Slow-Cooker Hazelnut Cheesecake with Hazelnut Crumble

I think it might have been the tagline on the front of the cookbook.  I took it as a challenge, of sorts.  “Barbecue, Stir-Fry, Roast, Poach, Stew…EVEN BAKE A CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE.  I’m referring to the newest slow cooker cookbook from the innovative team at America’s Test Kitchen.  “Slow Cooker Revolution” is full of great recipes, but I was intrigued by the concept of cheesecake in a slow cooker.  It seemed like a sound principle: slow, moist heat cooking is just the ticket for a creamy textured cheesecake, with no surface cracks.  I didn’t bake the chocolate cake; I tweaked the basic recipe just a little and flavored it with hazelnut paste and liqueur, then topped the cake with a crunchy, buttery hazelnut crumble.  Perfection!  It’s a small cake, but there’s still enough to make eight cheesecake lovers very happy.  As with most cheesecakes, it can be made up to three days ahead of serving, just apply the crumble at the last moment.  If you have a slow cooker that’s been gathering dust, clean it up and give this a try.  You’ll be glad you did.

Slow-Cooker Hazelnut Cheesecake with Hazelnut Crumble
(makes one 6-inch cake, to serve 8)
For the Cake:
6 whole graham crackers, crushed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled (plus additional for the pan)
2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch salt
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup hazelnut praline paste (such as Love N’Bake or Trablit brand)
2 tablespoons Frangelico liqueur
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
For the crumble:
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/3 cup finely chopped, blanched hazelnuts
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
A generous pinch of salt
Fill the slow cooker with 1/2-inch water (about 2 cups) and place aluminum foil rack* in the bottom.  Pulse the graham crackers in food processor to fine crumbs.  Combine the crumbs, melted butter, 1 tablespoon sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt in a bowl until evenly moistened.  Transfer the crumbs to a lightly buttered 6-inch springform pan, and press evenly into the pan.  I found that I did not need to use all the crumbs (I don’t like too thick a crust).  Wipe out the food processor bowl.  Process the cream cheese, 2/3 cup sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in the now-empty food processor until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add sour cream, eggs, hazelnut paste, liqueur, and vanilla; process until just incorporated, about 15 seconds; do not overmix.  Pour the filling into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Set the cheesecake on the prepared rack, cover, and cook until the cake registers 150Β°F, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours on high.  Turn off the slow cooker and let cheesecake sit for 1 hour, still covered.  Transfer the cheesecake to a wire rack.  Run a small knife around edge of the cake; gently blot away any condensation using paper towels.  Let cool in the pan to room temperature, about 1 hour.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours or up to 3 days.  Several hours before you want to serve the cake, prepare the crumble.  Preheat the oven to 350Β°F.  Butter a small baking pan.  In a small bowl cream together the butter and sugar.  Add the chopped hazelnuts, flour, and a pinch of salt.  Mix until evenly combined.  Spread out on the prepared sheet in an even layer.  Bake until golden brown and crispy, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside.  When cool, break into small crumbly pieces.  About 30 minutes before serving, run a small knife around the edge of the cheesecake again, then remove the sides of the pan.  Apply an even layer of crumble to the top of the cake (you will not use all of it), and press it down gently.  Slide the cake off the pan bottom (if you are able), and onto a serving plate.  Serve to your happy family and friends.
* To fashion a foil rack to elevate your cake above the water in the cooker, loosely roll a 24 by 12-inch piece of foil into a 1-inch cylinder.  Bend the sides of cylinder in to form an oval that measures 8 inches long by 5 inches wide.  After adding water to the slow cooker, place the foil rack in the center, then place the cake pan on top.    
(Cake recipe gently adapted from “America’s Test Kitchen:  Slow Cooker Revolution, Volume 2“)



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