I just received a huge package of Walkers shortbread cookies (thanks so much Iza), and before my little munchkin goes through the entire package (she's already had 24 individual packets!), I wanted to prepare a sweet treat with them. I also had leftover carrot (gajar) halwa from a batch I made over Memorial Day weekend, so it made sense to combine the two items. After much deliberation, I decided to make an Indian-inspired cheesecake using the shortbread rounds. I mixed the halwa with cream cheese and cardamom syrup, then softened it with whipped cream and used the mixture as the filling. For the crust, I crushed several shortbread cookies and mixed them with butter.
The Indian flavors weren't overpowering at all. In fact they were actually quite subtle, and paired perfectly with the buttery flavor and mild sweetness of the shortbread crust. The dessert was a big hit,and has inspired me to try using both Indian sweets and shortbread in creative ways. Stay tuned!
Servings: 2 (5-1/2" diameter) cheesecakes
6 shortbread rounds (total 8.4 ounces)
16 Walkers shortbread rounds, for decoration, optional
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese
2 cups heavy cream, very cold
1-½ teaspoons xanthan gum, at room temperature
1-½ teaspoons liquid lecithin
1 tablespoon citrus oil (or olive oil)
3-½ cups carrot halwa
(click on the link for the recipe)
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup cardamom syrup (see tips)
whipped cream (optional), as needed for garnish
Making the shortbread cheesecake crust:
Crush 6 rounds of shortbread down to a fine crumb. I use a mortar and pestle; it's ok if there are some larger crumbs. Soften the butter and add it to the crumbs. You should be able to press the product with your hands into a cohesive mass.
Press the crumbs into the bottom of 2 parchment paper lined 5-inch non-stick spring form pans.
Create long 4"-wide bands with parchment paper. Place the parchment rectangles along the sides, against the wall of the molds. The paper should be pressed against the crust so it doesn't move while the filling is piped for easy unmolding later. You could also brush a very thin layer of oil so the parchment paper adheres to the wall of the molds.
Prepping the carrot halwa cheesecake filling:
Whip the heavy cream (at a low speed) until creamy and smooth for 2-3 minutes. Add ½ cup sugar.
Stir well and add the coarsely chopped strawberries.
Whisk the cream cheese to soften it. Add the carrot halwa, the rest of sugar and the cardamom syrup. Gently fold in the whipped cream in stages. In a small bowl, combine the xanthan gum, lecithin and citrus oil. Add the mixture to the cream cheese bowl. Stir well and add the rest of the whipped cream. This is to make sure the cream cheese incorporates evenly.
Place the filling in a piping bag. Pipe or spoon the filling into the molds. Level the filling with a spatula. Place the pans in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours, preferably overnight.
When you're ready to serve, open the spring-form molds. Run a knife around the inner wall of the spring-form pan. If you don't, when you unbuckle the wall you might damage the cake. Remove the pan wall. Gently remove the cake and transfer onto a serving plate. Decorate with whole shortbread rounds around the outside and secure the cookies with a ribbon.
Pipe little mounds of whipped cream around the top edges of the cake.
Serve with masala chai.
Make sure to line the spring-form pans carefully with parchment paper for easy unmolding.
Xanthan gum is a fine powder used as a binder and emulsifier. If you look at the list of ingredients for salad dressings and ice cream at the supermarket, you'll find that they contain xanthan gum. I use it for texture and as an egg white substitute. You can find it online or in any specialty food store such as Whole Foods.
I use liquid lecithin as an egg yolk substitute. You can also find this online or in any specialty food store like Whole Foods. Look for a (32-ounce) bottle, not the capsules.
Making cardamom syrup: In a saucepan, dissolve ½ cup sugar and 1-¼ teaspoons of cardamom powder in about ¼ cup of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 2 minutes. Remove from the stove and cool completely. Add the juice of 1 lemon.
I used store-bought whipped cream for decoration purposes. For some reasons, I couldn't pipe perfect flower decorations with home-made whipped cream. If you whip your own cream, maybe a stabilizer is necessary.