It’s World Nutella Day, a day to celebrate, get creative with, but most importantly EAT the chocolate-hazelnut sensation that is Nutella. To celebrate I’ve made a Gianduja and Nutella cheesecake.
The first time Nutella touched my tongue I remember well. It was in July 1997, at a pensione in Florence. It was my first trip to Italy, and it was my first breakfast there. We sat at a wobbly wooden table covered with red construction paper. The owner flung a basket of day old bread on our table, plopped two cups of hot chocolate down, and tossed a dish at us with jams, honey and some little white packages with the words “Nutella.”
Far from the welcome to Italy I had imagined; one of dark-haired, dark-eyed men blowing kisses at me from afar calling out “ciao bella”, little round grandmas inviting me over for multi-course meals and introductions to their grandsons. No, instead, I got stale bread and a waif-like, cigarette-scented waiter throwing food at me.
My friend, who had previously spent a semester in Italy, began squealing with excitement. Completely clueless as to why this breakfast would make anyone happy, I thought she was still tipsy from all the wine we had drunk the night before. I said, “What’s wrong with you? It’s stale bread and jam.” She said, “It’s Nuuuuuutelllllla!” She continued squealing and rambling, something along the lines of “better than sex” “God’s gift to the universe” blah, blah, blah. Then, I tried it. And, I understood her completely. Yes, there I was, squealing with excitement, between laps of Nutella, along with her. Definitely better than the welcome I had imagined; yes, God’s gift to the universe; and the other, well…I’ll leave that for you to judge. Let’s just say, from then on no breakfast in Italy was complete without the chocolately-hazelnutty goodness to lather on top of some stale bread. We stashed the remaining little packets in our backpacks, just in case they didn’t have Nutella at the next place, and headed out to climb the Duomo.
Still one of my favorite ways of eating Nutella is on a stale slice of bread or those little toast-like crackers they serve at breakfast in Italy. Today, however, I’ve dressed Nutella up a bit and used it in this Gianduja-Nutella Cheesecake with a Nutella Ganache Topping. It’s sinfully creamy, sweet, having hints of nuttiness and just a little tanginess (from the cream cheese). The topping of Nutella Ganache leaves a lasting Nutella taste to every bite. I hope you make it and enjoy it as much as I did.
Thanks again to Michelle, Sara, and World Nutella Day for proclaiming today World Nutella Day 2010 and for bringing me back to that little pensione in Florence, my first morning in Italy, and my first taste of Nutella.
For the crust:
1 1/2 cups ground chocolate cookies
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the cheesecake filling:
1 3/4 pounds (3 1/2 eight-ounce packages) cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup Nutella
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream
9 ounces gianduja, melted
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
For the Nutella Ganache Topping:
8 ounces Nutella
3/4 cup heavy cream
About 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped – for garnish
Preheat oven to 375ºF and butter the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan
Mix together the cookie crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Press into the spring form pan, going up the side of the pan no more than 1/4 inch. Bake 8-10 minutes. Cool completely.
Decrease oven temperature to 325ºF
In a stand mixer, cream the cream cheese and nutella until it’s smooth. Add the sugar and mix together. Add the vanilla extract and heavy cream and stir until combined. Add the melted chocolate and mix together. (It is important that the chocolate is not hot and the cream cheese mixture is at room temperature, so the chocolate blends in smoothly). Add the eggs and yolks one at a time; mix each in before adding the next.
Wrap two layers of aluminum foil around the sides of the spring form pan. Pour the cheesecake filling into the pan on top of the cooled crust. Bake in a water bath for 60-75 minutes. The outer edges should be set and the center will still jiggle a little when you move it. (The cake continues cooking after it’s removed from the oven.) Cool for 30 minutes, then remove the spring form rim. Cool completely, then place into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours, overnight is best.
To make the Nutella Ganache, heat over low heat or a double boiler the Nutella and cream until the mixture has become one. Cool for about 15 minutes (it should be easy to spread but not runny) and spread onto the cooled cheesecake. Garnish the edges with chopped hazelnuts. Buon Appetito!