hazelnut cheesecake revisited: the gianduia variation

When you've got a good foundation, it's easy to elaborate on.

The dr bob cooking school welcomed an aunt-in-law from Lebanon who had never had (or made) cheesecake. Offering us a golden opportunity to try out a few modifications of the tried and true hazelnut recipe and a photo-op as well now that the team was into illustrating its modest accomplishments in the kitchen. dr bob had just picked up a Gourmet magazine with a cover story on Nutella, the Italian chocolate hazelnut spread known far and wide to gluttons, at least those on top of the international food chain fortunate enough to be served by the global marketplace of the 90's. Hazelnuts plus chocolate equals "gianduia" (John, do ya?) in Italy, which achieves its nearly lethal combination in a jar as Nutella, apparently sold in quantities exceeding that of peanut butter worldwide. Hmm... why not add a Nutella touch to the hazelnut recipe?

Lousntag's English was limited to a few words, but many more than bob's nonexistent Armenian. She clearly understood enough to participate, armed with almost a year of American television viewing and obvious kitchen sense to interpret bob's attempts at simple key word and gesture communication. Unfortunately her sister Isgouhi was a winter cold casualty unable to join the class, so the demystification of cheesecake for her would have to be delayed.

A tall crass plastic container of chocolate syrup remained in the fridge from a previous recipe, taking up precious space on the top shelf where it seemed to be more just in the way than awaiting further use. (Apparently its intended consumers don't want the discretely small size.) And a still sealed box of chocolate wafers was in storage, acquired as a possible ingredient for some other recipe that chose an alternative direction. Recipe ready hazelnuts are always in the fridge, so all bases were covered. We figured a chocolate cookie crumb crust plus a discrete hit of syrup in the filling would do the trick.

This being the 90's, the cream cheese fat content combination question had to be decided. Too much fat lightening (as in no fat cream cheese) leads to problems with the final product consistency so we went 50-50: half full fat and half one-third-reduced fat (neuchatfel), thus diluting the fat content reduction to one sixth, hardly significant, eh? And to lighten the slices, we bumped up the 9 inch springform pan to the 11 inch size to reduce the height roughly by a third as well. [Do the math: 1 - (9/11)2 = 1-81/121 = 1-80/120 = 1-2/3 = 1/3.]

The result did not disappoint. [Gross understatement.]

We followed through immediately with a half-recipe for a dinner invitation not-arriving-empty-handed offering. Providing independent confirmation of its successful marriage of flavors. Since even we have trouble disposing of a full size cheesecake, we downsized to the more discrete 7 inch pan size for the particular circumstances (5 dinner guests), cutting small slices, and only leaving the hosting couple to deal with the remaining half half-recipe cake. The height actually inflated by about 20 percent. [Do the math: h272 = h1112/2 -> h2/h1=(11/7)2/2 = (121/49)/2 = (120/50)/2 = 6/5 = 1.2.] Which is still about 80 percent of the full-size 9 inch pan recipe height [figure this one out yourself], so a modest slab dimension reduction remains.

ingredients

full size half size
11 in = 28 cm 7 in =18cm springform pan
crust
2/3 stick = 5.3 T = 1/6 lb = 80 g 1/3 stick = 2.7 T = 1/12 lb = 40 g unsalted butter
1 c 1/2 c finely ground chocolate cookie crumbs
1/4 c = 4 T 2 T ground hazelnut crumbs
1/4 c = 4 T 2 T sugar
filling
2 lbs = 4 8 oz packages = 900 g 1 lb = 2 8 oz packages = 450 g cream cheese
1 1/2 c = 350 g 3/4 c = 175 g sugar
2 T 1 T Frangelico hazelnut liqueur
1/2 c 1/4 c ground hazelnut crumbs
pinch pinch salt
4 2 large eggs
2 T 1 T chocolate syrup
topping
2 c = 16 oz = 450 g 1 c = 8 oz = 225 g sour cream
1/4 c = 4 T 2 T sugar
1 t 1/2 t Frangelico hazelnut liqueur
2 T 1 T ground hazelnut crumbs

instructions

  1. Estimate enough chocolate cookies to make a cup of crumbs in the food processor and food process them with the sugar. Meanwhile melt the butter and mix together in a bowl with a fork, or even in the food processor. Dump in the bottom of the pan and shake a bit like a gold prospector in the California gold rush days to even out the thickness of the layer. Then encourage more evening out with a large spoon and finally press evenly on the bottom (not the sides). If you overshoot in your cookie estimate so that it seems too thick before pressing [judgement call], don't use all the crumbs. Set aside.
  2. Beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth with electric hand beaters. Add in the eggs one at a time until just incorporated on low speed, and then the liqueur and pinch of salt, and finally the hazelnut crumbs. Pour into the pan.
  3. Bake 50 minutes at 350 F (180 C).
  4. Remove from oven for 10 minutes. Mix together by hand the sour cream, sugar, and liqueur until smooth and just before returning the cake to the oven, spread the topping evenly (jiggling it has a finishing leveling effect after spreading approximates this state) over the cheesecake and then hand sprinkle the hazelnut crumbs evenly over the topping.
  5. Bake another 10 minutes and remove from the oven. Let cool on a rack. Then refrigerate.

notes

  1. Gourmet magazine would never put a jar of Nutella on the cover. It was a very tempting gianduia mousse cake. The Nutella note was in the cover article [February 1998].
  2. Purists among us may object to the kitchen math: using equal signs where "approximately equal" signs should be when we "simplify" the numbers. We are simply following a tradition we have learned from reading the bottoms of our springform pans. Our original hazelnut recipe actually calls for a 10 inch springform pan rather than a 9 inch size, but we don't own one and haven't seen them in the kitchen stores we frequent, where "9 1/2 in = 24 cm" and "11 inch = 28 cm" seem to be the standard sizes, but the actual measurements are 9 inches and 10 1/2 inches (inside diameters), an error dwarfing the approximation error in the simple number unit correspondence. Maybe the measurements refer to the outer diameter for clearance purposes. We have made a cheesecake in a toaster oven once where this was a consideration. Who knows.
  3. The first time we made this, we refrigerated it after a very brief cool down period and then ate it only a few hours later. The usual "wait at least overnight" hype was proven false in this case, making this an ideal cheesecake when same day use is required by the circumstances.
  4. As we age, we have begun to take the "recipe ready" phrase on our hazelnut package seriously and skip the annoying toasting on a cookie sheet step, which can lead to disaster if the crumbs are not attentively watched, since they easily overbrown, and we are not attentive watchers. Doesn't seem to make much of a difference in spite of what we have read about the merits of toasting.
  5. This is really tasty but remember, moderation. Eat too much and the aftertaste will be regret and not satisfaction.
  6. A few years later we tried another variation: splitting the batter and adding 1/4 c of Nutella itself to one half, laying it down first and leveling, and then gently putting the other layer on top and leveling, for a three layer cake (counting the sour cream). Not bad, but maybe the original pure hazelnut recipe is still the winner here.
  7. Illustrations are available in the dr bob cooking school series.
gnduacck.htm: 7-jan-2002 [what, ME cook? 1984 dr bob enterprises]