, but you could use any you like - a cherry or maple would work.
Applewood Smoked Cheesecake
Yields: 8-10 servings
12 oz broken graham crackers
3 TBSP light brown sugar
6 TBSP unsalted butter (3/4 stick), or more if needed to make the crust more cohesive
4 8-oz packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
2 tsp vanilla extract
5 large eggs
Prepare the oven and grill
The oven is used for baking the crust. You could also use your grill, but it needs to be a higher temp than you'll need when you smoke the cheesecake, so if you use the grill, you'll need to then bring the temp down before putting the cheesecake in.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Prepare the grill. If using charcoal, get the chimney starter going so the coals will be ready by the time you're ready to put the cake on the grill. If using gas, preheat the grill to about 300 degrees.
- Start soaking your wood chips. You'll need about 2 handfuls.
Make the crust
- Brush a light coating of vegetable oil to the bottom and sides of a springform pan. Wrap the outside of the pan with aluminum foil.
- Make the crust by breaking graham crackers into pieces and place them in a food processor. Add the brown sugar and grind to a fine consistency. Add the melted butter and pulse a few times until it becomes a crumbly dough.
- Press the mixture into the springform pan into the bottom and about 1/2 way up the sides. Bake the crust in the oven for about 5-8 minutes or until lightly browned. (Your kitchen will smell amazing, by the way.)
- Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.
Make the filling
- Clean any remaining crust crumbles from the food processor so you're working with a clean surface (or use a stand mixer for the filling instead).
- Add the cream cheese, brown sugar, vanilla extract and lemon zest to the food processor (work in batches if needed) or mixer bowl. Beat/process until smooth.
- Add eggs to the mixture one at a time and beat/process until smooth after each addition.
- Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to get rid of any air bubbles.
Get ready to smoke
- Put the lit charcoal into the grill. Cover with wet wood chips. Place the rack on the grill. If using a gas grill, add the wood chips to a smoker box and place in the grill. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions. The temperature for smoking the cheesecake should remain around 300 degrees.
- As the chips start to smoke, place the cheesecake across from the coals/chips. This should be cooked with indirect heat.
- Place the lid on the grill, ensuring that the holes are in the open position and placed above the cake. The smoke should be drawn across the grill over the cake through the holes. This will give the cake a nice smoke layer.
- Smoke the cheesecake for about 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until the top is bronzed with smoke and the filling is set.
We smoked it for about 1 1/2 hours and then put it in the oven at 300 - 325 degrees for about 20 minutes until it was set. If you have enough heat left in the grill, you can keep it there until it's done, but if the temps are decreasing, you can bring it into the oven to finish it off.
To test for doneness - gently poke the side of the pan. The filling should "giggle" not "wiggle." Additionally, a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.
Cool and serve
- Transfer the cheesecake to a wire rack and cool to room temperature (about an hour). Refrigerate until ready to serve, letting it warm a bit to room temperature before serving.
- Run a slender knife around the inside of the springform pan. Loosen and remove the ring.
One of our favorite inspirations for grilling and smoking techniques and recipes is Steve Raichlen. He has several BBQ cookbooks and related TV shows. This recipe was (very heavily) inspired by one of the recipes from his show "Project Smoke."