I am at a loss for words with this one. It is the best cheesecake I have ever made, or ever tasted. For someone that is known for her cheesecakes, that's saying something right there.
I have been fascinated with the notion of caramelized white chocolate ever since I saw the last Top Chef finale, when Bryan Voltaggio put it in a cheesecake. I didn't want to copy that recipe, yet I felt the need to think about it for a while, I guess.
Last month, I bought some hazelnuts, and wanted to try a few things with them. I wanted to make a cheesecake, but I felt that there needed to be something more than just hazelnuts. One night, it just hit me - now was the time to experiment with caramelizing white chocolate. I was lucky enough to be successful at caramelizing white chocolate my first attempt. I could have eaten the whole pound as soon as it was cool enough to not burn my tongue. That stuff is amazing!
Caramelizing the white chocolate is fairly easy. I followed the details on this blog, and it worked very well. It's great as a ganache, or a sauce, or just with a spoon. I had meant to reserve a bit and make a light ganache with it, but I discovered it was great on vanilla wafers.
Caramelized White Chocolate Cheesecake
1 1/2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
2/3 c. finely chopped roasted hazelnuts
5 T. melted butter
2 lb. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
10 oz. white chocolate, caramelized and cooled to room temperature
1/4 c. frangelico or other hazelnut liquor
1 cup sour cream
2 T. frangelico or other hazelnut liquor
Preheat oven to 350. Mix crust ingredients together and press into a 9" springform pan, pressing up the sides about 2". Bake for 10 minutes while you make the filling.
Put cream cheese in a mixing bowl, and mix for a minute or two to soften. Add sugar, and mix for 2 minutes. Slowly add eggs, one at a time, making sure mixture is well mixed. Add white chocolate and 1/4 c. frangelico. Pour over crust and bake at 350 for 1 hour 15 minutes, until top is browned and cheesecake only jiggles slightly when moved.
Remove from oven. Mix sour cream and remaining frangelico and pour over cheesecake. Place back in oven and bake for 10 more minutes. Turn oven off and leave cheesecake in the oven for 1 hour. Then put in refrigerator.
Serve with caramel sauce and toasted hazelnuts.