Cheesecake is a versatile creation. The cake itself is fairly basic and made from eggs, soft cheese, something sweet like sugar or honey, sometimes a little liquid like cream or lemon juice and maybe a little flour.
The crust is even more adaptable. Use graham crackers or cookies, nuts or crumbs. Mixed with a little butter and maybe a pinch of spice it is spread or pressed in the pan.
Add a topping, if you like. Here the choices approach infinity. Fruit, cream, nuts, chocolate or another layer of crumbs can be sprinkled, spread or drizzled across the top before or after the cake finishes baking. Or you can simple dust the top with powdered sugar just before serving.
It's this versatility that makes cheesecake such a delightful dessert to play with. You can shop for the choicest ingredients and they will be showcased beautifully by cheesecake's simplicity. Or you can clean out the kitchen, get inventive and come up with a delightful and very personal creation.
Here I used a variation on the topping from my favorite Bread Pudding, added some local hazelnuts I found lingering in the cupboard and used both to top a larger version of a chevre based cheesecake I discovered in February. The result was beautiful and well worth sharing.
Hazelnut Topped Chevre Cheesecake
3 cups fine gingersnap crumbs (I used 1 package TJ’s Triple Ginger Snaps ground in a food processor)
½ cup melted butter
16 ounces Chevre with Honey (or use another plain soft goat cheese and double the honey)
¼ cup honey
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 large eggs, separated
3 Tablespoons flour
Preheat oven to 350F.
To make the crust:
In a medium bowl, combine the ginger snap crumbs and melted butter. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan using a straight sided Metric Wonder Cup or similar measuring cup. It works great for pressing the crumbs high up the sides of the pan. (Then again you could just use your fingers.)
To prepare the filling:
In a medium bowl, combine the goat cheese, honey, lemon juice and vanilla. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth and well combined.
Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour and mix on low until incorporated.
In a smaller bowl, beat the egg whites with clean beaters until soft peaks form. (They should be firm but not dry.) Stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter. Add the remaining egg whites folding gently until they are incorporated.
Pour the batter into the ginger snap crust.
Bake at 350F for 40 minutes or until set. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Once cool the cheesecake can be covered and stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve, up to several days.
½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
6 Tablespoons whipping cream
½ teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
Add the brown sugar, whipping cream, five spice powder, vanilla and salt, whisking until well combined.
Simmer, whisking often, until thickened, approximately 3 minutes. Stir in the hazelnuts.
Cool until the mixture begins to thicken but is still easy to spread.
Pour over chilled cheesecake and spread to cover the top, allowing some to run down the sides if you like.
Remove the cheesecake from the springform pan by running a knife along the outer edge and unlocking the side of the pan, pulling the pan away. Center the cheesecake on a serving platter.
Pour the Hazelnut Topping over the chilled cheesecake and spread to cover the top, allowing some to run down the sides if you like. Return the cheesecake to the refrigerator, if desired, covering it loosely until ready to serve.