|Remodeling and gardening projects around our house|
Springtime is here, but it seems to have taken it's good sweet time about it this year. It's been unseasonable cold for awhile. Now the weather seems to frolic back and forth between warmth and bursting into blossoms and greenery and a shivering standing on one foot waiting for the warmth to return. One minute we are rushing to the garden to lay out new beds and the next rushing back indoors to keep moving on the remodeling of the downstairs space. It is a never ending dance around the building and property as times and circumstances change and we change along with the circumstances and times. Fabrizio has been steadily working on a giant remodel of our family garden trying to keep our neighborhood cinghale (wild boar) and Olympic leaping food crazed caprioli (small roe deer) from having their way with our much missed vegetable patch. When the rain suspends that action he then makes his way through the myriad projects of remodeling our building that houses our B&B and cooking classes that has been in great need of attention. It is never a dull minute. I am banished to keeping the grub going to keep him and our various helpers fueled up to keep the projects moving. We're making progress and hopefully the weather will pass into a distant memory soon as the guests arrive and the season of visitors gets fully underway.
In the meantime one of my ways to keep up our spirits is to keep making treats to keep everyone sweet.
This light and simple northern Italian style cheesecake features the blessed union of chocolate and hazelnuts that Piedmont is so famous for. Hazelnuts are plentiful here, but if you find them difficult to source, this recipe would work well with almonds as well. I love dark chocolate and think it adds the punch that is needed, but of course you can use milk chocolate if you prefer. Whatever changes you make to make this dessert your own, it won't matter, because I think you will find you'll want to make this dessert over and over. Just ask your taste testers, I'm sure they will oblige.
Servings 8 generous
50g/ 2 oz/1/4 c butter
150g /1 c dry cookies, your choice, graham, ginger, petit buerre, vanilla wafers,
1 T / 12 g brown sugar
200g / 7oz / 1 c hazelnuts, whole or pieces. toasted
200-300g / 10 oz chocolate bittersweet I like mine a bit more chocolatey
30ml rum, brandy, hazelnut or chocolate liquor I used a 1 T brandy and 2 T Hazelnut
250g / 8-9 oz mascarpone cheese
200g / 7-8oz heavy cream for filling a little more to whip for garnish.
Toast the hazelnuts lightly in the oven or on top of the stove in a cast iron pan in a single layer till the nuts are lightly golden and fragrant. If using the on top of the stove method. make sure to shake the pan frequently and don't wander off as the nuts can burn more easily and you need to pay attention to them.
Set aside to cool. When cool, either chop fine with a knife or pulse them in a food processor till they are fine but not a paste. Do make sure they are completely cooled so that when you chop them up they don't turn into a paste. Divide the nuts into two portions. Set aside.
Melt the butter. Crush the cookies into coarse crumbs. Mix the melted butter with the dry cookies crumbs.
Presse the mixture into the bottom and slightly up the sides of a buttered 25cm or 10" pan with removable collar. Chill the pan with the crumbs while preparing the other ingredients.
Place the chocolate in a double boiler with the heavy cream and heat with out stirring, until the chocolate is melted. while still warm, gently whisk the cream and chocolate together, add the brandy or other alcohol and mix until smooth. Add half of the chopped hazelnuts to the chocolate mixture.
Cool until the mixture is no longer hot to the touch. Whisk in the mascarpone cheese lightly until all is mixed and smooth, but no more than necessary to mix. Taste and add a little more alcohol if desired. Pour the mixture into the chilled crumb crust and smooth flat. Sprinkle the top with the other half of the crushed hazelnuts covering as much as possible. Chill for at least 3 hours and over night is even better.
To serve, remove from pan and place on platter. Garnish the top with 8 rosettes of whipped cream and sprinkle chocolate shavings on the cream. I served mine for Easter, so I used small chocolate Easter eggs as garnish. You could serve with a chocolate, fruit or carmel sauce if desired.
|Easter table with Gianduia cheesecake primroses and Easter eggs in hankies|