I think this post may be my last hurrah for winter baking this year. I’m ready for bright spring flavors! That said, I can’t think of a better way for winter to go out than with this Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake with Date Caramel!
We’re moving soon (relatively speaking–just a few months!), and sometimes I look at areas of my house and think about *how much stuff* we have to move. I’m pretty on top of cleaning out closets and donating clothes that the kids have outgrown, and we still have So. Much. Stuff. This is especially true in my pantry. I have sooo many ingredients in there from all my baking and cooking adventures.
I decided that it was time to play my game of “pantry roulette” and use some of my specialty ingredients. I pulled out dates, hazelnuts and chocolate. Seemed like they would complement each other, anyway. The result was this Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake with Date Caramel! This beauty is a dark chocolate cheesecake with a hazelnut graham cracker crust, topped with date caramel.
I can rarely find hazelnuts at my local grocery store. If you can’t find them, they’re online [here]. I typically use medjool dates when I bake, but you can use whatever type of date you prefer. My preference is to buy organic, so I purchased my dates online [here].
I use both vanilla bean paste and chocolate extract to enhance the flavor of the cheesecake. Vanilla bean paste is delicious and more economical than whole vanilla beans. You can find it online [here]. If you prefer to substitute, you can use an equal measure of vanilla extract.
Chocolate extract lends amazing depth of flavor to chocolate baked goods! If you can’t find it in your local grocery store, you can find some [here]. Even better, make yourself some [Homemade Chocolate Extract] for next time!
You can use a standard 9″ springform pan with removeable bottom, but I LOVE my “push pan.” This pan’s bottom has a silicone seal that’s waterproof, so you can set the pan directly into the water bath and have no worries about water leaking in! If you’re interested in getting one for yourself, you can find one [here].
Check out the recipe notes for more detail on baking the cheesecake in a water bath. After baking, the cheesecake cools in the oven for an hour, on the counter until it’s room temperature, and then in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 more hours. It takes a long time, but IT’S WORTH IT!
So farewell, winter! Or perhaps I shouldn’t say that quite so soon since we’re headed to Michigan next week for “spring” break! 😉
Other posts you may like:
Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake with Date Caramel
Hazelnut Graham Cracker Crust:
- 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (from about 9 whole graham cracker sheets)
- ½ cup hazelnuts
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- 7 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
Dark Chocolate Cheesecake:
- ½ cup milk (I used whole milk)
- 2 cups chocolate chips (About 12 oz.; I used 60% cacao)
- 24 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (see note)
- 1 tsp chocolate extract (see note)
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 1 cup pitted dates
- 1 cup hot water
- ¼ tsp vanilla bean paste (see note)
- pinch salt
For Toasting Hazelnuts:
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Place 3/4 cup hazelnuts (1/2 cup for crust and 1/4 cup for garnish) on a baking sheet. Toast hazelnuts for 10-12 minutes, or until slightly golden and fragrant.
- Place the warm, toasted hazelnuts in a kitchen towel and rub to remove skins. Allow hazelnuts to cool completely. Hazelnuts can be toasted ahead of time and stored in an airtight container after cooling.
- If you haven't already from the hazelnuts, preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 9" springform pan (see note) with nonstick spray. Set aside.
- Combine graham crackers, 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, and brown sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Process until finely ground.
- Add melted butter and pulse to incorporate, making sure the mixture is completely coated in butter. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.
- Place pan on a baking sheet and bake 10 minutes, or until slightly golden.
- In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine the milk and chocolate chips. Microwave on 30-second bursts, stirring after each burst, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Once the cream cheese mixture is smooth, add the eggs one at a time, allowing each egg to incorporate before adding the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add vanilla bean paste (see note), chocolate extract (see note), and flour. Mix to incorporate. Add chocolate mixture and mix just until incorporated.
- Pour the batter into the crust and smooth the top. Place the cheesecake in a water bath (see notes) in the preheated oven. Bake until cheesecake is just set, but still wobbly in the center, about 45-50 minutes.
- Turn off the oven. With the oven door slightly ajar, leave the cheesecake to slowly cool in the oven for 1 hour.
- Remove the pan from the oven and run a thin knife around the edge of the cheesecake to be sure it is released from the pan (if necessary--mine had already pulled away from the sides on its own). Allow the cheesecake to cool on a rack to room temperature. Once at room temperature, chill the cheesecake in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours (preferably overnight).
- Place pitted dates in a heatproof bowl. Cover with hot water and let stand 10 minutes.
- After soaking, transfer the dates to the bowl of a food processor with a slotted spoon. Add *½ cup* of the soaking liquid, vanilla bean paste (see note), and salt.
- Process until the mixture is as smooth as possible, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. If the mixture is too thick, add water 1 Tbsp at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
- Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer for a smoother caramel. Smooth/pour the caramel (depending on the consistency you chose) over top of the cheesecake, and top with the reserved toasted hazelnuts (chopped, if desired).Enjoy!