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Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake Spread

Is it possible for chocolate to be out of season?

Chocolate has become such a common favorite it is hard to think so. Yet late in the summer, when the temperature soars, I find myself using it sparingly. Maybe I add some chocolate chips here and there but densely rich desserts get replaced by something lighter at that time of year and chocolate is relegated to being offered in small doses.

Then in the autumn, when I begin to crave heartier main dishes to ward of the gathering chill, chocolate seems to disappear from the menu altogether. There are, of course, chocolaty Halloween candies that I sometimes grab for between meal snacks but chocolate seems absent from most of my thoughts about autumn cuisine. It gets overlooked in favor of rustic apple pies, pumpkin flavored quick-breads, tart cranberry dips, nutty bar cookies and gingerbread cakes. Rich texture and crunchy fillings seem to be the stars of dessert menus as crisp air and rich colors grace our landscapes.

These wonderful fall flavors can be tricky though. Not everyone likes the strong flavors and distinctive textures of the season. Personally I have never cared for the texture of pumpkin pie. My children avoid cranberries that aren’t smoothed into a gelatinous sauce and then they only eat them for Thanksgiving dinner. In many ways chocolate is a safer bet, especially when you are the guest and are bringing a dessert or party food to share with people whose tastes you are unsure of. Chocolate, it seems, is almost universally appreciated.

So how can we dress chocolate for the season? This recipe gives it just a spark of spice and texture. It can be dressed casually as a spread for crunchy purchased gingersnaps, even passing on the praline in the ganache if time is short. Or it can be dressed up as a small plated dessert, settled on a swirl of chocolate sauce and adorned with bits of candied hazelnuts or with additional coffee hazelnut truffles. In either case this cheesecake highlights the elegant versatility of chocolate while also offering a hint of some of our favorite flavors of the season.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake Spread

1 Tablespoon coffee liqueur
¼ teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon espresso powder
½ cup hazelnuts, chopped and lightly toasted
6 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons water
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 Tablespoon butter
3 Tablespoons of chocolate wafer crumbs
8 oz package cream cheese
5 oz container non-fat Greek yogurt
1 egg
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz dark chocolate, melted

½ cup heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons coffee liqueur , if desired
½ teaspoon espresso powder
8 oz bittersweet chocolate chips, or other dark chocolate broken into bits

1. Prepare the praline:
Note:The hazelnut praline can be prepared up to several days in advance. If time is short, or if you prefer no candied nuts in your cheesecake, then feel free to skip this step and to leave the candied hazelnut bits out of the ganache.

Lightly oil or butter a 12-inch square of aluminum foil. Set aside.

In a small bowl mix together 1 Tablespoon coffee liqueur, ¼ teaspoon ginger and 1 teaspoon espresso powder. Microwave on high for 15 seconds and stir to dissolve the espresso powder. Stir in the hazelnuts, mixing until well coated. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, stir together 6 Tablespoons sugar and 2 Tablespoons water. Cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture begins to turns a light golden color (approximately 4 minutes).

Stir in the hazelnuts and cook until coated and golden brown, (approximately 1 minute).

Remove from heat and immediately pour onto the prepared foil, sprinkling the sea salt evenly over the candy and spreading the candy with a spoon as thinly as possible.

Let set until completely cool.

Break into pieces. Set aside a few attractive fragments for garnish and a few whole nuts. Place the rest in a food processor and process until the biggest pieces are small bits.

2. Prepare the filling:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Use 1 Tablespoon butter to generously grease the bottom and sides of a 6-inch spring form pan. Add the chocolate wafer crumbs, tilting and tapping until the crumbs thoroughly cover the bottom and sides of the pan. Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the yogurt and egg, beating until well combined. Add ¼ cup sugar, vanilla and the 2 ounces of melted dark chocolate. Continue mixing until smooth.

Pour filling mixture into the prepared pan.

Set aside.

3. Prepare the ganache:

Scald the cream over low heat in a small saucepan until hot but not boiling. (Small bubbles should form around the edge of the pan).

