Mini chocolate-hazelnut cheesecakes

I'm going to sound like a killjoy when I tell you, at the very beginning of a post about cheesecake, that I actually don't love cheesecake.  Not a great way to start here but I have to be honest and the truth is I've never been a cheesecake lover and it's not something I've made much effort, or dared, to explore since there are so many other ways to fill my daily caloric intake.

Maybe you feel a "but..." coming on right about now?  I guess if there's going to be a caveat, it's that the idea of a chocolate cheesecake is far more appealing to me than a plain one.  And one that's both chocolate and hazelnut is infinitely more so.
Everything is better with chocolate, in my humble opinion.  So when it comes to cheesecake, I'd prefer chocolate, please.  If we find ourselves at the Cheesecake Factory, it's going to be a slice of the Godiva chocolate cheesecake to share for dessert.  My little one and I are in sync on that one. My husband, who enjoys cheesecake far more than I do, would likely prefer classic cheesecake with some strawberries on top once in a while but he is far too agreeable a person to say so to us.

So it won't come as a surprise when I tell you this is the first time I've ever made cheesecake.  I've wanted to try it in the past since my husband enjoys it but the idea of a big, hefty cheesecake always seemed too overwhelming.  I came across this recipe some time ago and it really appealed to me.  It's got all the flavors my family and I enjoy, it's in small quantity, and it's easy to make!   I'm so very glad I finally tried it because this really is a delicious, very easy-to-make dessert for anyone who loves cheesecake or that combination of chocolate and hazelnut.  I think that covers just about everybody!
These little cheesecakes are baked in a standard muffin tin.  Mini desserts are always cute and convenient.  I know true cheesecake lovers appreciate the pure tang and flavor of a good smooth, plain, cheesecake but I just love the irresistible combination of chocolate and hazelnut. And yes, there's Nutella involved!  

Mini treats can be time-consuming to make but these are not.  They really were surprisingly easy to put together because the crust and filling are both prepared in the food processor in a matter of minutes.  They're a great make-ahead option since they can be stored in the fridge for about 3 days. I divided the recipe in half and made 6 mini cheesecakes for this first trial.  It was just too tempting to have a dozen sitting in our fridge; I could see my husband polishing most of them off.
The bottom of these mini cheesecakes are made with ground Oreo cookies and some hazelnuts.  It makes for a delicious crust - the hazelnuts really infuse it with an oomph of flavor and fragrance. The filling is classic cream cheese, sour cream, and...a healthy dose of delicious Nutella!  Taking pictures of these mini cakes was torture - they smelled incredible!  This delicious aroma of chocolate and hazelnut kept wafting up at me and it made me a little weak.
To summarize this story, this is good cheesecake.  I know that comes from a cheesecake novice but if you need an "expert" opinion, my cheesecake-loving husband loved these!  He polished two off in his first sitting.


A few baking notes and pictures because I had to show you how easy these are to make!  You do need a food processor and if you have that, this is going to be a breeze.

I made half the recipe, or 6 cupcake size cheesecakes, so the portions will look skimpy here.  The crust is a combination of chocolate sandwich cookies (i.e., Oreo cookies) and some raw or roasted skinned hazelnuts.  I use already-skinned hazelnuts that I pick up from Target (I was so excited when I first found them).  A little bit of softened butter goes in also.
I was wondering why the crust called for the cream-filled cookies instead of plain chocolate wafers when I noticed that the recipe actually explains that the cream filling sweetens the crust (so no need to add more sugar) and it keeps the crunchy crust from being too crumbly.  They read my mind!
Once the mixture is finely processed, just divide it among your lined and greased muffin cups (this might be a good time to use foil muffin liners if you have it but I didn't have trouble with sticking using the greased paper ones). Press and compact the mixture into the cups.  You can use the bottom of a glass cup but I found that the pusher on the cover of the food processor works perfectly.
These just need to bake in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes or so to set.  In the meantime, make the cheesecake filling in the processor.  Just wipe the processor down with a paper towel (watch out for the blade) and put in the cream cheese, sour cream, and that delicious Nutella!
You also add eggs and a little bit of sugar.  Blitz the whole thing until smooth and pour the batter into the cups, reaching pretty much to the very top.  Some mini chocolate chips scattered over the filling make for a nice bonus.
Bake the cheesecakes for about 20 minutes.  They will puff up a bit and the tops might crack slightly.  The very center could still look a bit wet but I pull them out to avoid over-baking as they'll continue to set out of the oven. When cooled, the center sinks down just a bit. I know some people are particular about cheesecake and have an opinion on the "crack" on top of a cheesecake or how to avoid it.  I suppose a good cheesecake, without a crack, is one that's baked delicately with a water bath. We don't worry about water baths and such in this recipe and this cheesecake came out plenty smooth for me but I'm no expert.

