Tangy, rich, delicious: Chevre Cheesecake with Hazelnut Crust and Fruit Compote

by Marion on March 5, 2014

Chevre—mild goat cheese—and lemon juice give this cheesecake a tangy flavor note. The hazelnut adds a rich, nutty crunch, and the fruit compote a lively tart finish. Recipes—and substitutions—below.

chevre cheesecake and compote

Cheesecake was not a part of my life as a child. The first time I had it was as a teenager, at some party or another, and everything single thing about that event has fallen away except that it was the first time I tasted cheesecake—this time-stopping moment in which the dull clouds parted to reveal this sweet, rich, suave, glowing nexus of perfection.

Entire restaurant empires have been built on a foundation of cheesecake—lemon, New York style,  chocolate, white chocolate, turtle, carrot cake, pumpkin, coffee, peanut butter, caramel, black forest—cheesecake in a cup—cheesecake poppers—cheesecake on a stick. As far as I am concerned, you cannot go wrong with any of them. It’s cheesecake, man! In the last year or so, we’ve run across a few versions that incorporate chevre—mild goat cheese—and we love them too. For this version, we chose to blend cream cheese and goat cheese for a pastry that is mildly tangy, the tang boosted a bit with lemon juice.

We did a fair amount of experimenting to arrive at this recipe—fine, we were not exactly suffering. For the first version that we made, we used a crust based on gingersnaps. That was okay, but for the second version, I went with my favorite cheesecake crust, based on roasted hazelnuts.

When you are choosing hazelnuts, keep in mind that this crust will taste better if the hazelnuts are freshly roasted. If you have the choice between roasted and unroasted, it is worth the extra bit of work to roast your own.

roasted hazelnuts

Here’s how to roast and prepare hazelnuts. Heat the oven to 350ºF. Pour the hazelnuts onto a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer—they should not crowd together. Slide the sheet into the hot oven. After 5 minutes, open the oven door and stir them. Do the same after another 5 minutes. They will start turning light golden brown and be done some time between one and four minutes later, depending on their size and the neurosis of your oven. Don’t let them blacken—if that happens, you will have to throw them away, so it is better to lean on the side of a little undone.

While all this is going on, clear a spot on your counter or table and lay out a clean bath towel. When the hazelnuts are done, slide the sheet out of the oven and pour the nuts onto the bath towel.  Set the sheet aside (I usually open the back door and lob it onto the porch). Close up the towel, twist the top and roll roll roll roll roll. You are rolling the skins off the hazelnuts. This part feels gratifying. After a couple of minutes, open the towel cautiously. There will be a modest amount of loose hazelnut skins. They are very thin and lightweight and ready to float around and land everywhere on your table and your face. Do not laugh at this point. It will just make things worse. Pick out the hazelnuts and put them in a bowl. Then carefully fold up the towel, clean side out, and take it outdoors and shake out the skins. Some will perversely cling to the towel; those will come out in the wash. Like me, you will probably have to change clothes, and there will still be a residue of hazelnut skins hanging around the table. Yes, I am making this process sound a lot worse than it actually is. Let the hazelnuts cool in the bowl. After you measure out what you will need for the crust, save any extras for a great snack—I like to have a few when I get home from work so I don’t go wild and eat, well, all the cheesecake.

Chevre Cheesecake with Hazelnut Crust
Serves 12

For the crust:
2 cups roasted hazelnuts
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted

For the filling:
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
12 ounces chevre (we use Costco’s or Trader Joe’s)
1/2 cup sour cream (or crème fraiche)
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
scant 1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 tablespoon flour

For the compote:
1 cup blueberries, divided in half
1 cup strawberries, topped and cut into big chunks
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Make the crust. Put about 2 cups of hazelnuts into the food processor with 1/4 cup of sugar and process in bursts until the hazelnuts are finely ground. Go carefully! I process this in bursts,  taking off the lid and stirring everything to ensure that the nuts grind finely and evenly. You do not want to overprocess and turn this into a mass of hazelnut butter. Working in bursts and keeping an eye on the outcome are essential to yield a consistency that is fine-ground without releasing the oils that will turn this into a butter.

