Rhubarb curd cheesecake with hazelnut crust

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This cheesecake was in no way planned, and somehow turned out perfectly! I wasn’t even planning on cheesecake at all until I ended up with three packages of cream cheese that I picked up on super sale at our local supermarket. The idea for rhubard curd on top came from the bag of frozen rhubarb that’s been in my freezer for way too long. And the hazelnut crust? A gigantic bag of raw hazelnuts that I bought last week to make hazelnut cookies. But guess what? Nutty hazelnut crust is the perfect balance for sweet, custardy cheesecake filling, which goes perfectly with tart rhubarb curd. Guess what else? Eating a handful of toasted hazelnuts followed immediately by a spoonful of still-slightly-warm rhubard curd is a really good idea.

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The thing that I liked best about this cheesecake was how easy it was. Lots of steps, but really simple steps. Like adding the ingredients in small doses and mixing the cheesecake batter for one full minute between each addition to ensure a super creamy filling. Like starting the cheesecake out in a super-hot oven and then cooking it low and slow to prevent cracks without the hassle of a waterbath. The texture of this cheesecake was lovely: creamy and custard-like. Like taking the time to toast hazelnuts and grind them into a fine powder instead of just using hazelnut meal. I will admit that I spent a good hour of active time in the kitchen to get all of the different components ready, and then had to wait for what seemed like hours for the cheesecake to cook and then cool off and then be refrigerated… All in all it was quite the project. But knowing that I still have half a cheesecake waiting for me at home in my fridge for dessert this week makes that so worth it!

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Rhubarb curd cheesecake with hazelnut crust

Ingredients (serves 8-12 people):
For the crust:
1/2 cup hazelnuts
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
Pinch of salt

For the curd:
3 cups (fresh or frozen) rhubarb
1/2 cup water + more if needed
1/4 cup sugar

4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter, cubed
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice

For the filling:
20 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup sour cream

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Preheat your oven to 350°. Add the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast them, turning occasionally, for about 6-8 minutes (they should be slightly browned). Set aside.

Begin by preparing your rhubarb curd. Place the rhubarb, sugar and water in a large saucepan, over medium heat. Cook the rhubarb until there are no visible chunks and it ressembles a thick purée, adding more water by the spoonful if needed, about 20-25 minutes total. Make sure to stir every once in awhile, but you can pretty much be doing something else while it’s cooking. Once finished, remove from heat and let cool.

While the curd is cooling, start making your crust! Place the toasted hazelnuts, flour, salt and brown sugar in a food processor or blender and pulse until the mixture has a nice mealy texture. Place the butter in the food processor directly, or remove the mixture and cut it in with a pastry blender (or your hands!). The crust will be moist, but should not be sticky (if it is, add a bit more flour). Line the bottom of a springform pan with a round of wax paper. Dump your crust into the pan and pat it down using your hands or the bottom of a measuring cup. Cover the bottom of your pan completely and push the crust up along the sides as much as possible. Place in the oven and cook for about 15 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Let’s start the cream cheese filling! First, turn up your oven to 500°. Place the cream cheese in the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Mix the cream cheese on medium speed for 3-4 minutes, until it’s nice and creamy. Add half of the sugar and the salt, and mix for about one minute. Add the rest of the sugar, and mix for one minute more. Now add the egg yolk, sour cream, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Mix for (you guessed it) about a minute longer. Add the eggs, one by one, mixing for about 30 seconds in between additions. The result should be impossibly creamy. Pour the filling into your pre-baked crust and bake for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 200° and continue baking for 45 minutes longer.

While the cheesecake is baking, you can finish your rhubarb curd! Place the rhubarb purée in your blender and mix until nice and smooth. Heat a small amount of water in a saucepan and place a heat-safe bowl on top to create a double boiler. In the bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest and juice until combined. Add the cubed butter all at once and whisk constantly while it melts. Continue whisking and add in the rhubarb purée, a few spoonfuls at a time. Once all of the purée has been added, continue whisking for about five minutes, until the mixture has thickened nicely. Your curd is ready!

After 45 minutes, remove the cheesecake from the oven and pour an even layer of curd over it (you’ll probably use about half of the curd). Put it back in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes longer, until the curd has set on top. Reserve remaining curd to pour on top later, dip hazelnuts in, stir into yogurt or whatever you like! Remove the cheesecake from the oven and let it cool for about 30 minutes before running a knife around the edges and removing the sides of your springform pan. Let cool another 30 minutes minimum before sliding the entire creation onto a plate or cake stand and placing in the refrigerator. Cool completely before serving, and sprinkle with a few toasted hazelnuts!

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