Friends, I have recently discovered BJ's. No, not that kind of BJ. Get your mind out of the gutter, people. For those of you who don't know, BJ's is one of those buy-in-bulk membership warehouses like Costco and Sam's Club. There is one close to our house, and we went and checked it out, trying to decide if the savings would cover the cost of the membership. The answer is Yes. We'll make that back in a month or two in coffee savings alone.
So, we went ahead and Joined Up, and so far we've been pleased. So far.
We have two groups of guests staying at our house this weekend. The Beloved's oldest friend (meaning they've been friends the longest, not that the friend is 114) and his wife (who is also not 114) are joining us tonight as a stopover between Florida and Maryland. Then tomorrow, Jane and Howard, my esteemed parents, will be coming and spending Saturday night with us. We feel like innkeepers. This weekend, anyway.
For tonight, we're having Vegetabletarian Fare, because Betty happens to be a Vegetabletarian. Her favorite dessert in the universe is cheesecake. That alone makes her Okey Dokey in my book. Add to that that she is an amazing gardener and landscaper person and has a cool Israeli accent, and you have one keen wife-of-Beloved's-oldest-friend. I figured that I would Avail Myself of BJ's vast selection of goodies and purchase cheesecake from them. I know what you're going to say--I should have just gone ahead and made one from scratch, but with all the Inn keeping and cleaning and writing and What Not, I figured that a sampler pack o' cheesecake made by The Cheesecake Factory people would certainly suffice.
But first, I looked at the ingredient list. It was made up of about 15 lines of small ingredient-list-sized print which were all about 5 or 6" long. It was probably 9 squared inches of ingredients. That's a lot, considering that there are really only five or six ingredients in a Normal Cheesecake. Even allowing for "raspberry puree" in the raspberry cheesecake and other add-ins, the ingredients should have taken up no more than 2 square inches. So, I squinted and read them More Closely. And guess what? Right there on the side of the package was listed High Fructose Corn Syrup. Dun dun duuuuuuunnn.
Really?! I was Annoyed, to say the least. I mean, you're called The Cheesecake Factory. That's your whole blooming raison d'être right there. And what do you do? You take something Good and Pure and Decadent, and you cheapen it, literally, in so many ways. For shame, Cheesecake Factory people. For shame. You don't even get to be called The Cheesecake Factory anymore. From now on, I shall refer to you (if I do refer to you) as The Stupid Stupid Factory. So there.
Anyway, I of course needed a Plan B. Plan B could've been to just serve cheese and crackers and call it a day, but it was for Betty, and I did not want to disappoint. So, with an I Know What I'm Gonna Be Doing Tonight sigh, I purchased Ye Olde Sixe Packe of cream cheese and some eggs. I was just planning on making a plain cheesecake when I passed the Nutella. The large jars of Nutella. And they spoke to me. They said, "We know you'd rather watch Bones tonight, but we're here for you. Use us in your cheesecake as consolation that you have to make one at all. Mix us into the batter. Swirl us in. Top it with us. We are here to make your cheesecake making better. And less Onerous." Not that I generally mind making cheesecake, mind you. It's just that I didn't really want to on top of Everything Else. So, I allowed myself to be swayed by the Siren Song of the Nutella and reached out as if in a dream, choosing the jar that I perceived to be Most Eager to be Helpful. And I took him home.
Now, I've never made Nutella cheesecake before. This did not make me nervous, however. I went forth into The Hinternet and discovered a Plethora of references to Said Dessert as well as recipes for making one. But most of them called for one or one and a half pounds of cream cheese. And only a couple of eggs. And I didn't want no Stinkin' Short Cheesecake. I wanted a tall and proud cheesecake. So, I just modified the recipe right there on the cream cheese box. The one that starts with FIVE blocks, or Two and One Half Pounds of cream cheese.
I know that I should have been well behaved and used my scale and taken notes and measured and stuff, but I had a sort of Devil-May-Care attitude about the whole process--I mean, I decided that if I couldn't watch Bones that I was not going to measure (self-defeating, much?!), so I kind of free-formed it. After all, cheesecake is a custard, so making sure I had enough eggs to make it set up was the primary concern. As long as my thickening power was there, I could afford to play a bit. And with four eggs, I figured that I was safe. So, here's what I did:
No-Bones Nutella Cheesecake
For the Crust
- about 20 of your favorite crispy/crunchy cookie, or whatever you have at home. I had TJ's cinnamon grahams. Not the best choice, perhaps, but it was what I had.