Turn the hazelnuts into a small bowl and add 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter. Mix until everything is blended together.

Prepare the springform pan: butter or oil the bottom and sides of the pan. Press the hazelnut mix into the bottom only of the pan. You don’t have to use all of it. The idea is to have an even, thin crust.

Prepare the cheesecake batter. About an hour beforehand, take the cheeses, the sour cream and the eggs out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Put the cheeses in a big mixing bowl and, using an electric hand mixer, beat until they are mixed together. Scrape down the sides. Add the sour cream, vanilla, lemon juice, salt and sugar and mix again until everything is incorporated together. Scrape the sides again, if possible, scraping with one hand while wielding the mixer with the other (you don’t have to worry about this juggling act if you have a stand mixer, you lucky bastard).

Add eggs and beat again. At this point, the batter will suddenly become sleek and fluffy in appearance—it will just look beautiful and you will know it is right. Finally, sprinkle the tablespoon of flour over all, and mix again very briefly.

Bake the cake. Scrape and pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and slide it into the center of the hot oven. Bake for about 50 minutes. Bake until the edges are set and slightly pulling away from the side, the top is subtly golden, and the center is still slightly wobbly. I am not talking about a general overall wobble but something more subtle, concentrating in the maybe three inches of the center. If the top cracks, that is okay.

Cool completely. When it has cooled, run a knife around the edge, loosen the springform ring, then remove it. Cut into wedges—this should produce at least 12 wedges—plate, spoon the compote artfully on the plate, and serve.

Meanwhile, make the compote. Put half the blueberries, all the strawberries, water, lemon juice and sugar in a pan. Turn on the heat and simmer.  After 5 minutes of simmering, add the rest of the blueberries. Cook five minutes more. Remove from heat. Done. Let it cool. You may also serve this on pancakes, French toast, ice cream or plain yogurt.

Kitchen Notes

Other crust ideas. In our initial version of this, we used gingersnaps for the crust. We liked it – that came out OK.  The traditional American graham cracker crust would work wonderfully with this recipe, or you could use any cookie that you like, just any at all, ground up in the processor and mixed with butter. The next time I make this, I will probably base the crust on chocolate chip cookies.

Top this. Instead of compote, you can use whole fresh blueberries or raspberries, or fresh sliced strawberries, or mango cut into little chunks, or sliced, sauteed apples or pears. Or you can just eat the stuff straight. It’s awesome. I admit it.

Individual cheesecakes. Instead of using a 9-inch springform pan, prepare  10 or 12 6-ounce ramekin cups (I just used the humble glass Pyrex ones that are sold in grocery stores all over North America). Oil the ramekin at the start. Press a little hazelnut mixture into the bottom, spoon in the batter, and bake for 20-22 minutes. Cool completely, run a knife around the edge, and, to serve, turn out on a dessert plate. Spoon compote or fresh fruit around it.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Dr. M March 5, 2014 at 9:50 am

Um, yum. So far I have not made a full size cheesecake, only cheesecake cupcakes. Partly because I don’t own a springform pan (can’t find one that doesn’t look like it’s going to break in one use) and partly because getting that perfect finish is so daunting. Despite this I manage to eat cheesecake fairly often, it has been my favorite dessert since I was a little girl. My mother made it for me on my birthdays and my aunt brought real New York cheesecakes to Easter and Christmas dinners. I’m glad you discovered it when you did, it would have been a real shame to have missed out much longer.

John@Kitchen Riffs March 5, 2014 at 10:11 am

I’m not all that wild about graham cracker crust (or even gingersnap, which is better), so your hazelnut crust sounds terrific. Lately we’ve (well Mrs K R — she’s the baker) been making things like this with a walnut crust, which is wonderful. Definitely will have to try the hazelnut one, though — love your description of how to make it! I always like to know what I’m in for when I’m trying a new recipe. I love cheesecake, and this is such an excellent recipe — thanks.

randi March 5, 2014 at 12:27 pm

This is a great post. I laughed out loud at the hazelnut skin section because it’s VERY familiar. I will definitely make this. It has never occurred to me to use Chevre with cream cheese. You can’t possibly go wrong. Never made a nut crust before but I’ve had almond ones. So delicious. But I do like Graham crust too. I usually make blueberry cheesecake but put the hot compote on the hot cake and let them cool together. That way it seeped into the cake bit and traveled through any cracks.