Let the cheesecakes cool slightly at room temperature.  Then, freeze the pan with the cheesecakes in them, for about 10 minutes.  When I first read the recipe, I wondered about that!  Why do we need to pop it in the freezer if they're to be served chilled or at room temperature?  I had my answer after baking these.  Once out of the oven, I could see I'd have a very hard time removing them from the muffin tin if I didn't chill them first!  I have a narrow freezer so my pan couldn't fit in there.  I placed the pan in the refrigerator instead.  They firmed up and constricted a bit after a little chill time so I was able to easily remove them from the tin.  Then, I did pop them in the freezer so I could remove the paper lining more neatly (and take some pictures) but if you're not planning to eat or serve them right away, you could simply refrigerate them.
If you want to play around with presentation, you could highlight the Oreo cookies by sticking half an Oreo on top of one.  Or scatter some finely chopped hazelnuts around the plate.  I think they're just fine all by themselves.


Recipe:

Mini Chocolate-Hazelnut Cheesecakes
From Food & Wine

- Makes 12 mini cheesecakes - 

For the crust:
15 cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies (such as Oreo cookies)
2 tablespoons raw or roasted hazelnuts, skinned
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

For the cheesecake filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup Nutella
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.  Lightly spray the liners with cooking spray.

The crust: Place cookies, hazelnuts, and butter into a food processor.  Process until the mixture comes to very fine crumbs.  Divide the crumbs among the cups.  Then, using the flat bottom of a glass (or the pusher on the food processor cover), compress the crumbs into the cups.  Bake for 5 minutes to set the crust.

The filling: In the meantime, wipe down the food processor with a paper towel (being mindful of the blade).  Add cream cheese, Nutella, sour cream, eggs, and sugar into the bowl and puree until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.  Pour the filing into the cups until it nearly reaches the top.  Very carefully tap the muffin tin on the counter to disperse air bubbles.  Top each cup with some mini chocolate chips.  Bake for about 20 minutes, until cheesecakes have puffed slightly.  The surface might be slightly cracked.

Let cheesecakes cool slightly at room temperature, then place the muffin tin in the freezer for 10 minutes.  This allows the cheesecakes to firm up and constrict so you can easily remove them from the tin.  If you can't fit the tin in the freezer, chill the pan in the refrigerator.  

Store cheesecakes in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, for up to 3 days.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.  









54 comments:

  1. These look amazing, Monica! I think my husband would also polish off 2 of these, if not more! :)

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    1. Thanks, Marie! My husband loved them : )

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  2. These are stunning! And I'm suddenly craving cheesecake :)

    Sues

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  3. OMG,
    These look so decadent and super cute. I love these individual serving size.

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    1. Hi Asmita - cheesecakes are definitely decadent! Mini's are the way to go, I think...you don't need blocks of cream cheese to make this so it feels somehow more "responsible". Everything is cute in miniature - must be a girl thing. : )

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  4. I can definitely relate to you not liking plain cheesecake. I love this version so much more!!

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  5. I can only take cheesecakes in small doses and that's why I prefer them in bars or the mini version. The huge slice you get at any restaurants are intimidating. I feel like I'm consuming 5000 calories right there! These mini chocolate-hazelnut cheesecakes are right up my alley! And you're right, everything is better with chocolate. Great recipe Monica! :)

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    1. Totally agree with you! Cheesecake is definitely something best shared with tons of people. It probably is pretty close to 5000 calories a slice! I could never bring myself to adding 4-5 blocks of cream cheese to make one cheesecake so this is much more manageable! : )

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  6. HA! honesty is everything, and i completely agree with that there are better ways to spend your calories than with cheesecake. Full-size cheesecakes really can be daunting! they make an absolute ton (weight-wise and size-wise), so i like the idea of these minis AND i love the flavor combo here! i think the chocolate/hazelnut pairing works best small, anyway, only because i feel like i could eat/love a precious few bites before i had had just enough. :) they look beautiful, monica.
    this all reminds me that i'm a cheesecake purist that's willing to experiment; i like a straightforward NY cheesecake (and i need to put my favorite one on the blog at some point), but i love to try all the interesting twists and turns of cheesecake flavors. i suspect i'd like this one.

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    1. I'd love to see a cheesecake post from you! I want to know all about what makes a great NY cheesecake, baking in a water bath, crack/no-crack, zest/no-zest, and all those things!

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  7. I'm definitely the cheesecake lover in our apartment, but the.boy will "tolerate" chocolate versions (and by tolerate, I mean devour). Totally making these!

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    1. I love when you mention "the boy". I get a kick out of that; hope he does too! : )

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  8. These mini cheesecakes look absolutely perfect!

