Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake
There was once a girl who followed a boy to the other side of the world to win back his heart.
On a cold, clear night she kissed him on a bridge and cried all the way back to her hotel because it was rather perfect and it always had been.
Then she broke her ankle at the top of an icy mountain, flew all the way home with her foot up - thank you travel insurance - and when she arrived she sent the boy a note.
Real love stories never have endings, she wrote. And she got lucky, because she is the luckiest. Except on French black runs in the late afternoon.
Ever have a sliding doors moment? That fall was probably mine.
Eleven years later and love these days feels like a second skin, simple, raw, the most comfortable, easy presence. It is a million tiny moments, some charged, some furious, some silent, many not acknowledged or even designed to be.
It is a cup of hot coffee placed in my hand in the morning. Fresh sheets on the bed without telling me. A new dress, bought for me online after a passing comment. A Ben Folds song. Learning my recipes and churning out orders beside me. The sight of him wrapped up in a book, or up to his elbows in flour kneading pizza dough, or sitting in a sea of Duplo with our boys building helicopters.
It is licking a wooden spoon clean of caramel every time I make it. A shared memory of Venice. Calling me Snuffy in the supermarket. Enjoying Great British Bakeoff as much as I do. And Grand Designs. Being my test guinea pig for things like this Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake - because they don't always turn out this good.
A lot of people tell me that our story makes them believe in fairy tales. I tell them yes. And to always buy travel insurance.
Here is the recipe, in case you want to spoil your love this weekend. The original is from Nigella Lawson's book Nigellisima. I have replaced the crushed hazelnuts on top with hazelnut praline, because, toffee!
Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake
250g digestive biscuits
75g soft butter
1 x 400g jar of Nutella or another smooth chocolate hazelnut spread, at room temperature
100g roasted hazelnuts, chopped
500g cream cheese, at room temperature
60g icing sugar, sifted
170g caster sugar
Break the biscuits into the bowl of a food processor, then add the butter and one tablespoon of Nutella
And blitz until the mixture starts to clump. Add 25g of the roasted hazelnuts and continue to blitz until you have a damp, sandy texture.
Tip the mixture into the base of a 22cm round springform cake tin. Press evenly into the base of the tin using the back of a spoon. Place in the fridge while you prepare the filling.
Beat together the cream cheese and icing sugar until smooth and soft, then add remaining Nutella and beat until combined.
Pour the filling over the chilled base and smooth it evenly. Place back in the fridge overnight to set, or for at least four hours.
To make the praline, scatter the remaining chopped hazelnuts on a flat baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper.
Place the caster sugar in a saucepan with 1/4 cup of water. Stir over medium high heat until the sugar dissolves. Brush down any sugar crystals around the inside of the pot with a damp pastry brush. Bring to a boil and stop stirring. Boil mixture for five to eight minutes, without stirring, until it is amber coloured.
Pour the toffee over the hazelnuts and place the tray in a cool, dry place until the toffee sets hard.
When it is cold and hard, break the toffee into pieces and place it in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the toffee is broken up into small nutty shards.
To serve, remove cold cheesecake from tin and scatter praline generously over the top (keep any leftover praline in an airtight jar or container for sprinkling over chocolate ice cream).
Serve immediately. For best results, cut the cake with a hot knife.
If you are in Sydney, you can pick up my retro sugar heart cookies at Wild Basket Neutral Bay this weekend.
Happy Valentine's Day. Especially you, Mr LP.