The hazelnut version of my pistachio cheesecake; where instead of a hint of a taste of a non-vanilla cheesecake, your tastebuds get smothered in the starring flavor. This is a cheesecake for hazelnut lovers only!
Here’s whats awesome about this hazelnut cheesecake recipe: you’re going to make your own hazelnut paste by grinding up the nuts, it’ll be fresh and without any added sugars or oils; it’s a very simple process (much of it is done in the food processor) form start to finish, although it does need patience; and the water bath is a sure shot to getting an utterly creamy cheesecake without any of the stress or worry.
Hazelnuts: Raw, blanched hazelnuts are preferred (costco sells them in bulk) but you can also go with nuts that still have some skin, it’ll just pepper your hazelnut butter with some color and bits. In either case they must be raw, don’t use toasted.
Cookie Crumbs: I like to use digestive cookies which work a lot like graham crackers but you can use graham if you like as well. Oreos would work fine too but scrape off the cream before you grind them. If you choose to keep the cream on, you’ll need to reduce the butter listed in the recipe by 2-3 tablespoons. You’re looking for the texture of slightly wet sand.
Powdered sugar: This will sweeten and help the cookie crust bind together better.
Brown sugar: Light or dark is fine. If you don’t have any you can use granulated but dark adds a lovely accent flavor.
Cream cheese: Full fat bricks. Not spreadable and not low-fat. Both of those have more water in them so they are softer and we need the cream cheese to be quite firm. It’s IMPERATIVE the cream cheese is at full room temperature before you start making the filling.
Heavy cream: While I usually use sour cream for my cheesecakes the hazelnut butter adds some heaviness to the filling so we’re lightening it up here with heavy cream (also called heavy whipping cream). If you are trying to make this dairy free (and have dairy free cream cheese) use coconut cream in lieu of the heavy cream.
Toast the hazelnuts: We’ll start with raw hazelnuts that way we can toast them ourselves, to prepare them for processing. Spread them onto a large cake pan (I use a 13×9”) and set them in the oven for 10-12 minutes, until they are fragrant. Shake the pan halfway through the bake time, to toast them evenly.
Process the warm hazelnuts: Immediately after they are done toasting in the oven, pour the nuts into the food processor and begin grinding them. They’ll turn into chopped nuts, then tiny ground nuts, powdery and as you keep going the nuts will begin to release their oils. You’ll see a paste starting to form, and as you keep scraping the bowl and processing it will get looser and looser. After about 10 minutes (sometimes more if the food processor is not very strong) it should be runny, see the video for guidance.
Beat cream cheese well: There is a balance to strike when making cheesecakes; you want to make sure that the cream cheese has no lumps in it before you begin adding the eggs and cream, but don’t over beat it. When you over beat it the cream cheese loosens (think of an overly soft cream cheese frosting) and it kind of ruins the texture of the cheesecake.
Sometimes I like to start out with a rubber spatula, pressing the cream cheese into the bowl over and over to press out any lumps.
Don’t over mix the batter: Once the eggs go into the cheesecake you’ll want to avoid over beating the filling. Over beating the eggs can cause the cheesecake to sink in the center. Focus most of the mixing and scraping before the eggs go in, and then once they are in, mix until you can’t spot any more egg bits and no more.
Use a water bath: I bake my cheesecakes in cake pans and put the cake pan in another cake pan. While I never get those perfectly sharp edges you might get with a springform, a. My cheesecakes never sink and b. I never need to worry about water getting in.
The water should come up about halfway up the smaller cake pan. It creates a barrier between the hot oven and the cheesecake so that it’s the warm water that’s baking the cheesecake. This is going to give us a very creamy texture.
Bake carefully: Check the cheesecake at about 1 hour, shake the pan to see how the batter jiggles. If it’s overly jiggly it will need an additional 15-20 minutes. If it’s starting to set at the sides you might just need another five. You’ll stop when only the center jiggles a bit. If you see brown spots developing, these are likely from hot spots in the oven. They aren’t cute but they aren’t damaging so don’t worry too much about them.
Cool slowly: Never take a cheesecake out of the oven as soon as it’s done baking. Let the oven cool, and the cheesecake left inside while it does. Give it at least half an hour in the cooling oven before you take it out. Similarly, don’t put it in the fridge right away, let it set at room temperature then transfer.
Chocolate ganache: Obviously chocolate and hazelnut go together beautifully. To make a chocolate ganache to top it with; melt 150g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids) chopped very fine and pour 140g warm heavy cream over it. The heavy cream should be heated just until it begins to steam on the stove before adding to the chocolate.
Once you’ve poured it over, give it a quick stir then let it set for a minute. Now stir until the ganache is smooth. Top it over a chilled cheesecake.
If you wanted to do a milk chocolate ganache, use the same process using 150g milk chocolate but lower the amount of heavy cream to 75g.
Hazelnut praline: There is a pecan praline recipe right above this brown butter cheesecake. Swap hazelnuts for the pecans, it’ll be lovely.
Whipped cream: In a food processor add 2 cups cold heavy cream, 2 tablespoons granulated, brown or powdered sugar, a pinch of salt and 1-2 teaspoons of pure vanilla paste or extract. Process on high until thick, about 1-2 minutes. This is stabilized whipped cream and will not separate in the fridge so you can make it ahead of time.
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