Hazelnut cheesecake with praline crust is a crowd-pleasing dessert that will make your dinner guests love you until the end of time, or until the end of the cheesecake, whichever comes first.
I’m pretty sure Matt moved from London to New York mostly for the cheesecake. It is by far his favorite dessert so of course, good wife that I am, I’ve learned to make them.
Actually, funny story, ahem … many years ago, when we were first living together, we tried to make a cheesecake and we totally mis-read the recipe. Instead of 3/4 of a cup of sugar we used 3 cups. 3 friggin’ cups of sugar in one cheesecake. Neither of us had done a lot of baking yet so we didn’t immediately realize how insane that amount is. Needless to say, it was disgustingly sweet and even worse, never even set, remaining a thick, sweet soup that seeped all over our refrigerator. It was truly disgusting (though Matt gave it a go anyway, being a trooper).
Now we got that shizz down to a science (Matt is cleaning his glasses on his shirt while explaining to me that baking, is in fact, science). We became quite well known (in our family) for making a chestnut cheesecake (based on a Nigella recipe) and we actually made 4 of them for Matt’s sister’s wedding in France.
While I like chestnuts, I love hazelnuts so this version of hazelnut cheesecake (adapted from Bon Appétit) is now our Thanksgiving/Christmas favorite. I’ve changed the recipe quite a bit, eliminating the flour and folded in whipped egg whites from the batter. The result is a very classic cheesecake texture, with the added bit of crunch from the hazelnut praline.
What I like about hazelnut cheesecake (other than its decadent deliciousness) is that it has to be made a least a day in advance which makes it perfect for holiday baking when you don’t want to have to deal with last minute dessert timing. In fact, the praline part can be made up to a full week in advance.
Hazelnut Praline Cheesecake
- 1 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts peeled, lightly toasted
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 6 whole graham crackers broken into pieces
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts about 2 ounces (peeled, lightly toasted)
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons Frangelico hazelnut liqueur
- 2 8- ounce packages cream cheese room temperature
- 3/4 cup superfine sugar
- 3 eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 3/4 cup sour cream
- 3 tablespoons Frangelico
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup chilled whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Roasted hazelnuts
- Ground Praline
- Cocoa powder
- Lightly butter cookie sheet (or use a silpat). Stir chopped hazelnuts, corn syrup and brown sugar in heavy small saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil mixture until candy thermometer registers 300°F., tilting pan if necessary to submerge end of thermometer, about 10 minutes. Pour praline mixture onto prepared cookie sheet. Let cool.
- Break praline into 1-inch pieces. Grind finely in food processor. Separate 1/2 of the praline and set it aside for garnish. (NOTE: Praline can be prepared up to 1 week ahead. Wrap tightly in aluminum foil and refrigerate.)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. You'll need a 9-inch-diameter spring-form pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides.
- Finely grind graham crackers, hazelnuts and brown sugar in processor. Add butter and Frangelico and process until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press crumb mixture onto bottom of prepared pan. Bake 10 minutes. Cool on rack. Leave the oven on.
- Line the outside of the spring-form pan containing the crumb base with a good wrapping of plastic wrap, so that the whole of the bottom and sides are enveloped in plastic. Do the same with aluminum foil, covering the layer of plastic wrap to make a very watertight casing. (NOTE: If you can find it, the LARGE size aluminum foil and is much more effective at keeping the pan water-tight. I recommend it.)
- Beat the cream cheese until smooth and add the sugar. Add the eggs and egg yolks, beating them in one by one until they are incorporated into the cream cheese and sugar. Make sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl once in a while. Pour in the sour cream, vanilla extract and Frangelico, and beat again until smooth and creamy. Finally fold in the ground praline. Place the spring-form pan in a roasting pan and pour in the batter.
- Pour water from a recently boiled kettle into the roasting pan to come just over an inch up the side of the pan and place in the oven to cook for an hour.
- When the cheesecake is ready it should be just set on top with a hint of wobble underneath; it certainly carries on cooking as it cools. Take the cheesecake out of the roasting pan, take off the foil and plastic wrap and let the cheesecake cool on a rack.
- It will need to chill for at least 3 hours, though overnight it best. It can be made 2 days ahead.
- Use the 2nd half of the ground praline to coat the sides of the cake and:
- Sprinkle a dusting of praline on top along with some powdered sugar. (Or: Dust top of cheesecake with cocoa powder / pipe rosettes of whipped cream decoratively around edge of cake. Arrange 1 hazelnut atop each rosette)