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Location: Peoria, IL, United States

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Is This Seat Taken?

One of my coworkers, JB, is famous for her cheesecakes. She has brought some to work, and my technicians just go crazy for them. She mentioned on Thursday that there was a contest that she was thinking of entering, but it was in Modoc and she just wasn't sure if she should go.

"Modoc," I said, "It's not at the winery is it?"
"Yeah, Wilson Wines, or something like that?"
"Ohhhhhhh we are SOOOOOOO GOING!!!!"

That was the end of that. I've been wanting to visit Wilson Wines for awhile now, but hadn't made the 40 minute drive yet. Then she told me the get a free bottle of wine for every cheesecake you enter! Well, I had never made a cheesecake before but I had several recipes in my binder just waiting to be tried. Here's the perfect reason! So, in typical Haley style, I entered a food contest without ever tasting my entry :).

I definitely learned a few things about cheesecake making--the main thing being that you should ALWAYS butter a round of parchment paper and put that on the bottom, between the crust and the pan. Otherwise, you will be taking the pan with you to the contest. Also, let your ganache cool a little bit before pouring it onto the cake, otherwise you will have a mess in your fridge.

The day was so much fun. The winery itself was a small farm, with a little cookout patio area. They have a stage, where they host live music in the summer. Apparently, they have Bring Your Own Meat Fridays where they put grills out and you come and BBQ with a bunch of people. I think J and I will definitely try that sometime next year! JB and I were sitting alone at a table and we kept having people come up to our table and ask if they could sit with us in the extra two chairs. We met so many people this way! Suddenly I was Miss Social Butterfly, chatting about wine and food. I was completely in my element. It just makes me even more confident that I am finding my purpose in this world--food. I can't wait to see where this path leads!

Hey look, I actually remembered to take a picture!

Nutella Cheesecake with Chocolate Ganache
Adapted from The Picky Apple

3 cups Oreo crumbs, divided
2 Tbsp white sugar
1/2 cup melted butter

24 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1/2 cup milk
1 jar Nutella

1 cup heavy cream
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 Tbsp butter

1 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

Heat oven to 350.
Combine 2 cups crumbs with butter and sugar. Wrap springform pan in foil. Pat into the bottom of pan and bake for 15 minutes.
In bowl of mixer, beat cream cheese. Add sugar, flour, salt and vanilla until just combined. Add eggs, beat on low until just combined. Add milk and Nutella, beat until Nutella is completely mixed in.
Pour filling into springform pan.
Reduce heat to 300 Degrees. Place pan on cookie sheet and then place in oven. Bake for 1 hour, turn off oven and let bake for another 45 minutes, until center appears set when shaken lightly. Remove and cool on wire rack.
Bring cream to a boil. Pour over chocolate chips. Stir until smooth and shiny. Spread evenly over top of cheesecake.
Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight is better, to set.
Before serving, remove sides and bottom of pan. Carefully remove round of parchment paper from bottom of cake and place on serving dish.
Press remaining crumbs all around the cake to form the outside crust. Sprinkle toasted hazelnuts on top of cake (This is the perfect step if you, hm, have any cracks or have accidentally smudged the ganache. That's why I saved it for AFTER the refrigeration step. This ganache is soft enough to push the nuts into it.)
Note: Don't be surprised if you see me use some of the wines I bought today in my recipes. I only bought 4 bottles (and was given a bottle of Cranberry for entering a cake), but I will be going back to get more. I have no agreement with WW to use their wines, but they have several fantastic reds on their list. And the blackberry is to DIE for...Seriously, go check them out here.

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