Guys, meet the best cheesecake in the world. Cheesecake, meet the world. Have I had every cheesecake in the world to know that this is the best? Nope, but I’m that confident.
Why do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
One. This cheesecake has the perfect texture. It’s creamy and dense, but not overly so. When you prepare the batter, make sure all the ingredients and especially the cream cheese are at room temperature. This will help give you a smooth velvety texture.
Two. I can finally make a cheesecake without cracks on top! “We never think this would happen for you. Never.” (Love that movie!)
What’s the secret? Consistency, consistency, and a bit of consistency with a side of consistency. If you set the oven to 350 degrees F, the oven will strive to keep that as the average temperature while you have it set to that. The problem with any average is that you spend almost all of the cooking time either above or below the temperature you set. The secret to how ovens work is that they control their temperature with a pair of temperature thresholds. These thresholds mark the temperature where the heat is turned on, and where it turns off again. For example, your 350 degrees F oven will turn the heat on full blast when the oven cools to around 340 degrees F and will turn it off again when it hits 360 degrees F. This almost constant changing of temperature wreaks havoc on the delicate structure of your cheesecake.
The fix is easy. Provide something that has an built in maximum temperature and lots of substance to hold heat. This magical ingredient is none other than water. By putting a bunch of water in the oven with your cheesecake in it you have something that helps even out the temperature when your oven it turns on and off over and over. This results in a much smaller change as far as the cheesecake is concerned which in turn means that delicate structure we mentioned before stays delicate.
This secret comes with a couple of rules too. It means you definitely can’t open the oven door while it’s baking (that really goes for baking anything). No amount of water will be able to keep your oven the right temperature when one whole side of the hot box goes missing. It also means that the cooling process is an important step to a flawless cheesecake. Once the cheesecake is “done” baking (i.e. after the 50 to 60 minutes in the hot oven), turn off the oven, open the oven door a little, and walk away for a whole hour.
Keep in mind that when a cheesecake is done baking the center still looks wobbly. Don’t panic. It’ll set up as it cools and there is very little in a cheesecake that can make anyone sick so there is no need to dry it out by over baking it.
When you are finally ready to move the cheesecake from the oven, remove it from the water and be super gentle moving it the counter. Make sure you put it on a wire rack because it’s still vulnerable to cracking and the counter can end up pulling any left over heat out of it too quickly. Lastly, make sure the cheesecake is at room temperature before moving it to the fridge.
I know this process may sound intense but it’s not complicated and you don’t have to be babysitting it. With a little patience and a little luck you will have made a winner of a dessert. To prevent therapy sessions later, please remember that if you end up with a crack or two, shake it off. It’ll be delicious either way.
Three. This cheesecake is not too short and it’s not too tall. It’s just right. I know that sounds like something straight out of a fairy tale, but it’s really how I feel. If it’s too tall, you end up with cheesecake that goes past the tines of your fork and half way up the handle when you try to take a bite. Then if you try to eat it all at once you could stab yourself in the back of the mouth when trying to get the whole bite in there. If it’s too short, well let’s be realistic here, it’s dessert, you don’t want to skimp on it do you? “Don’t get cheap on me, Dodson.” (My hubby loves that movie.)
Four. Oooh, the crust! It’s superb. I don’t care what anyone says, a cheesecake must have a crust! If you skip it you’re just being lazy, it’s really not that hard. This one has a nice thick one. Butter and graham were designed to be mashed together into delicious crust. One bite of this bad boy and you’ll agree.
Isn’t this cheesecake super dreamy? Have I convinced you it’s the best? Well, I’ve got more reasons!
Five. The taste… oh, it just tastes so darn delicious. The glorious cream cheesy-ness works in harmony with the chocolate hazelnut spread and graham cracker crust.
I have to give credit to my husband. He sat up in bed and pretty much blurted out his random idea about how to make an awesome cheesecake even better. His idea was to add the layer of chocolate nutty goodness in between the cheesecake and the crust. He admitted that his idea didn’t involve rocket science, but was firm on the concept that the chocolate be separate from the cheesecake and not all mixed in.
Specifically he wasn’t trying to make a chocolate hazelnut flavored cheesecake mixture because he likes the flavor of simple elegant cheesecake. He wanted the chocolate to be a nice hint of flavor that could be separately enjoyed in each bite without the flavors clouding each other up. I agreed with this plan and the next thing we knew it was time to go shopping to make it happen.
Can I cut you a slice… or two?
Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake Recipe
(About 12 servings)
- 1 and 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs (equivalent to about 12 full sheets of graham crackers)
- 6 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup chocolate hazelnut spread (I used Nutella)
- 24 ounces cream cheese (equivalent to three 8 ounce packages), softened to room temperature
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs
- 1/4 cup chocolate hazelnut spread, for drizzle topping
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Wrap the outside of a 9 inch springform pan with aluminum foil, then grease the inside and set it aside. (If you happen to have very wide aluminum foil, wrapping the pan with a single unbroken piece will work better at keeping water out than multiple smaller pieces will.)
- In a food processor, blend the graham crackers until they are fine crumbs.
- Add 1/3 cup of sugar and drizzle in the melted butter. Blend until all of the ingredients are combined.
- Press the graham cracker crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan and about 1 inch up the sides. I used a 1/2 cup measuring cup to help pack the crumbs down firmly.
- Bake the crust in the preheated oven for 7 to 8 minutes.
- Allow the crust to cool.
- Once the crust has cooled, pour 1/2 cup of the chocolate hazelnut spread onto the crust and spread it out evenly. (Note, I microwaved the chocolate hazelnut spread for about 30 seconds prior to pouring it onto the crust so it would spread easier.)
- Place the pan in the freezer until the chocolate hazelnut spread has hardened. (About 30 minutes will do, this is just to ensure it doesn’t mix into the cheesecake mixture.)
- While your crust is in the freezer, in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and 1 cup of sugar until the mixture is smooth and creamy. (About 3 minutes on medium speed.) Make sure that the cream cheese is at room temperature.
- Mix in the sour cream and vanilla extract.
- Mix in one egg at a time. (Beat until just blended on low speed.)
- Once the chocolate hazelnut spread has hardened in the crust, take it out of the freezer and pour the cream cheese filling on top of the chocolate hazelnut layer.
- Place the pan into a large roasting pan and fill the roasting pan with about 1 inch of hot water. (This is why the aluminum foil was wrapped around the springform pan. If you don’t cover the springform pan then the bath water will seep into the cheesecake. In fact, even if you do there might still be a little water sneaking in, don’t panic like I did!)
- Bake it for 50 to 60 minutes in the preheated oven. When the cheesecake is done it will have a 2 to 3 inch wobbly area in the center of the cake. Don’t worry, it will set as it cools.
- Turn off the oven, open the oven door a little bit, and let the cheesecake sit in the oven for 1 hour. (Don’t skip this step, I’m convinced this is one of the secrets to really amazing cheesecake texture.)
- Take the cheesecake out of the oven, remove it from the water bath, and let it cool to room temperature on a wire rack on the counter.
- Then chill it in the refrigerator for a minimum of 6 hours. (I chilled it overnight.)
- When you are ready to serve it, loosen the cheesecake from the rim of the pan and remove the outer rim.
- Microwave about 1/4 cup of chocolate hazelnut spread for 15 to 30 seconds or until it’s at a consistency where you can drizzle it over the cheesecake.
- It’s finally ready to serve! Don’t forget to store leftover pieces in the fridge. (Like there will be leftovers.)
Cheesecake source: Sally’s Baking Addiction
Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake source: Tina’s Chic Corner
Here are some other dreamy desserts.