A few things have happened since I last posted, but those things are definitely not cooking.
I have been doing locum work in Whanganui – the smallest town I’ve ever lived in, like ever – and staying in hospital accommodation (read: a cabin-style 2 bedroom house with a devastatingly broken toaster) since the beginning of June. Life has been ridiculously busy – in part due to the fact I would escape Whanganui, making the 2.5 hour drive to my family home in Wellington as soon as the opportunity presented itself (directly after a night shift, totally sleep deprived or otherwise), and then beyond having my life super-scheduled, I’d been stressing out over interviewing for a Radiology training job. Answering the “where are you from?” question that popped up time to time seemed to inevitably lead to the “I was working in Tauranga, my worldly possessions are in Wellington and now I’m working in Whanganui but ultimately I have no idea where I’m going”. This is the rootless limbo I’ve anxiously experienced and brokenly slept through since submitting my application for a five year Radiology training position in May. It’s utterly terrifying to want something so much, do everything you can to get it, and have to tell people that you’ve done so when the risk of not getting what you want, of not being enough, hangs in the balance.
All that being said, I thankfully – and not without reference to this food blog, actually – successfully interviewed to receive not only my dream Radiology registrar training job, but also in my first choice location. I’ll be moving to Auckland to start work on the 12 December, and it is a weight off my shoulders and ridiculously exciting prospect to actually be able to plan my life with the knowledge I’m working towards a career that really excites me.
This obviously doesn’t have much to do with the Nutella cheesecake I made, beyond the fact I now have time to dedicate to daydreaming about food again. It gives me so much fulfilment to ask people I like what they like to eat, and then create something beautiful that reflects that. The added bonus of this cheesecake is that I got to swap it for a personal training session – and so my urge to create these dream cakes can now be bartered away for things that are actually useful.
As for the cheesecake itself, it’s ridiculously easy to make given its no bake nature. I actually made the crust and filling while in Whanganui, which reflects how little equipment and kitchen space you really need to make this densely delicious creation. I love having a range of textures when it comes to desserts, and so I was inspired to top the mousse-like Nutella filling with crunchy, salted popcorn brittle. The brittle recipe itself yields loads, so there’s plenty for crushing and serving as part of an ice cream sundae, or just to eat pieces straight. I’m sorely tempted to drizzle broken pieces with milk chocolate for giving as a gift. Any nut will do in combination with the popcorn – I picked hazelnuts obviously to be paired with the Nutella. Now I want to make a marbled no-bake Snickers cheesecake with peanut popcorn brittle: clearly my imagination has returned.
no-bake Nutella cheesecake with Oreo crust and buttered popcorn brittle
- 16 Oreos (gluten free substitutes are available at Countdown)
- 50g dark chocolate
- 30g butter
Nutella cheesecake filling:
- 400g cream cheese, room temperature
- 300g Nutella
- 100g dark chocolate
- 50g sour cream
- 50g icing sugar
Buttered popcorn brittle:
- 3 cups (45g) popcorn, freshly popped or store bought
- 30g hazelnuts
- 60ml water
- 200g sugar
- 40g butter
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
Extras for decorating:
- Chocolate ganache: 100g dark chocolate/40g butter
- Ferrero Rochers
- Edible gold leaf
For the cheesecake:
- Grease and line a 5″ springform cake tin (I know these may be hard to come by, so feel free to use a larger tin. I prefer my cakes small and tall.)
- Melt the butter and dark chocolate together, either over low heat in a saucepan or in 30 second bursts in the microwave until fully melted. Crush the Oreos in a food processor or by hand until they are a fine crumb. Combine with the melted chocolate/butter mixture and press into the lined cake tin, creating an even base. Set in the freezer while preparing the filling for faster setting time, or set in the fridge for at least an hour.
- For the Nutella filling, melt the dark chocolate and half of the Nutella either on the stove or again, in the microwave heating for short bursts until nearly completely melted. Stir until the chocolate and Nutella are satiny smooth. Set aside to cool.
- Beat the cream cheese and remaining half of the Nutella on high speed until the mixture is fluffy and combined. Add the melted chocolate/Nutella combo, sour cream and icing sugar and beat further until the filling has an almost mousse-like texture.
- Scrape the Nutella cheesecake on top of the Oreo crust and use a spatula to spread the filling out evenly. Set in the fridge for at least 3 hours, or ideally overnight.
For the brittle:
- Line a baking tray or cookie sheet with baking paper/Silpat, or grease thoroughly so the brittle doesn’t stick.
- Toast the hazelnuts in a fry pan over medium heat until they reach a pale brown colour. Set aside to cool, then chop roughly into pieces. Smash the popcorn up into bits – I had my popcorn in a bag that I bashed about with the end of a wine bottle, but you can also pop it in a food processor if you want smaller popcorn pieces. Have the popcorn and hazelnuts in a bowl ready to be combined with the brittle.
- In a small saucepan, add the water followed by the sugar, taking care not to let the sugar sneak up the sides of the pan. Over medium heat and without stirring, bring to 300-330F on a sugar thermometer, or until it is starting to caramelise and turning a golden brown. Have the butter, baking soda and salt on hand nearby.
- Immediately remove from heat and stir through the butter, baking soda and salt. Add the crushed popcorn and hazelnuts, combining to coat, before scraping out onto the baking tray. I used an extra piece of baking paper and a rolling pin to make my brittle flat.
- Leave to cool for half an hour or so before breaking up into rough pieces. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
To assemble and decorate:
- Quickly make the chocolate ganache by heating the chocolate and butter over very low heat, stirring constantly until smooth and shiny. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
- Remove the set cheesecake from its springform cake tin and transfer to a cake board or serving plate, securing down with a little dab of ganache.
- Transfer the ganache to a snapback bag, nipping off an end with scissors to create a 0.5inch or so diameter tip. Drizzle the ganache over the cheesecake as you wish (I went with a crescent shape, allowing some of the ganache to drip down the sides). Top the ganache with the crushed popcorn brittle and Ferrero Rochers, securing your pile of treats down with extra ganache. Decorate with a final flourish of gold leaf.
- Store in the fridge in an airtight container until ready to serve – this tastes best when it is super cold! This dessert could easily serve 8-12 people and will keep in the fridge for three days or so.