nutella swirl cheesecake barsPosted: July 21, 2011
I’m a little obsessed with Nutella. Before I went to GA last week, my mother sent me a recipe for Nutella cheesecake layer bars that she said we must make. The idea of somehow incorporating Nutella into a cheesecake struck me as brilliant and inspired. I would pretty much never turn down a demand to make something involving Nutella anyway, so make them we did, and they were quite good.
I thought of some ways I could improve them, though, so I tinkered with the recipe when I got back to Jersey, and I will now say that if you are a fan of Nutella and cheesecake, it is imperative that you make these. After looking at different cheesecake recipes, I realized that the special ingredient that takes a cheesecake from being good to great, at least for me, is sour cream. It helps to play up the tartness that is in the cream cheese itself, and ensures that that tartness isn’t overpowered by the sugar in the cake. The original recipe did not include sour cream, and I thought that the sweetness of the Nutella canceled out the cheesecakey flavor, which saddened me.
So this recipe is a combination of a basic cheesecake by Dorie Greenspan, a very well-regarded writer of cookbooks, and the Nutella-themed original recipe. It is exquisitely tangy and creamy, with bites of Nutella interspersed throughout. The original recipe called for a chocolate graham cracker crust, and my local grocery store, which consistently fails to have things that I need, did not have any chocolate graham crackers. I used chocolate teddy grams instead, a trick I picked up over here. It does feel a bit sadistic measuring out the little teddies for their food-processor doom. They have faces!
I thought this crust was a bit tastier than the graham cracker one though, so I’ve included both options in the recipe.
Nutella Swirl Cheesecake Bars
A few words on cheesecakes: as you may notice from my picture, my cheesecake had some cracks. One generally bakes a cheesecake in a water bath to prevent this, but I feel like cheesecake bars should be less fussy to make than a proper cheesecake. Harold McGee says that, other than a water bath, crack-prevention methods include beating the ingredients slowly, and only until they are fully incorporated, because too much beating brings in air bubbles. You should also avoid overbaking, and let the cheesecake cool with the oven door open first before removing it to cool on the counter. I did leave mine to “cool” in the oven, but considering that my kitchen has been about 100 degrees the last few days (blargh), it probably wasn’t able to cool very well. I wasn’t too bothered by the cracks, though, especially since this was my first real cheesecake attempt, but if you are, those tips should help. The original recipe used less Nutella, and noted that the flavor was subtle. I wanted the flavor to not be subtle, so I increased the amount, but you could use less if you want.
8 chocolate graham crackers, or 1 1/2 cups chocolate teddy grams
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Pinch of sea salt (optional)
For the cheesecake:
16 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 cup Nutella
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter an 8X8 glass baking pan, and line with parchment paper. Be sure to press in the corners as well as you can.
Put the graham crackers/teddy grams in the food processor, and pulse until finely ground. Pour in the melted butter, add a pinch of sea salt if desired (because sea salt and chocolate are wonderful together) and pulse until evenly combined. Press the crust into the bottom of the baking pan, and bake for 12 minutes, until set. Remove pan from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
To make the cheesecake, place the cream cheese into a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), and beat on low speed with an electric mixer for 1-2 minutes, until smooth and creamy. Add the 1/2 cup of sugar, and beat for 3 minutes. Add the salt and vanilla, and beat until combined. Add in the eggs one a time, beating after each until it is fully incorporated, about 1 minute. Add the sour cream, beat until incorporated. Add the 1/4 cup heavy cream, and beat until incorporated.
Pour most of the batter into the baking pan, being careful not to disturb the crust. Reserve about 1/4 of the batter in the mixing bowl. Add the 1 tablespoon heavy cream and 1/2 cup Nutella to the remaining batter, and beat until evenly combined. Pour the Nutella mixture over the cheesecake batter in an even layer (i.e. try to pour it to cover all of the surface of the cheesecake; don’t just pour it all in a big pile in the middle). To make the swirl pattern, take a toothpick and drag it around the surface of the cheesecake in spirals. There’s no set pattern to follow here; just drag the toothpick around until you have lots of pretty swirls covering the surface.
Bake on the center oven rack for 35-40 minutes, until cheesecake is set. The center of the cheesecake will still be a bit jiggly when it is done. When the cheesecake is done, turn off the oven, open the oven door, and leave the cheesecake to cool on the oven rack for about half an hour. Then remove it to a wire rack and let it finish cooling. Once the cheesecake has cooled completely, refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or ideally overnight, if you can wait that long to try it. To serve, carefully remove the cheesecake from the pan by lifting up the sides of the parchment paper. It should come out pretty easily. It is lovely with an afternoon or after dinner cup of coffee (but preferably not in a 100 degree kitchen). Enjoy!