The most majestic chocolate cheesecake: this tall beauty is housed by a crunchy, oreo hazelnut crust. The filling is tangy and creamy, equal parts dark chocolate and cream cheese. It’s speckled throughout with flakes of sea salt for a most decadent treat.
This recipe came about while I was faffing around the kitchen. Sometimes I find myself wanting to learn more about a particular ingredient (scm in this case) so I’ll use it in a recipe where I haven’t tried it before. Normally I make cheesecakes with just cream cheese and sour cream but I had seen this recipe and decided I’d love to jazz it up, ‘sam style.’
Oreo Hazelnut Crust
This is a basic cookie crust (crumbs & butter) but we’ll add ground hazelnuts to it to make for a crust that really stands out. Nutella lover? You’ll love this crust and rejoice when there’s extra crumbs on the plate waiting to be scraped up.
A few things about this oreo hazelnut crust recipe:
- You’ll notice my ingredient list goes by account of crumbs not cookies; this is because different cookies come in different sizes and I find it more accurate to measure by crumbs. I’m calling them oreo here for familiarity, but I typically use whole foods chocolate sandwich cookies which run a bit larger.
- Remove the filling: if you are using an oreo (or chocolate sandwich cookie!) removing the filling is recommended so that you aren’t adding the extra sweetness and oils. This way you are getting real cookie ‘crumbs’ (which is what you’d get if you used graham crackers.
- Bake & freeze: I always, always bake my crust before I fill it. I do this so that it doesn’t crumble everywhere and ‘sets’ well to hold the filling. This is even more important when using a water bath.
Sea salt dark chocolate cheesecake
I think most of us agree that chocolate & cream cheese are a wonderful combination. Sometimes you’ll do this with cocoa (like in buttercreams) but here we’re using melted chocolate so the cake doesn’t dry out. In the recipe I mentioned above, the baker used only cream cheese but I always add sour cream to my cheesecakes so I swapped a block out for sour cream.
This filling isn’t as softly creamy as my usual cheesecakes when chilled (see: pistachio, apple cider, bars) and that is because of all the chocolate that’s added here which causes the pie to stiffen a bit. If it warms up though, it gets creamy again. I also, tbh, don’t think that this one particularly has to be creamy as there is something wonderful about the dense, but melts-in-your-mouth texture.
How to make a lump-free, creamy chocolate cheesecake
Here’s a few things you want to get right to get that perfect filling:
- Use room temperature ingredients
- Beat the cream cheese and use the back of a rubber spatula to press out any lumps
- Pour it through a fine mesh sieve to remove any possible lumps (either from cream cheese or from the chocolate)
- Bake it in a water bath
- Cool the cheesecake slowly in the oven and on the counter, before transferring to the fridge.
An easy water bath for cheesecakes: skip the hassle of a springform pan
See those rustic crinkled edges? Pretty non-traditional for a cheesecake right? At some point last year, I decided it wasn’t worth the hassle to use a springform pan which I’d have to wrap super, super carefully in foil to prevent any water from seeping in from the water bath. Instead I’d do what I did with a flourless cake or basque cheesecake: use a cake pan and some parchment paper.
A water bath to bake cheesecakes is always recommended; it allows the cheesecake to bake very evenly without browning or cracking because the water surrounding the pan never gets too hot. But it can also be a very annoying process because you’ll have to wrap the springform pan well with foil to prevent any leakage. To get around this I use parchment paper and a cake pan. The sides aren’t perfectly straight, and instead are pleated in this lovely, rustic way. Also, the parchment protects the sides of the filling that are exposed to the pan from drying out. It’s a win win!
In a nutshell, I use this easy water bath hack:
- A cake pan instead of a springform
- Parchment paper for lift and easy removal
- A cake pan in a larger cake pan – no leakage ever
Ingredients for Chocolate Cheesecake
Oreo crumbs: You need two cups of cookies for this crust, about 24 oreos should get you there (remove the filling). If you like, you can use another cookie like a graham or digestive.
Hazelnuts: You can use any nut you like but I think the hazelnut oreo combination is really amazing. If you want a nut-free version you can skip the nuts, skip the powdered sugar and reduce the butter to 8 tablespoons (one stick, half a cup).
