Torta Gianduja (or Nutella Cheesecake)

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I have never held much with calorie counting. I prefer to exercise vociferously so I can eat pretty much what I want without too many waistband complications. That is the theory anyway- my downfall may just come with the recent re-discovery of this recipe. I made this up years ago after having something similar in Milan, but somehow managed to forget all about it. It was only when I trying to get organised and sort through the apocalypse of paper which is my recipe folder that I came across it again. It was as good as I remembered and I have tweaked it a little so it is even easier to make. There is no way that I can even pretend that it is remotely good for you, but, ’tis the season and all that, so a little of what you fancy certainly does my mood the world of good!

Torta Gianduja literally means chocolate hazelnut cake-there is no proper equivalent word in Italian for cheesecake, but feel free to send me a message if you know of one! Gianduja is a rich chocolate hazelnut spread, invented in Turin which is very popular in Italy, especially in the Piedmonte region-think Ferrero Rocher and Nutella (which was originally called pasta gianduja) and you are there.

Nutella, or indeed any chocolate spread, has been a weakness of mine since I was a child, so the combination of it with a creamy cheesecake mixture is just divine. It is light, yet satisfying and is also incredibly simple, as it is a no-bake cheesecake.  I saw that Nigella did a very similar version in her Nigellissima series this year, so that should show you how easy it is, as she doesn’t tend to do much hard labour in the kitchen!

I am a life-long hater of Christmas pudding, so this is a welcome alternative to excess cinnamon, currants and general heaviness. At this time of frequent meltdown in the kitchen, it’s nice to know that this can be made days in advance and it will sit happily in the fridge, waiting for it’s turn to come. Please don’t take that to mean this is just a festive pud-despite the fact we go through industrial amounts of Ferrero Rocher in my house at this time of year, I would eat it any time. Although my jeans wouldn’t thank me for it!

Torta Gianduja

250 grams Digestive Biscuits

75 grams Butter (soft)

400 grams (one large jar) Nutella or any good chocolate hazelnut spread (at room temperature)

100 grams Hazelnuts (toasted and chopped-you can buy these ready prepared in most supermarkets)

500 grams Cream Cheese (full fat and at room temperature)

3 tablespoons of Frangelico or Kahlua (optional)

Method

Make sure your Nutella and cream cheese has been out of the fridge for at least a couple of hours. this is really important as otherwise, you will get little spots of solid cream cheese in the end cheesecake, however hard you mix it. Break up the digestives using a food processor or putting in a food bag and bashing with something solid. Melt the butter in the microwave for 30 seconds in a large bowl, the add the digestive crumbs. Add 50g of the hazelnuts and mix unntil nicely combined.

Tip into a 23cm round springform tin, with the base turned upside down ( see Kitchen Tip #5) and press down until the base feels solid and even. Put in the fridge to set a bit.

Beat the cream cheese  until smooth and then add the Nutella and liqueur (if using) to the cream cheese mixture, and continue beating until combined. Do this thoroughly, as the cream cheese tends to hide white bits in the mixture and you want a uniform chocolate mass.

Take the tin out of the fridge and, resisting the urge to put your head in the bowl, smooth the mixture over the base. Scatter the remaining of chopped hazelnuts on top to cover and put in the fridge for at least five hours or preferably overnight.

Just before serving, cover with a scattering of icing sugar for a festive look. This is best served cold, but it won’t collapse if it is out for a little while before serving.

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