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    1. Thanks, Angie. There's good enough for this cheesecake novice.

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  9. I hear ya, not a crazy fan of cheesecake but I've started liking every version. Now and your chocolate hazelnut version looks delicious.
    I like how honest you are though...

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    1. Asha, I think I'm *too* honest sometimes...at least with those closest to me. I've actually been working on being a little less blunt. haha

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  10. I do love cheesecake, but have never attempted to make it!
    Your chocolate ones look so srumptious! Goood gooly - the cut one is simply irresistable! :)

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    1. Thanks, Shashi. I think cheesecake is one of those delicacies best savored in a restaurant, right? That way, you don't see how many blocks of cream cheese and sour cream and eggs went in! And you don't end up eating all the leftovers. I feel that way about super rich chocolate desserts; I enjoy them to the fullest when I go out and leave it as a treat.

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  11. I like making mini cheesecakes too - I have yet to make a full-sized one! Love all the chocolate and nutella in here. I'll definitely eat cheesecake and enjoy it but it's not my favorite by far!

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    1. I hear you - mini is the way to go with cheesecake. Just one of these is plenty!

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  12. Well I can't say I agree with you because cheesecake is easily one of my favorite desserts...but I'm picky with what kind I like. Making mini versions is SUCH a smart idea though. No one needs to go on a cheesecake binge (not that I'm speaking from experience or anything) ;) So if I made these at least I'd only be eating 12 mini cheesecakes instead of one big one, haha. Love the choco hazlenut flavor!!

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    1. Amy - you know I can appreciate your honesty!! haha I bet you could teach me tons about cheesecake.

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  13. These are nothing less than beautiful. Of course chocolate is a beautiful thing. Cheesecake is also gorgeous. You managed to make me drool! I am printing this one - so perfect for company!

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    1. That is so sweet, thank you! I bet you'd make a gorgeous cheesecake; I can picture it!

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  14. I used to dislike cheesecake, it was something about the color and texture.. and then I fell in love with it. Either way, I would love to eat so many of these.. because they are mini.. so that makes it ok to do! :)

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    1. Oh Pamela - I know what you mean and that's why I'm a bit afraid to explore with cheesecake. I don't want to end up loving it and it is all too possible. There are so many foods (even desserts) that I never loved but now do! It's dangerous, I tell ya!

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  15. I actually do like cheesecake-but I definitely agree that chocolate makes everything better! I made mini chocolate caramel cheesecakes awhile back and love them-I can imagine that I'd like this version even more! Yum!

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    1. I need to check out your chocolate caramel ones; I bet it was great!

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  16. I'm definitely with you--I don't love cheesecake either! But this looks pretty enticing! Chocolate and hazelnut is unbeatable combination!

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    1. This was good, Tiffany! I think I like anything with chocolate and hazelnut though. ; )

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  17. How diplomatic of you to combine chocolate and cheesecake into one glorious dessert :) This looks fantastic, especially as your first shot!

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    1. haha - it was fun making cheesecake for the first time. Mini's and bars seem to be a lot more manageable.

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  18. Hazelnut is one of my favorite ingredients to work with, love it in the cheesecake!

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    1. I love hazelnuts - also almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pine nuts... : )

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  19. These mini cheesecakes are beautiful, Monica! I think you could totally make the full-fledged cheesecake with perfection, if these cheesecakes are any indication of the skills you have (: Hazelnut is a wonderful flavor combination with chocolate; I'd love to try this sometime!

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    1. I just enjoyed it so much since it was so easy to make - way easier than cupcakes with frosting and all that trickery. : )

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  20. These cheesecakes look so rich and delicious. I especially love the side shot - that tells exactly how yummy these cheesecakes are!

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  21. I like that it uses the food processor. A nice simple cheesecake! And I agree--plain cheesecake is too boring and a waste of calories (in my opinion).

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    1. I can see you're just as honest as I am - love it! : ) Yeah, I really like these food processor recipes. Not only is it quick and easy (except for washing up) but it's fun to do things a bit differently...

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  22. Monica, these cheesecakes look killer! I love the Oreo crust, too!

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    1. haha - thanks, Georgia. Do I detect a cheesecake fan?!

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  23. These look like the perfect size! And I'm with you on recipes that make things easier-nothing wrong with that :D

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    1. Definitely need easy for everyday! : )

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  24. They're gorgeous and I bet so rich and satisfying and the different textures of the layers - mmmm, perfect!

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    1. Thank you, Averie! I think you're right - the contrast in textures is a big appeal with cheesecake.

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  25. they look so yummy !! nice combo... I love cheesecakes :)

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  26. These mini cheesecakes look phenomenal! Hazelnut and chocolate flavors are a classic. :)

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    1. One of my favorite combinations, too!

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