HAZELNUT MINI-CHEESECAKES WITH NUTELLA TOPPING

Recipe courtesy of Judy's Kitchen (http://judyskitchen.blogspot.com)
Rating:  10 out of 10


CRUST: 
1/2 cup hazelnut meal or almond meal (Bob’s Red Mill)

3 Tbsp. coarsely chopped hazelnuts or almonds

2 tsp. butter

2 Tbsp. hazelnut paste, purchased or homemade (recipe follows)

3 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 Tbsp. natural unsweetened cocoa powder


Pulse all ingredients in food processor to combine.  Press about 1/2 Tbsp. onto bottoms of 24 paper-lined mini muffin pan cups.  Refrigerate.


Hazelnut Paste – If you cannot find hazelnut paste, here is a recipe to make it:

1  cup hazelnuts

1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar

pinch of salt

1 tsp. hazelnut liqueur

1 small to medium egg white


Heat oven to 350F.  Roast nuts 8-10 minutes till skins are dark brown and nuts are aromatic; immediately wrap nuts tightly in clean kitchen towel and place in warm place, such as your microwave oven, turned off, of course, 5-7 minutes to steam.  Rub nuts vigorously in the towel to remove as many of the skins as possible.  Transfer skinned nuts to quart-size plastic storage bag and pound with meat mallet till well crushed and pulverized.  (You can put the whole nuts right in your food processor, but crushing them first is easier on blades.)  Process crushed nuts in food processor till almost turned into hazelnut butter, scraping sides and bottom of work bowl as needed.  Add remaining ingredients and pulse till smooth and well combined.  Store in refrigerator up to two weeks.  Do not eat raw, use only in baked products.  Yield:  about 3/4 cup paste


CHEESECAKE FILLING:  

8 oz. Philadelphia brand cream cheese, or Neufchatel cheese

1/4 cup hazelnut paste

2 Tbsp. sugar

1 large egg 

1/2 tsp. hazelnut flavoring (Spices, etc. online)

1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 tsp. hazelnut liqueur

1 Tbsp. heavy cream


Heat oven to 325F.  In work bowl of food processor, pulse cream cheese, hazelnut paste and sugar till smooth.  Scrape sides and bottom of bowl; add egg, flavorings and liqueur and pulse till again smooth.  Add cream and pulse just till combined.  Spoon about 1 Tbsp. filling over each chilled crust.  Bake 15-17 minutes, or till cheesecake is just set.  Cool 5 minutes in pan, then turn out onto wire rack to finish cooling.


TOPPINGS: 

Nutella or Jif Chocolate-Hazelnut spread

Sweetened whipped cream


Spoon or pipe about 1 tsp. Nutella in the center of each cheesecake.  Pipe sweetened whip cream around edges.  Refrigerate.  Yield:  24 mini cheesecakes