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

Ingredients

Crust:

Vegetable oil
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

Filling:

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

Directions

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. 
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. 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.
  3. Start soaking your wood chips. You'll need about 2 handfuls. 

Make the crust

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)
  4. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Make the filling

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. Add eggs to the mixture one at a time and beat/process until smooth after each addition.
  4. 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

20151125_120257.jpg
smoke and cheesecake
soaked wood chips on grill
open grill holes
  1. 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.
  2. As the chips start to smoke, place the cheesecake across from the coals/chips. This should be cooked with indirect heat.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
A nice amber smoke covers the cheesecake

A nice amber smoke covers the cheesecake

Cool and serve

  1. 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.
  2. Run a slender knife around the inside of the springform pan. Loosen and remove the ring.
The finished cheesecake

The finished cheesecake

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." 

I'm Catherine, a small-space urban gardener in New Jersey (Zone 7a) who started gardening out of upcycled wooden wine boxes. For years, I wanted to try gardening, but didn't know where to start. I got up the nerve to give it a try - starting small with a single wooden wine box that turned an idea into reality. That reality quickly turned into my filling every sunny inch of space of my postage-stamp size lawn and turning it into a garden oasis. I grow mostly vegetables and herbs with some exception for fruits (when the squirrels and rabbits don't get to them first). I love learning from gardening communities (and lots of trial and error).

I hope one day to take all that I'm learning and apply it to a larger plot of land. To help me get there, I'm extending my learning through the University of Massachusetts, Stockbridge School of Agriculture's, Sustainable Food & Farming program. (I'm addicted to learning as much as I am to gardening.)

This blog isn't just for gardeners (although I hope it inspires some of you to try growing a plant or two). The recipes (food & cocktails) in theRecipes section of this blog contain ingredients that don't have to come from your own backyard. If you like visiting your local farmer's market(or even your grocery store) and would like to get some new recipes you can use with the fresh produce and herbs you get from your local growers, this blog will have plenty for you too.

In addition to gardening and cooking, I also love to visit and photograph my surroundings. I feel fortunate to have so many amazing places here in New York/New Jersey, where I live and work. Visits to local farms, farmer's markets, and cycling through rural farming areas help me feel connected and refreshed. share these experiences in theExploring section of the blog so that you might visit through proxy or be inspired enough to visit yourself. 

With very few exceptions, all of the photographs on this site are ones I have taken myself. (For the photographers out there, I shoot with a Canon 7D and sometimes with my Lumix  DMC-ZS15 compact camera.) 

I hope this blog inspires you to grow, create, explore, and try something new. The best way to stay up-to-date is to follow me using the social buttons above, or click Subscribe and sign up for my email newsletters.    

Happy Gardening and Healthful Living!

- Catherine