Stir in 2 teaspoons of coffee liqueur, if desired, and ½ teaspoon of espresso powder. Remove from heat.

Pour mixture over the chocolate chips and allow it to sit for a few minutes until the chocolate is very soft. Stir until smooth.

Stir in the processed candied hazelnut bits.

Randomly drop 1/3 cup of the ganache on top of the Chocolate Cheesecake batter with a tablespoon. Tap the pan on the counter top to settle the batter. Insert a butter knife straight down into the batter, not quite touching the bottom of the pan, and drag it back and forth at 1 to 2 inch intervals front to back then side to side. Repeat as necessary to achieve a marbled effect in the batter.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until done.

Cool on wire rack.

Loosely cover and refrigerate until completely cooled, several hours or overnight.

Cover and store remaining ganache in the refrigerator.

4. Assemble Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake Spread:

Remove sides of spring form pan. Settle cheesecake onto a serving plate.

Rewarm the remaining ganache in the top of a double boiler or carefully microwave on high, at 15 second intervals, stirring each time until soft.

Pour 1/3 cup or so of the ganache on top of the cheesecake smoothing to the edges and allowing it to drizzle down the sides slightly, if desired. Garnish with reserved pieces of Hazelnut Praline.

Serve Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake Spread with ginger cookies, sugar cookies, chocolate wafers or sweet crackers. Or cut the cheesecake into slices and serve plated on a swirl of chocolate sauce or Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache and garnish with Hazelnut Praline pieces.

Note: Use any leftover ganache to make Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles by shaping into teaspoon sized balls and rolling them in a mixture of 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon espresso powder.


pam said...

Yummy! Chocolate is seasonless, winter, spring, summer or fall, bring it on.

Alanna Kellogg said...

I'm with you, Lis, I think it's the reason why I actually don't have so many chocolate recipes, it's never 'in season' and so it doesn't ever a 'must make' ingredient because it's ever and always around.

Or maybe, like Pam, I need to think of chocolate as a wonder ingredient that IS in season all year long!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I agree with your other reasers when I say that chocolate is good anytime in small doses.

noble pig said...

Outstanding and I'll eat chocolate any season!

Cathy said...

This would satisfy my craving for chocolate any time, anywhere. It's fantastic, Lisa.

theUngourmet said...

Very nice Fallification or is Autumnation of chocolate! :D

This recipe is scrumptious! Send any leftovers over my way please! What do mean there aren't any leftovers?!

Candy said...

Love this!!!

KathyB. said...

I totally agree with your observations on seasons of chocolate, and I do not care much for the texture of pumpkin myself....this recipe does look like a winner as a dessert served here at home or as a contribution to a meal served by friends and family.

condo staging said...

Wonderful pictures. It looks absolutely tasty. I think that chocolate is season-less. It doesn't matter if it is spring or winter there are always recipes where you can use chocolate if you like. And if you have really high quality chocolate every desert with it is delicious and vice versa. So we should be very careful when buying some cheap chocolate for cooking.

Good luck,

grace said...

if chocolate is seasonal, i’m blatantly rebelling against the idea. your creation here is quite enticing and yep, i definitely think the ginger makes it perfect for a fall treat. it’d be good any time, though, and the leftover truffles would be wonderful in my mouth this instant.

June said...

Wow, Lisa if I had this hiding in my fridge, I'd never get my head out of it! What a great idea after a heavy meal, on a dessert buffet, or for holiday hostess gifts. This is going on my holiday list for sure!

Katherine Roberts Aucoin said...

Girlfriend, you come up with the most elegant and decadent dessert recipes I have ever seen!

I just gained 5 pounds dooling over this cake! I want to live next door to you.

Anonymous said...

Perfect for holiday fare!

the southern hostess said...

Oh my goodness! You kill me.

Kitchen Butterfly said...

I love a 'ganache-style' topping made with equal parts melted chocolate and creme fraiche with a dash of icing sugar and homemade vanilla extract.