Friday, February 17, 2012

Vanilla - Hazelnut Cheesecake

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
I'm issuing a disclaimer right now and coming clean that the cake I made did not contain any hazelnuts but rather, almonds were used. I've gone around the town and hazelnuts were not to be found at this time of the year so I had to improvise. If you do find hazelnuts, then please use them. I'm keeping the name for the simple reason that had I gotten hold of hazelnuts, I would have used them. You only need a small amount so I did not feel bad making this substitution.

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Now, let's talk about this cheesecake. Featured in the Baking with Julia show with guest baker Alice Medrich, who incidentally is also the author of the Raspberry Chocolate Ruffle Cake, this simple looking cheesecake is actually very rich and creamy but contains only about half the fat content of a traditional cheesecake. Whew! Now, that is something to brag about. This cake is a bit unusual in taste since the flavor is quite mellow because the cottage cheese is much more subtle in flavor. The ground nuts and the grittiness of the cheese also adds to the texture of the cake without detracting from its overall taste. Okay, enough chit-chat. Let's bake!

Vanilla - Hazelnut Cheesecake - Adapted*

2 cups low fat small curd cottage cheese
1 cup + 3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp water
2 tbsp toasted, skinned and chopped hazelnuts (or almonds)
8 oz Neufchâtel cheese
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
4 tbsp graham crackers or hazelnut boscotti (optional)

1. Drain the cottage cheese by pouring it on a sieve over a bowl. Cover with 
    clingfilm and let it drain for an hour in the fridge. 

2. While the cheese is draining, heat the 3 tbsp of sugar with the water in a 
    small pan at medium heat and bring to a simmer. Keep cooking the sugar 
    until it turns pale yellow. Add the chopped nuts and continue to cook 
    until it turn a pale amber. Immediately turn out the caramel onto a lined 
    baking pan. Allow to cool and set.

3. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease and line an-8 inch springform pan 
    with aluminum foil. Make sure that the foil goes as far up as the sides of 
    the pan. Grease the foil and set aside.  

4. Once the cottage cheese has been drained, transfer into a food processor 
    and puree for at least 2 minutes. Do not shorten this step as you need the 
    cheese to be as smooth as possible. 

5. In a small bowl, warm up the Neufchâtel cheese in the microwave for 15 
    seconds and loosen with a hand whisk. Add the eggs, 1 cup sugar, vanilla 
    extract and the salt. Whisk well until combined. 

6. Pour the egg mixture into the food processor with the cottage cheese and 
    process just until mixed. 

7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan except for about 1 cup. Break the 
    caramelized nuts into the reserved batter and blitz until you form a 
    smooth paste.

8. Drop in mounds over the cake batter and using a metal knife, run it across
    the two batters to create a marbled effect. Do not overdo this or the
    batters will just mix. 

9. Take another sheet of foil and lay it under the springform pan. Tuck the 
    edges towards the sides of the pan and secure well by crimping the 
    creases together. 

10. Position the springform pan in the center of a roasting pan and add 
      about 1 inch of hot water to create a water bath. Make sure that you do 
      not splatter water into the cake batter. 

11. Bake for 45 minutes of until the cake has slightly risen and the sides are 
      pulling away from the pan. Let cool to room temperature for 2-3 hours. 
      Cover with foil and chill in the fridge for at least overnight.  

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blog
At this point, I changed the recipe a bit. The original recipe states that you invert the cake onto a clingfilm supported by a cake round and once inverted, you peel off the backing paper. You then take the Graham cracker or hazelnut biscotti crumbs and you press it on the sides of the cake. The cake is then inverted back onto a lined cake round or a serving platter. 

However, to make this cake gluten-free and crumb-free, I decided to prepare a whipped frosting that will be piped around the cake and will act as a base for the blackberries that will be used to garnish the cake. 

Whipped Frosting:
1/4 cup Neufchâtel cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and beat until stiff peaks form. Transfer whipped frosting into a piping bag with a star tip and pipe rosettes around the cake. Dot with blackberries and serve.

*Greenspan, Dorie, Baking with Julia, William Morrow and Company Inc., New York:1996. 

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