The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.
Now I enjoy cheesecake. And I enjoy all kinds of cheesecake, from ricotta to goat cheese. I’ve made a few before with both those ingredients. I’ve made tofu cheesecakes and sweet potato cheesecakes… I love them any way I can get them. So the real challenge, as Judy so wonderfully explained, was not so much the cheesecake itself but the creativity you applied in the making of the cheesecake.
I fell in love with hazelnuts and nutella some time ago. There used to be a great gellataria here that had amazing hazelnut gelato. I’ve gone without for a while now, and thought it was about time to give a go at hazelnut cheesecake!
I did a little research and found that Craig Claiborne had a recipe in the New York Times many years ago for a hazelnut cheesecake, even deeming it the “ultimate” cheesecake. He used ground hazelnuts for flavor similar to peanut butter cheesecake using peanut butter. I was afraid of having a grainy texture since it’s hard to get hazelnuts, or any nuts, perfectly smooth without a commercial grinder. I didn’t notice any funky texture in the final product, though.
I had a block of 61% Valrhona for dipping (lucky me!). I didn’t totally immerse the pops in the chocolate because the stuff is so expensive, but also because I didn’t want the chocolate to overpower the hazelnut. I just wanted them to have a little dance together.
Here is the basic recipe. I swapped half the cream for Frangelico (hazelnut liquor) and added about 1/2 cup hazelnuts, ground to become 1/4 cup.
2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.
2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too – baker’s choice. Set crust aside.
3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.
4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.
5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done – this can be hard to judge, but you’re looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don’t want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won’t crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.
Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil “casserole” shaped pans from the grocery store. They’re 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.
Prep notes: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for almost an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Please plan accordingly!