Thursday, July 1, 2010

Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake

Nutella, that wonderfully nutty chocolate spread that is good on SO many things (including a spoon!), is fantastic in this dense, amazingly rich cheesecake. It's very easy to make and the results are mind-blowing.

Normally, I prefer to use Oreo's baking crumbs to make chocolate crusts for cheesecakes, but Publix doesn't carry them, so I grabbed a box of chocolate Teddy Grahams and pulverized them in my food processor. Their lighter chocolate intensity was actually a perfect balance for the milk chocolatey flavor of Nutella.

1 box chocolate Teddy Grahams or other chocolate graham crackers
1 cup whole hazelnuts
1 stick unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350. Toast the hazelnuts at 350 for 10 minutes and let cool. Keep the oven on. While the hazelnuts cool a bit, grind the Teddy Grahams in the food processor to make crumbs. They don't have to be perfectly or uniform. Melt the butter in the microwave and mix in the crumbs. Rub the cooled hazelnuts in a dish towel or paper towels to loosen the skins, and grind the skinned hazelnuts (they won't all come off and that's okay!) in the food processor to coarse crumbs. Add to the crumbs and butter and mix well.

Spray a 9 inch springform pan with non-stick cooking spray and pat crumb mixture into the bottom of it. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Leave the oven on.

While crust bakes, bring several cups of water to a boil and pour into a large baking pan on the bottom rack of the oven after removing the baked crust.

For cheesecake filling:
3 oz pkgs regular or reduced fat cream cheese
1/2 cup brown suar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla or Frangelico liqueur
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 jar Nutella

Beat the cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Add vanilla and cornstarch and beat again for a minute until well mixed.

Pour onto baked crust. Using a large tablespoon, drop spoonfulls of the Nutella in 5 or 6 places on the cheesecake batter. Swirl with a toothpick, knife or skewer. Repeat with another 4 spoons of Nutella. Save a little bit for garnish!

Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes. Turn the oven off and crack the door. Let cake cool in the oven at least 30 minutes, then 30 minutes at room temp before refrigerating. Refrigerate overnight.

Optional garnish: I made a decorating bag out of waxed paper and warmed the rest of the Nutella for a few seconds in the microwave, then piped it all around JUST THE EDGE of the cheesecake, then used a knife to draw it down the sides. It was beautiful and preserved the lovely swirl pattern in the top of the cake. Serve chilled.