I saw a recipe for Nigella Lawson’s Nutella cheesecake, but I wasn’t sure I could digest Nutella properly in large quantities, given that there’s a lot of milk powder in there. Not to mention all the sugar! This reminded me that it’s been a while since I made my own chocolate spread (I almost always have a jar of chocolate Soom on hand, though!). I decided to make this Paleo version, strictly because it didn’t call for roasting and peeling hazelnuts. You can argue that hazelnuts taste better roasted than raw, and I’d agree, but I didn’t want to overcomplicate my life. It’s sweetened with maple syrup instead of cane sugar and it is dairy-free. The recipe below is my version, which is sweeter than the original, but still not too sweet, I promise. The yield is about 1 cup, or roughly 450 g.
So I made it, I used most of it for the cheesecake recipe below, had a bit of it on toast (and more straight from the spoon), and I really recommend it. As for the cheesecake: it is meant to be a raw cheesecake, so the crust isn’t baked. In my opinion, this makes it crumble too much, so I would make a standard baked version next time. That being said, it calls for digestive biscuits (which I LOVE!) instead of graham crackers, and I wonder why I had never thought of that before! Nigella Lawson said about his recipe, “I don’t know if I should apologise for this or boast about it", and I’d say it’s definitely the second one. Note, however, than my cheesecake wasn’t as sweet as hers, given my homemade chocolate spread instead of the Nutella. Nevertheless, it was fantastic, and I’ll definitely be making this again! (Also, while the cake does look better with chopped hazelnuts on top, I prefer the consistency without them. And of course you could omit them and use nut-free chocolate spread to make a nut-free version of this cake.)
For the chocolate spread
2/3 cup hazelnuts
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup cacao powder
½ cup coconut oil
2/3 cup maple syrup
Soak the hazelnuts in water overnight, then drain and rinse well.
Put hazelnuts in a high-speed blender (I used my Vitamix) or food processor and blend until smooth, then add salt and pulse to combine. Add cacao powder and coconut oil and blend to combine, scraping down sides of jar as needed. Add maple syrup and blend to form a paste. If the mixture were to separate, just add warm water, 1 tablespoon at a time, while blender is running to bring mixture back together.
Place the chocolate spread in a jar. You can refrigerate it for up to 2 weeks, but I preferred its consistency at room temperature, and since I was using it within several days, this was not a problem.
For the chocolate cheesecake
250 g. (one 8.8-oz package) digestive biscuits, or substitute graham crackers or chocolate wafers
75 g. (5 Tbsp. + 1 tsp.) lactose-free butter or margarine, at room temperature or melted (see below)
400 g. (one 375-g. jar is fine) Nutella or chocolate spread, at room temperature, divided
2/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped, divided (optional, see below)
500 g. (two 8-oz. packages is fine) lactose-free cream cheese, at room temperature
60 g. (½ cup) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
For a raw crust, break the digestives in the bowl of a food processor, add the softened butter and a tablespoon of Nutella, and blitz until it starts to clump. Add 25 g. (3 tablespoons) of the hazelnuts and continue to pulse until you have a damp, sandy mixture. Tip into a 9-inch round springform pan and press into the base uniformly (I like using the bottom of a glass for this). Place in the fridge to chill.
Alternatively, if you want to bake the crust, use melted butter and bake the crust at 350 °F for 10 minutes, then let cool before proceeding with the rest of the cake. I don’t think it would make much difference consistency-wise if you omitted the hazelnuts here.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Add the remaining Nutella to the cream cheese mixture and continue beating until combined.
Carefully smooth the Nutella mixture over the base. Scatter the remaining chopped hazelnuts on top (if desired, obviously) and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight. Serve straight from the fridge for best results.