Cream cheese: In the US cream cheese is sold in blocks of 7 ounces each. As for brands, generic brands are usually a bit soft, so I prefer the firmness of Philadelphia.
Sour cream: Whole fat so you get more creaminess. You could substitute with labne or even a full fat greek yogurt though they will both be tangier.
Sweetened condensed milk: This is milk that has been cooked with sugar to the point of removing most of its water. No substitutes.
Dark chocolate: If you are using chips, make sure they are good quality. Most chocolate chips are made with added wax and sugars to keep them from melting. Preferably use a bar of good quality dark chocolate. I wouldn’t use milk here, there is milk and sugars coming from other ingredients.
Eggs: Eggs are a big part of the creaminess and structure of a cheesecake, no substitutes for the eggs unless you are making a no-bake cheesecake.
Flaky sea salt: This peppers the filling and adds so much dimension to the taste. Find the flaky sea salt usually sold by Maldon in the spice section of the store or on Amazon.
Can I make a half chocolate cheesecake?
Yes, make it in a 6” cake pan.
Can I make a nut-free chocolate cheesecake?
Yep, just skip the hazelnuts.
Recipe for Sea Salt Chocolate Cheesecake with Hazelnut Oreo Crust
Chocolate Cheesecake with Hazelnut Oreo Crust
- stand mixer or food processor
Hazelnut Oreo Crust
- 2 cups oreo crumbs from about 24 oreos, cream removed, 235g
- 1/2 cup butter 113g
- 1 cup ground hazelnuts 125g
- 2 packages cream cheese at room temperature, 452g
- 1 cup sour cream at room temperature, 240g
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk 396g
- 260 g dark chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt or sub with 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
- 100 g heavy cream
- 100 g dark chocolate finely chopped
- Chopped hazelnuts optional (garnish)
Make the Crust:
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter or spray with oil an 8 or 9 inch round cake pan and then press a sheet of parchment paper into it (it will crease and you will need to fold it over itself, this is fine). Use metal clips to hold the parchment paper in place. alternatively, use a springform pan - placing a sheet of parchment paper at the bottom before closing the ring.
- Melt the butter then combine the cookie crumbs, and hazelnuts in a bowl and mix the butter in. Press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of the parchment-prepared pan. Don’t strive for perfection here, do the best you can.
- Bake the crust for 10 minutes then remove it from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 325 F. If you have time, put it in the freezer while you make the batter.
Make the filling:
- Melt the 2 cups of chocolate over a bain marie or in the microwave (stirring every 30 seconds). Set aside to cool.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer or using a food processor, use the back of a rubber spatula to smooth down the cream cheese. With the paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese until it’s smooth and there are no lumps. Add the sour cream and sweetened condensed milk and mix to combine. Add the melted chocolate, vanilla and fine sea salt and combine.
- Once the chocolate is cool, keep the mixer on low and pour it into the bowl. Once it’s fully incorporated add the eggs one at a time, mixing to just combine each before adding another. Careful not to overmix the eggs. Stir in the salt.
- Pour filling into the chilled crust (if you see bits in the filling pour into the crust through a mesh sieve to remove them).
- If using a cake pan: Set the pan into a 13 x 9” cake pan and fill it halfway with hot water. Set the cheesecake and it’s water bath into the middle rack of the oven. If using a springform pan, place the water bath on the rack underneath the cheesecake.
- Bake for about 1 hour, until the sides look set and the center is still slightly jiggly. Once it’s done, shut off the oven and use a wooden spoon to prop open the door. This lets the cheesecake cool slowly. After 30 minutes, remove the cheesecake from the oven (and the water bath) and let the cheesecake cool to room temperature on the counter. Then set in the fridge overnight.
Make the ganache:
- Warm the heavy cream in a small pot. Once the sides begin to bubble pour over the chopped chocolate. Stir until you have a smooth ganache. Spread ganache over the top of the chilled cheesecake, sprinkle chopped hazelnuts on top. Chill an additional 10 minutes until ganache is firm.
- Serve chilled and store in the fridge (uncovered is fine).