Cheesecake and Apple Pie en Vogue

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There are various styles of cheesecake and apple pie, and even more ways to serve them. Whether one is the centerpiece to punctuate the end of a meal or is only one among many options, each will stand out by its own merits. While there are various other types of cakes and pies to choose from, these seem to be two of the most popular and multi-faceted of the traditional confections in this country. While gingerbread, pecan, and pumpkin are also among the important flavors of this time of year, they all seem a bit one-note in comparison to these dessert giants.

Different cheesecake recipes call for a different amount of graham cracker crumb coverage. Some choose only to coat the bottom of the pan or just the bottom and the sides; others go all out and cover the top as well. Then, when the center of the cake falls like a souflee as it cools, the choice is yours as to the presentation. Do you carve away the imperfections [and eat the scraps yourself, of course] or leave it as is? If you choose to leave it as it is, you can drizzle caramel or chocolate sauce deep into the cracks; if you chose to mix one of those into the cream cheese filling, then you probably chose to carve it to show that off. Some people who choose to go with the high crust look tend to fill the sunken center with fruit such as cherries or strawberries. Whipped cream with or without fruit is also advisable and delicious. However, I would advise against writing on the surface of the cake with icing unless it's for a birthday or other special event that requires a message and is the only pastry at the party. Candles also probably aren't a good idea in case the wax drips.

The thought of apple pie alone conjures up the image of a la mode, which is a scoop of [vanilla] ice cream on top (or on the side) of any fruit pie except the two citrus varieties (lemon and Key lime), which uses meringue. In America, apple pie is chief among our iconography. There are at least two types: classic and Dutch. Classic apple has a flat crust comparable to the shell of chimichanga, while Dutch has a crunchy crust reminiscent of apple cobbler. At this point you have to ask yourself what goes well with apples. If you liked to put peanut butter on apple slices (and not just in an attempt to extract a loose tooth), try spreading a thin layer of peanut butter on top of a classic crust. I'd even go as far as adding whipped cream, especially if it's just too cold a day for ice cream. With a Dutch crust, however, I'd say the ice cream is a must. Then you can mash the crunchiness into the ice cream to add texture as well as flavor, much like the cobbler. With either style, adding caramel sauce to the pie or the ice cream would make it more like a chimichanga. Also, cinnamon makes almost anything taste better, including apples.

In short, desserts are serious business, but above all they're fun. It's a chance for chefs to express themselves creatively through their ingredients. While cheesecake and apple pie may night rank as high on everyone's list, they certainly are tops on mine. While cheese and apples on their own are good for you, too much cake or pie isn't, so enjoy in moderation. You'll be glad you did.

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