I have to laugh at my family. They are rather pudding-deprived, having a mother with a salt tooth, so when I do occasionally make something sweet, they are so overjoyed that skirmishes break out in the kitchen. 'His slice was bigger than mine!' one will cry. 'But you nicked a sliver out of the fridge earlier!' says the other. 'I saw you!'
This cheesecake is best with full-fat cream cheese, but you can use low-fat cheese, or creamed cottage cheese, for a perfectly acceptable lower-calorie version. Measure the amount of powdered gelatine exactly, so that the texture is just firm enough to hold together, without a hint of rubberiness.
Hazelnut and Chocolate Cheesecake
For the biscuit base:
70 ml whole hazelnuts
200 g chocolate digestive biscuits
100 g soft butter
For the cheesecake:
½ cup (125 ml) water
4 tsp (20 ml) powdered gelatine
2 x 250 g tubs of cream cheese
1 cup (250 ml) caster sugar
2 T (30 ml) Franjelico hazelnut liqueur
1 vanilla pod (or 1 tsp/5ml vanilla extract)
250 ml (1 cup) cream
For the topping:
8 squares of dark chocolate
Put the hazelnuts in a dry frying pan and toss for a minute or two over a medium flame, or until lightly toasted. Wrap the nuts in a clean tea towel and rub them between your palms to remove some of the skins (don't worry if bits of skin remain here and there).
Break up the chocolate digestives and place them, with the hazelnuts, in a food processor fitted with a metal blade, or a liquidiser. Process to coarse crumbs, but don't over-process, which will make the chocolate sticky. Place in a bowl, add the soft butter and stir well to combine. Press the mixture evenly onto the base of a non-stick 24-cm springform cake tin. Place in the fridge while you make the topping.
Put the water in a little heat-proof bowl or ramekin and sprinkle the gelatine on top. Set aside for a few minutes, or until the gelatine has sponged. Put the bowl in a pot of simmering water (the water should come half-way up the sides) and stir occasionally as the gelatine melts. When the liquid is clear, remove the bowl from the hot water and set aside to cool for a few minutes.
Combine the cream cheese, caster sugar and Franjelico in a large bowl, using a whisk or rotary beater. Cut the vanilla pod in half, scrape out the black seeds with the blade of a knife, and add to the mixture. Add the warm gelatine mixture and stir well to combine. Whip the cream in a separate bowl until it forms soft peaks. Fold half the cream into the cream cheese mixture, and then fold in the other half. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and tap the tin gently on the countertop to release any bubbles. Place in the fridge for four hours to set.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Place in a piping bag fitted with a fine nozzle (or make a piping bag from greaseproof paper; a syringe will also do). Scribble the chocolate all over the cake. If there's any chocolate left over, scribble a few more patterns on a piece of greaseproof paper, allow to set, peel off and arrange on top of the cheesecake. Refrigerate for another 30 minutes, or until the chocolate is cold and set. Release the cake from its tin (see Cook's Notes, below).
Slice into portions (see Cook's Notes, below) and serve with a few extra toasted hazelnuts.
Makes 1 24-cm cake.
- There are various methods of loosening a gelatine-set dessert from its mould. Professional chefs use a blowtorch, which is briefly flicked over the outside of the tin, but this is a risky business, as a few seconds too long can liquefy the outside of the cheesecake and, besides, it's useless if you're using a plastic jelly mould. A better way is to dip a kitchen cloth in boiling water, and press it to outside of the cold tin for a few seconds. But the best way of all, I've found, is to use a hot pack designed for soothing acheing muscles. If you don't have a Happy Hugger, here's how to make one yourself. (I keep one of these in my kitchen drawer for the sole purpose of loosening jellies!). Steal a long cotton sock from someone's drawer. Fill it with rice or barley, and tie a firm knot in the open end. Place the sock in a microwave oven for 2-3 minutes, or until very warm to the touch. Press the hot pack around the edges of the gelatine mould, for 30 seconds at a time, moving it around the edges as necessary. At the same time, release the spring-form lever in small increments.
- When you cut the cheesecake, use a hot knife (heated over a flame, or in a bowl of boiling water) to slice through the chocolate scribbles, then switch to a cool knife to cut through the rest.