There are certain things that happen in a professional kitchen that strike me as magic. They seem unmanageably gorgeous and too difficult to attempt at home, but usually with a bit of guidance anyone can do it. These hazelnut candies are on the list. They look like delicate jewels, standing impossibly tall and thin. They are the perfect accessory to a sleek chocolate covered praline cheesecake and not at all difficult to make.
This cake is about as smooth and rich as is possible. To flavor the cheesecake I used a product by love n’ bake, which is just ground praline made into a paste. You can replace it with nutella (for even more chocolate) or even peanut butter (go smooth for this). The trick to the texture is baking in a water bath at a low temperature to prevent the cake from baking too fast.
Chocolate Ganache Glazed Praline Cheesecake with Candied Hazelnuts:
30 chocolate wafer cookies (1 1/4 cups ground in food processor) – or 15 oreos
4 tablespoons butter, melted
11 ounces Love ‘N Bake Hazelnut Praline
2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Caramel Covered Hazelnuts:
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon corn syrup
To make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor break up the cookies until they are a powder, then add the butter and process until the cookies are wet.
Pat the crumbs into the bottom of a Round Cake Pan, 9 Inch x 3 Inch, lined with a parchment circle. Bake the crust for about 10 minutes.
Lower oven temperature to 320 degrees.
To mix the cheesecake: In a stand mixer cream the praline paste until smooth. The praline may be separated and rather stiff when you take it out of the can, but it should get very smooth before you add the other ingredients.
Add the cream cheese and mix on a low speed until it is well blended with the praline. Scrape the bowl often. Add the sugar, cream and then the eggs, mixing well after each. Add the vanilla.
Fill the prepared cake pan with the cheesecake mixture.
bake in a waterbath for about 1 hour or until the cheesecake has set on top. It should no longer appear liquidy when the pan is gently shaken. Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool in the water-bath. This brings the temp down slower and prevents deep cracks.
Refrigerate the cheesecake for several hours or overnight. Unmold the cheesecake by heating it over a flame on the stove for a few seconds, run a thin blade around the pan and then invert it onto a flat surface covered with plastic wrap. (For detailed picture of this process click here.) Invert the cheesecake onto a cardboard round that fits the bottom exactly. If the cardboard is too big it will show when you pour the ganache over the cake.
To make the ganache:
In a medium sized pot heat the cream until just steaming, but not boiling. Turn off the heat and add the chocolate and butter. shake the pot to make sure all the chocolate is submerged in the hot cream and allow to sit for about 3 minutes. Gently stir the ganache until it is completely smooth. Do not whip any air into it or the surface of your cake will not be smooth.
Place the cake on a cooling rack, set above a cookie sheet which is covered in parchment. This will catch any extra ganache.
Allow the ganache to thicken for about 10 to 15 minutes. If the ganache is too thin it will just pour off the cake without coating well. It should be just above room temperature.
Start in the center and pour the ganache over the cake, then move to the outer edge and make sure the entire cake is covered.
Very gently shimmy the cooling rack so that the top surface of the cake smooths out. let the cake sit until the ganache is set up. This can take about 30+ minutes.
You will end up with lots of leftover ganache that can be refrigerated for about 1 week or frozen for a month.
To make the candied hazelnuts:
You will need long wooden skewers and a heavy cutting board to weigh them down on the edge of your counter. Place parchment or newspaper on the floor below where the hazelnuts will be suspended to catch the caramel drips.
Heat the hazelnuts in a pan for a minute or so to remove the skins more easily if yours are not blanched. Gently stick the skewer into the hazelnuts. Set aside.
To make the caramel:
In a small saucepan combine the sugar, water and corn syrup and bring to a boil, without stirring. Once the mixture starts to caramelize remove from the stove and allow it to darken and thicken for about 10 minutes. Stirring on occasion so it won’t set up on the bottom of the pan.
Once the caramel is thickened, dip the hazelnut into the caramel and lift it to see if the caramel is clinging. If the caramel just runs off then you may need to wait another minute and repeat.
When the caramel is coating the hazelnut and dripping off in long strands then secure the skewer under the heavy cutting board, so the caramel can drip down.
Let the hazelnuts sit until the caramel is well set, about 15 minutes.
Break off the caramel strands at the length you want. Gently twist the hazelnuts from the skewers. Decorate the top of your cake with the points way up in the air.
Cut the cheesecake using a thin blade that has been dipped in hot water and wiped clean. Enjoy!