Mimi March 5, 2014 at 7:29 pm

I never liked cheesecake growing up. But when I worked for an ad agency, one of my jobs each fall was to write copy for a holiday cookie-and-dessert piece for a local deli that made desserts on the side. Just reading my own writing made me salivate. Up until that, I wasn’t very good at or interested in flavor pairings. But that cured me. Bourbon-pumpkin cheesecake did it.

I’d love chevre in my cheesecake. This looks like a good classic and basic recipe that would pair well with any topping. A winner, TerryB.

Marion March 5, 2014 at 8:50 pm

Dr.M, I knowwww, – even then my thought was “why was I not informed?” We have several brands of springform pan around the house right now, but our current favorite is Kaiser – sturdy, solid, easy to use. And regarding the finish, don’t worry about it. It’s still cheesecake! If the top cracks, so what – follow randi’s great tip about the hot compote if the top looks less than perfect to you. (Thanks randi!)

Thanks, Mimi!

John, Mrs. K R’s idea of walnut crust sounds fantastic. I bet it would be great with a lime cheesecake or, inspired by Mimi’s comment, a straight-up bourbon cheesecake. We’ve always, always got bourbon in the house.

Dr. M March 5, 2014 at 11:49 pm

Kaiser, ok. I will see if I can find that one.

Tomorrow I am making a banana cake for my colleague’s birthday. Apparently several people have made it in the past but it hasn’t been quite as good as she once had it, which that time may or may not have been made by a bakery. So basically I’ve been challenged to make it the best cake ever, but the damn bananas aren’t ripe enough, even though I bought the last week. I think I’m going to try to precook them … Maybe a sauté with brown sugar to try to get them softer. Any thoughts?

Terry B March 6, 2014 at 7:54 am

Hi, Dr. M. This is Terry sticking his nose in. According to Lifehacker, you can quickly ripen bananas in the oven. You’ll find the details here. We’ve not tried it, but it sounds promising. If you try it, let us know how it works.

Bruce March 6, 2014 at 11:17 am

Marion,
I can’t fully express how relieved I am that you didn’t suffer too much while experimenting with this recipe. That is all.

p.s. I can’t wait to try this!

Dr. M March 6, 2014 at 9:15 pm

Terry, thanks for the info. I did end up baking the bananas (for 30 min) and they came out looking exactly like the picture. I was able to scoop out the flesh with a spoon (one of the most disgusting things ever – I hate bananas even more now). But it did work beautifully! I will let you know how the cake turns out, and how it compares to previous iterations.

Marion March 6, 2014 at 11:27 pm

Bruce, thank you so much, we are continuing to not suffer too much with the bit that remains. I just dragged my sorry self home from class and forced myself to have one more slice – so Terry would not have to, you know, suffer alone.

Marion March 6, 2014 at 11:28 pm

Also, Dr M, Kaiser springforms are available at Sur La Table.

Dr. M March 8, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Oh, great, we love that store.

The cake apparently came out amazing. I couldn’t eat any of it. I was too disgusted by the bananas.

Marion March 8, 2014 at 7:58 pm

Oh dear. I sometimes feel that way when I make new to me and overly elaborate cookie recipes. The fussing around really gets to me. By the time they are all done, so am I.

Dani H March 20, 2014 at 12:51 am

Cheesecake ranks almost as high as pie and homemade doughnuts in my opinion, and this sounds sublime! There’s one problem, though ~ how often I’d have to make it to try all the variations that sound amazing, as well!

Alex March 26, 2014 at 11:43 am

Just found your blog and love it! This cheesecake looks amazing. I just made a pretty amazing vegan cheesecake (http://www.veganosity.com/food/raspberry-lime-vegan-cheesecake/) and I think I might be able to incorporate these flavors into our original recipe. I can’t wait to give it a shot!

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