A mom's journal of the sweet things in her life...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Ferrero Rocher Cheesecake

Fact: As I type this, I am lying in my king-sized bed on a Friday night with two very large sleeping dogs who both refuse to give me enough space to stretch out my legs. Who's running this show?!

Fact: My legs are cramping but I can't do anything about it because I don't want to disturb the peace. The. Much. Needed. Peace.

Fact: I am currently suffering through the obligatory New Year's diet and I'm hungry. So very hungry.

Fact: I am also a cliche.

I made this cheesecake during the holiday free-for-all-food-fest and I think it may have a little something to do with extra 4 pounds I gained in 2 weeks. I've managed to shed 3 of those 4 pounds - but this last one is a killer. It's hanging on for dear life. It's mocking me right now.

I was looking for something new to do with cheesecake when I stumbled upon the idea of adding Ferrero Rocher chocolates. Why the heck not? It was Christmas after all, the season of indulgence. Ferrero Rocher is the most delectable chocolate available at a supermarket, and they aren't that pricey, relatively speaking. And since I had already doctored my vanilla cheesecake recipe to perfection, if I do say so myself, there was really no point in reinventing the wheel. I decided to simply fold chopped Ferrero Rocher chocolates into the cake batter and cross my fingers. 
 For the topping, I cheated. I had purchased a jar of chocolate hazelnut spread from Bernard Callebaut and simply warmed it until it was spreadable and then smeared it all over the cheesecake. Heaven! If, however, you don't have a Bernard Callebaut store in your neck of the woods, the same could be done with Nutella. Add some chopped hazelnuts if you want texture, but either way, it would be delicious.
Finally, I cut the remaining chocolates in half and added them as 'garnish'. They cut in half surprisingly well and really finished the cake. This was a big hit, everyone really liked it and it will definitely be making another appearance as soon as I can find an excuse. And when I'm done dieting. Or after I abort my mission to shed this final pound. Whichever comes first.

If you're looking for a special occasion cheesecake and you love chocolate and hazelnuts, look no further, I promise you won't be disappointed. 

Recipe for Ferrero Rocher Cheesecake:
3 cups of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal
5 Tbsp. butter, melted
Process the cereal in food processor until they form fine crumbs. Add your melted butter and pulse until combined. Press into your cake pan(s). Set aside. (You could also use the more traditional graham wafer crumb crust.)

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

1 kg. container of Victorian Style cream cheese (found at Costco); or 4 eight ounce packages of full fat cream cheese
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 1/3 cup of full fat sour cream
1 T. vanilla extract
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
3 eggs
10 Ferrero Rocher chocolates cut into quarters (plus extra if you want to use them for decorating)
1 cup of Chocolate Hazelnut spread, such as Nutella (for frosting)

Put all the ingredients (except the eggs) into the bowl of your food processor. Pulse several times until the mixture is well blended and smooth, scraping the sides as necessary. Add the eggs, one at a time, pulsing after each addition until fully incorporated. Be careful not to over process. Once smooth, gently fold in the chopped chocolates, pour over your crust.

Place cake into shallow baking pan and add enough boiling water to reach half way up cake pan. Bake for one hour. Cake should still be jiggly after the hour. Carefully from the oven, and remove the cake from the water bath. Allow to cool on your counter top until room temperature. (About 2 hours). Refrigerate at least 4 hours, but overnight is best.

When the cheesecake has been chilled and has set, warm the chocolate hazelnut spread in the microwave briefly, just long enough to loosen it and make it a spreadable consistency. Spread over the surface of the cheesecake and decorate with the remaining Ferrero Rocher chocolates, cut in half. Chill until ready to serve.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Petit Croque Monsieurs

Happy New Year! Remember me? I'd like to say I've been busy post holidays but I haven't. Not really. Lazy is a word that comes to mind. It should be a verb. I do lazy a lot lately.

Since we're all sick of holiday cookies and cakes, I'm posting a savory appetizer that I made for New Year's Eve. It's true, sometimes I make things without sugar. 

I concocted this little appetizer in my head one night when I was up late watching a movie wherein Meryl Streep made a Croque Monsieur sandwich for Steve Martin. I hate when I watch TV late at night and they eat food that I suddenly must have. Annoyed and very hungry, I became inspired. I googled Croque Monsieur and found a recipe by Ina Garten. Since she does everything right, and I love her food, I felt no need to look any further. I based this on her recipe but I assembled them into bite-size appetizers and instead of a sandwich, I skipped the second piece of bread and made it open-faced.  

They were delicious. Perfect with a glass of white wine while we waited for the kids to go to bed so we could eat dinner. Here's the step by step. 

I used Country Italian bread for the base.
 Cut it with a round cookie cutter
 buttered both sides to ensure it was flavourful and would brown nicely
 and then toasted in the oven at 350 degrees, until it felt firm and crisp. It didn't turn the golden brown I was expecting but it was crispy enough so I pulled it out. This can be done several hours ahead of time and left out at room temperature until you're ready to assemble.
 For the Bechamel sauce, I melted 2 Tablespoons of butter,
 added 3 Tablespoons of flour
 and cooked until golden brown, about 2 or 3 minutes.
Whisk the milk in slowly,
 and cook until thickened.  
 Once thick, remove from heat and add the gruyere and parmesan cheeses. Once melted, add the spices and set aside.
 For the ham, I used a Tuscan Rosemary ham and I cut it with a cookie cutter that was one size smaller than the one I used for the bread. I'm not sure why, it just felt right at the time. Do what you want.
 Spread dijon mustard on the already toasted bread. I'm not a huge fan of mustard and I wasn't sure I'd like it, figuring it might be too strong. So I made some without mustard and was surprised to discover that the ones with the mustard tasted better. 
 Place a slice of ham on the bread with the mustard,
 spread a dollop of the Bechamel sauce on top,
 and then add a healthy sprinkling of grated gruyere.
 Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 2 minutes then turn your broiler on and broil for another minute or two, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly and a golden brown. Watch closely though - they'll burn quickly. You didn't need me to tell you that - it's the mother in me. Sorry.
Remove from oven and try your hardest to allow to cool for a minute before taking a bite. Alternatively, you can go ahead and throw one in your mouth while still bubbling. It will hurt though, don't say I didn't warn you.

Recipe for Croque Monsieur
(adapted from Ina Garten)
Yield: Approximately 40-50 depending on the size

2 tablespoons of butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
12 ounces Gruyere, grated (5 cups)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
Dijon mustard
8 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut bread into small circular pieces using a cookie cutter. Lightly butter and place on a baking sheet and bake for 5-10  minutes or until slightly crispy. Set aside. (Can be made several hours ahead and stored at room temperature.)

To make the Bechamel:

Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere, and the Parmesan and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Lightly brush the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and spread about a generous spoonful of sauce on top. Sprinkle with grated gruyere and bake for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 2 to 3 minutes until bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot. 
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