perugina baci cheesecake

Back in the 1970s, when dr bob was still just mr bob coming of age during the Woodstock nation (yes, bob was there), unlike the past few US presidents of both parties, he did no illegal drugs, so any comments made here comparing sugar addiction with societally disapproved drug use are only theoretical and have no actual experience to back them up. "They say" that drug highs are less easily attained with repetition, leading users to try stronger and more powerful substances on their path to self-destruction.

Fortunately the consequences for the more socially accepted sugar addiction of those of us with a pronounced weakness for dessert time are less severe (usually). The dr bob cooking team experience grew out of this obsession of the younger dr bob, when he acquired his cheesecake specialization, a dish he had never even known as a kid. As time went by, a reputation grew, but being an amateur, it became more and more challenging for him to raise the bar. And his own tastes became dulled by the increasingly sophisticated flavor combinations, requiring feedback from the target audience to judge the outcome of each new experiment since relying on his own assessment was becoming unwise.

Of course with increasing age, health considerations have seriously restricted the actual production and ingesting of our cheesecake creations, so the occasional exercise of knocking off another cake has become a minor blip on the nutrition profile. The most recent such blip appears to have been a success based on the testers' unsolicited superlative reviews. The Mother Wonderful hazelnut cheesecake has served as a stepping stone for many of our own imaginative variations over the years, and this time we were almost considering getting back to basics and doing it straight up. But the little part of us that seeks praise from others kept us mulling over how it might be kicked up a notch for the occasion. And the box of Perugina Baci hazelnut-filled chocolate kisses sitting on the counter from a duty-free purchase of a recent friend visiting from Italy eventually provided the answer. Sacrifice a handful of those delightful little foil-wrapped sweets for a possible right stuff move in the baking sector. The whole hazelnut on top inside each kiss doesn't cut very well, but the pieces don't have to be pretty since they get hidden in the interior of the cake. Brilliant. It worked. So well that instead of relegating it to some minor upgrade remarks on the original recipe, we elevate it to its own entry at a level that it certainly deserves.

For those of you who are still unfamiliar with these Italian chocolate nut combinations, run do not walk to the nearest place of business that offers the product. With our frequent Italian airport duty free browsing, we have almost become immune to their allure, but never forget that they deserve first place ranking among the category of BIG FOOD delivered chocolate sweets. They even come with little fortunes like Chinese fortune cookies as an added bonus. And they make great gifts for travelers to grab in many European airports. We speak with the authority of low budget Euro-trash wannabees.

ingredients

crust
1/4 lb butter (1 stick)
3/4 c graham cracker crumbs
1 c ground toasted hazelnuts
batter
2 lb cream cheese (4 8oz packages)
1 1/2 c sugar
pinch of salt
4 T Frangelico liqueur
4 large eggs
1/2 c ground toasted hazelnuts
10 Perugina Baci roughly chopped
topping
2 c sour cream
1/4 c sugar
1 t Frangelico liqueur
2 T ground toasted hazelnuts
1 Perugina Baci garnish

instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F.
  2. Find some recipe ready hazelnut crumbs if you can. We had a discontinued Trader Joe's untoasted crumb product that we cheated with by skipping the toasting treatment and sure enough one of our sensitive tongued tasters detected some trace of bitterness however so slight in the finished cake. Next time we will toast the little suckers first spread out on a cookie sheet, watching them to make sure they do not burn, say 10 minutes in the preheated oven. However, if you must, start with at least skinless whole nuts and crumb them up and toast, but if all else fails do the whole hassling with hazelnuts routine. [Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast 5 minutes in a preheated 400 degree F oven. Then rub nuts against each other in a kitchen towel to remove as much of the skins as possible. Cool and crumb. ] Make sure you can make the approximately 1 2/3 c crumb quota for this recipe with enhanced hazelnut crust.
  3. Carefully unwrap and roughly chop the Baci and set aside.
  4. Trace the bottom of a 10 in spring-form pan on parchment paper and cut carefully the circle and insert in the assembled pan.
  5. Melt the butter (1 minute on high in the microwave), mix together the graham cracker and hazelnut crumbs with the butter, and press along the bottom only of the same 10 in spring-form pan.
  6. Beat room temperature cream cheese and sugar together until soft. Then add the salt, the liqueur, and one egg at a time at minimum batter speed, followed by the hazelnut crumbs (1/2 c).
  7. Pour half the batter into the crust and spread around evenly. Carefully place the Baci pieces evenly across the top, then seal their fate with the rest of the batter, which can be jiggled slightly to level off.
  8. Bake about 1 hour in a preheated 350 F oven until the outer edges begin turning a golden brown, necessary for visual impact later.
  9. Remove for 10 minutes.
  10. Mix the sour cream, sugar, and Frangelico and slowly spread over the center of the cheesecake, carefully avoiding the outer half inch or so of boundary to make a better impression with the taste testers, sprinkling with hazelnut crumbs just before returning it to the oven for 10 minutes.
  11. Remove and chill overnight at least before serving. Don't try to cut through the central Baci, but only up to it at as you work your way around it. Unfortunately the dental floss division scheme is not applicable here since the bits of Baci will not accommodate the floss. Use a sharp very thin knife.

notes

  1. Oops, looks like Perugina suffered a multinational corporation corporate takeover by Nestles. Globalization fallout, not doubt.
  2. By the way, if context did not convince you already, "bacio, plural: baci" is the Italian word for "kiss." As candy we Americans are more familiar with the Hershey product ("candy kiss") and like everything, it has its own history.
  3. After years of buying Perugina Baci at the Rome Fiumicino duty free shops for returning home presents, Perugina introduces a down-sized small bite version of the Baci product, not Bacetti but "Piccole delizie quotidiane" (= little daily pleasures, loosely translated) and no little love notes either, and we pick up five 500g bags when we spot them in 2006. No mention of them yet on the out-of-date slowly-loading European Nestles web site.
  4. A better discovery yet on the same trip from the new Perugina Nero (i piacere del fondente = the pleasures of dark chocolate) collection based on dark chocolate (to take advantage of the latest health trends in chocolate): Frutti delle Americhe. Anacardi, arachidi, noci del'amazzonia ricoperti di cioccolato fondente extra (cashews, peanuts and Brazil nuts, dipped in unsweetened chocolate?). We were immediately addicted, but only brought back three 150g packages and gave away two to friends! Nestle USA is still clueless about this fantastic product line. Looks like we will have to wait another year to restock.

 

 
chckbaci.htm: 18-aug-2006 [what, ME cook? 1984 dr bob enterprises]