I may just have fallen in love with cheesecake all over again. My new romance began when I flipped a page in Ottolenghi: The cookbook and saw a jaw-droppingly gorgeous cake staring me in the face. A quick scan of the recipe – oatmeal cookie crust, caramel sauce and macadamia nuts – and I was smitten. Two of the things I love about this version is that it is not too sweet and the crunchy nuts add a lovely counterpoint of texture to the creamy cheesecake. Although the recipe below is very close to the original, I have tweaked a few of the ingredient quantities and tried to simplify a few of the steps. Please don’t be daunted by the length of the recipe as the simply stellar toppings are not hard to make and I can honestly say I may never use another cheesecake recipe again because this one is just out of this world.
For the cheesecake
- 2 1/3 cups (600g) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (120g) white sugar
- ½ vanilla pod OR ½ teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla bean paste
- 4 eggs
- 1/4 cup (60mL) sour cream
- Icing or confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
For the crust
- 6 oz (160g) crisp oatmeal cookies (storebought ones are fine!)
- 3 tablespoons (45 mL) butter, melted
For the candied macadamia nuts
- 1 cup (150g) macadamia nuts
- 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons (90g) white sugar
For the caramel sauce
- 5 tablespoons (70g) butter
- 3/4 cup (160g) white sugar
- 7 tablespoons (100ml) whipping or heavy (35%) cream
- Preheat the oven to 275F/140C.
- Toast the macadamia nuts on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes until they are golden. Remove and set aside.
- While nuts are roasting, grease the sides of an 8 inch (20 cm) springform pan with butter. Cut a circle of parchment paper ½ inch (1.25 cm) larger than the bottom of the pan and use it to line the pan, smoothing the excess up the sides of the pan.
- Put the cookies in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the crumbs look like coarse sand (alternatively, put the cookies in a zip lock bag and crush with a rolling pin).
- Add the melted butter and mix well by pulsing a few more times (or stirring together).
- Pat the crumb mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared springform pan.
- Put the softened cream cheese and sugar in a large mixing bowl (use a stand mixer if you have one). Beat vigorously until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
- Split the vanilla pod lengthwise and use the tip of a sharp knife to scrape the seeds into the mixing bowl or add the vanilla bean paste to the bowl.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
- Add the sour cream and beat until smooth and creamy.
- Pour the cream cheese mixture into the prepared crust.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 65 – 70 minutes or until the cheesecake has set in the middle (test by inserting a skewer or toothpick in the centre; it should come out with some wet crumbs attached but not a gooey liquid).
- Remove the cheesecake from the oven and let cool to room temperature on a wire rack.
- Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for two hours; this will make it easier to carefully remove the springform band, lift the cake by the parchment paper and transfer it, discarding parchment, to a serving plate.
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Place the sugar in a large saucepan with a very thick bottom, making sure the sugar is in a very thin layer not more than 1/8 inch (3mm) thick (select a larger pan if necessary).
- Heat the sugar over medium-low heat until it turns a golden brown color – watch it closely to be sure it does not burn!
- Do not stir at any time but you can gently swirl the pan if you would like to try to dissolve all the sugar (but it’s fine if there are a few undissolved bits).
- Once the sugar has caramelized, carefully but quickly add the toasted nuts and stir with a wooden spoon until they are evenly coated.
- Pour the coated nuts onto the lined baking tray and allow to cool.
- When cooled, break or cut the nut brittle into pieces, leaving some nuts whole while halving others. Store in an airtight container until ready to serve.
- Put the butter and sugar in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan.
- Over medium heat, stir constantly for 7 – 10 minutes until the mixture becomes a dark golden, smooth caramel. It will look granular for a long time before it starts to turn brown and melt.
- Once the desired color is reached, carefully add the cream, (it will bubble up and steam) stirring vigorously until the cream is fully incorporated.
- Remove from heat and set aside to cool for 15 minutes before transferring to a heatproof jug or glass jar. It will thicken as it cools.
- Dust the sides and edges of the top of the chilled cheesecake with the icing sugar.
- Gently reheat the caramel sauce in the microwave just until it is soft enough to pour (you don’t want it to be too hot).
- Top the cake with about 2/3 of the caramel sauce, drizzling some down the sides. Save the rest of the sauce to eat later, by yourself, with a spoon.
- Scatter the candied macadamia nuts all over the top of the cake and cut into slices.
Serves 8 – 10.
Notes: The cheesecake can be made a day ahead; store in the fridge and add toppings just before serving. Leftovers (though you’re unlikely to have any) will keep for another two days.