Cheesecake,  Christmas,  Dessert

White Chocolate Hazelnut Cranberry Cheesecake

There will always be a cheesecake on my holiday menu.  I’ve made so many over the years I believe they are in direct competition for my love of biscotti!!  The true beauty of cheesecakes is that they can be frozen!  Preparing a cheesecake a few weeks ahead of your planned party is truly a time saver while your guests think you are an incredible hostess…..  “wow…she works full time, raises two kids and throws together fabulous dinner parties with homemade cheesecake!  how does she do it all??…”  Yes, just smile, we are in on the secret together and I never kiss…oops, bake and tell! 

Some recipes just won’t work to bake and freeze ahead; but this one will just fine.  Basically a classic New York Cheesecake with white chocolate blended in the filling.  Toppings are always added afterward; therefore, a good solid cheesecake will freeze for up to 1 month.  Place in the refrigerator overnight to thaw and top the next day. 

I like to play up the crust ingredients, adding nuts for extra flavor.  And, if you know me, a bit of flavored liqueur just because. 

White Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake with Cranberry Glaze

Adapted from Bon Appetite Magazine, 1997

For the crust:

5 ½ oz gingersnap cookies

½ cup hazelnuts, toasted

¼ cup butter, melted

For the filling:

8 oz good quality white chocolate, finely chopped

3 8 oz packages of cream cheese, room temperature

6 tablespoons sugar

1 cup sour cream

3 tablespoons Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur)

4 large eggs, room temperature

For the topping:

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon Frangelico

3 cups fresh cranberries (12 oz package)

1 cup sugar

¾ cup water

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place a shallow casserole filled with water on the bottom rack.  (This is my standard way for baking cheesecakes providing moisture in the oven.)

To make the crust:

Butter a 9 inch spring form pan on the bottom and sides.  Finley process the gingersnaps and hazelnuts.  Add in melted butter and mix well.  Press into bottom and about 2 inches up the sides of prepared pan.  Bake until crust is lightly toasted about 8 minutes. Allow to cool.  Maintain oven temperature.

To make the filling:

In the top of a double boiler set over simmering water, stir the white chocolate until melted.  Remove pan from water and cool slightly.  Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl until blended and smooth.  Add sour cream, Frangelico and beat until well blended.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Beat in melted white chocolate.  Pour filling into prepared crust.  Bake until top is golden, slightly puffed and center is only slightly jiggly.   Remove from oven and gently run a small knife around sides of the pan to loosen the cake.  Continue to cool in pan on rack, cake will fall in center slightly.  Refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours.

To make the topping:

In a small bowl dissolve 1 teaspoon cornstarch in 1 teaspoon Frangelico and set aside.  Combine 1 cup cranberries, sugar and water in a heavy medium saucepan.  Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves about 5 minutes.  Add remaining 2 cups of cranberries, grated lemon zest and cornstarch mixture.  Simmer until cranberries just begin to pop and mixture thickens, about 5 minutes.  Cool.  Cover and refrigerate.  Can be made up to 2 days ahead. 

To serve:

Release the cheesecake from the pan by again running a knife around the sides to loosen completely.  Remove pan sides smoothing sides with a knife if necessary.  Transfer cheesecake to a platter.  Drain and press the cranberries well to avoid too much liquid on the cake.  Top the cake evenly with the cranberries.  Any extra cranberries can be offered separately with each slice.  Makes 12 servings.

Note to Geni or anyone interested in making MINI Cheesecakes:   I use a mini cheesecake pan with removable bottoms.  They make adorable individual cheesecakes. 

I love being in the kitchen. Early mornings, soft music, a hot espresso. Easing into the preparation of delicious meals. Glancing through cookbooks, gathering inspiration and planning my day. I look forward to the cycles of the seasons, the pleasures of tasting and savoring and sharing this with those dear to me. Weekends are special to me as my week days are often rushed, but still I create the ambiance, light the candles, set the table and uncork the wine.


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