Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake

This is a recipe from the book Pure Chocolate, by Fran Bigelow. And there is a story behind it...

I believe it was Bon Appetit, one Christmas, published a recipe for a gorgeous Chocolate Hazelnut Cake. I know the recipe had a much fancier name, it had layers and a creamy moussey filling and it called for gianduja. Gianduja is a fine Italian chocolate, smooth and pure with very finely ground hazelnuts in it. It is not easy to find around these parts. Bon Appetit (if it was them!) had made a deal with a chocolatier somewhere, to sell 1 pound chunks of gianduja, which would perfectly suit the amount needed for their recipe, with some left over for sampling.

As luck would have it, the chocolatier had long since sold out of gianduja by the time I called them. By now I was on a mission. I had to make this cake, and I had to find this chocolate. And find it I did, on the glorious Internet. Eleven pounds of Gianduja arrived at my remote ranch door via UPS. That was the smallest amount I could find (it's only sold in professional quantities, apparently). So, besides the Bon Appetit cake, I had to find other recipes in which to use this fine chocolate, so I could prevent Number One from eating every last bit of it.

And that is how I came to find this recipe. I also divided the remaining chocolate into chunks, and froze it. I made at least two of these cheesecakes at different times, once actually in Michigan! (yes, I packed a pound of gianduja in my suitcase) They are delicious. If you are able to find Gianduja, I highly recommend it. Just maybe not 11 pounds...

By the way, this recipe is a bit complex, but if you have the time and equipment required, it is fabulous and impressive.

serves 16

14 ounces gianduja, finely chopped, OR 9 ounces 36-46% cacao milk chocolate, finely chopped and 5 ounces hazelnut paste

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

5 large eggs, room temperature

3 Tablespoons heavy cream

3 Tablespoons Frangelico or Amaretto liqueur

Dark-Chocolate Ganache Glaze (optional, but worth every minute)

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and line with parchment paper.

In a double boiler over low heat, melt the gianduja (or milk chocolate with hazelnut paste) and semisweet chocolate. Remove the top of the boiler when the chocolate is nearly melted and continue stirring until smooth. Let the chocolate cool to 90 degrees F, stirring occasionally.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and continue beating for an additional 3 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is light, fluffy and lump-free. Stop several times to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

In a small bowl whisk together the eggs. Turn the mixer speed to low and slowly add half of the eggs. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and continue mixing, adding the remaining eggs. Pour in the cream and Frangelico, and thoroughly mix on low.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and with a rubber spatula fold in the melted chocolate. Continue folding until no traces of the cream cheese remain. The mixture will thicken as you fold in the chocolate.

Pour into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. The pan will be about three-quarters full. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and place into the oven. Pour about 1/2 inch of simmering water into the baking sheet for a bain-marie. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, until the top is smooth and slightly dull. The edges should start to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Let cool at room temperature for 2 to 4 hours.

To remove the cake, run a thin knife around the edges to loosen. Place a piece of parchment or waxed paper over the top of the cake and invert it onto a plate. Remove the parchment paper round from the bottom and turn the cake right side up onto its serving plate. Remove the paper from the top.

If you are adding the glaze, set the room-temperature cake on a cake board. Place on a rack over a baking sheet. Have the glaze ready.

When the glaze reaches 80-85 degrees F, beginning 1-1/2 inches from the edge of the cake, slowly and evenly pour the glaze around the rim, making sure that the sides are sufficiently covered. (she has detailed pictures of this process in the book) Then pour the remaining glaze onto the center of the cake. Working quickly, using a metal offset spatula, spread the glaze evenly over the top, letting the excess run down the sides.

**I did not do this process with the glaze. No rack, no cake board, etc. I simply put the cake onto the serving plate, then glazed it. I'm not averse to puddles of glaze on the serving plate.**

Let set at room temperature until the glaze is slightly firm, about 20 minutes. Once set, slide an offset spatula under the board, rotating the spatula to release any spots where the glaze has stuck to the rack. Carefully lift the cake and, supporting the bottom with your free hand, slide it onto its serving plate. May be stored in the refrigerator as long as 1 week.

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