- melted butter
- pinch of salt
If I were more dedicated, I would've used chocolate wafer cookies and ground hazelnuts. But I'm not, so I didn't.
For the Filling
- 5 8oz packages of cream cheese, or 2 1/2 pounds, softened
- 4 whole large eggs
- about 1/2-1 teaspoon salt
- about 1/2 cup of sour cream
- roughly 3/4 cup of sugar--to taste, mainly
- one large jar Nutella (I think it's 26 ounces), divided
- one teaspoon vanilla
- about 3 tablespoons AP flour
To Make the Crust
You can whir up the cookies in a food processor, but I didn't want to do a ton of dishes, so I put them in a heavy-duty freezer bag and rolled/bashed them with a rolling pin until they turned into fine crumbs. So do what you want.
Melt some butter--I think I used about 2-21/2 ounces.
Toss a pinch of salt into the bag with the crumbs. Shake the bag. Close it first, for what should be obvious reasons. Then, pour in the butter and smoosh everything around until the crumbs are all buttery. If you need a little more butter, go ahead and add some.
You can add a little sugar if you want, but just know that adding extra sugar to a cookie crust can result in Iron Crust That You Can't Cut Through. Because it caramelizes and turns all hard. And then you break your fork. Or your teeth.
Press the crumbs in an even layer over the bottom and a bit up the sides of a 9" or 10" spring form pan.
Bake it for about ten minutes at 350F.
Take out the crust and turn the oven down. The lower, the better--but lower takes longer. I turned mine down to 285F, but I would've gone to 250F if it wasn't already dark outside.
To Make the Cheesecake Filling
Make Absolutely Sure that your cream cheese is very, very soft. Don't use the tub kind, though. Let it sit out for a good hour before you bake. Then, throw all the cream cheese in your mixer and mix on Low Speed for as long as it takes to get the cheese Completely Smooth. You will need to scrape the sides of the bowl frequently, and you will become impatient. Have a drink, and Simmer Down, because you can't rush this part. If you don't get All the lumps out at this point, you never will. Then you will have little white specks in your cheesecake.
In the spirit of Truth and Transparency, I must tell you that this last piece of advice falls into the category of Do As I Say, Not As I Do. I usually do follow this advice, but it was late, and I was feeling rushy. So, I do have a few wee specks of cream cheese in my cheesecake. I can live with that. This time.
Once your cream cheese is Lump Free, add the sugar, vanilla and salt. Continue to mix on low speed. You will be Tempted to turn up the mixer, but you'll just be whipping air into your batter. Then it will rise up in the oven and Crack. Don't let that happen to you.
Add the eggs, one at a time, until they're all incorporated. Add-mix-scrape-mix-add-mix-scrape-mix, etc.
At this point, taste the batter. It should be a little less sweet than you want it to be, because the Nutella will further sweeten it. Then, mix in half(ish) the jar of Nutella, also on low speed. Add-mix-scrape-mix. The Nutella flavor will be fairly mild, but it will be a lovely light chocolate color--kind of like hot cocoa from-a-box.
Taste for salt and sweetness, and add a bit more of each if it needs it. Add-scrape-mix-scrape.
Pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Put a couple of blobs of Nutella on top. Add the rest of the batter, and blob on a bit more Nutella. Then, take a knife and cut down through the batter to swirl the Nutella in.
Bake at whatever low temperature you've set your oven to for as long as it takes for the whole top to be set, the sides to be firm and the center to still wiggle. It took me about 1:45 at 285F to get there.
When the cheesecake is done, turn off the oven and open the door a little. Let the cake hang out in there for another hour. Take the cake out and plop on the last of the Nutella. Let it sit there for a minute or two until it gets all melty, and then spread it out with an offset spatula. You can make it smooth or make it swirly-swirly. I opted for swirls.
Let the cake sit out until you absolutely have to go to bed it reaches room temperature. Refrigerate overnight, or at least eight hours to make sure it's nice and firm.
Cut with a hot knife, and wipe the blade clean between cuts.
Or you could just start in the center with a big old spoon and eat it standing in the light of the refrigerator at 4am.
Either way, this is really, really good. Creamy, dense, smooth, just-sweet-enough, full of Nutella-y flavor-y goodness. I tasted it for you, so I know.
Oh, and I only missed five minutes of Bones. The trade off was cream cheese bits in the cheese cake. Fair trade.