Spices and Seasons – Indian Cheesecake for Holi (Spring Festival of Colors)

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IMG_0078 I did some quick searching and realized that I have never posted about Holi or the Indian spring festival of colors. Well, since it happens just once year, who knows what I was up to this time of the year.

Holi, usually arrives right alongside Purim, also a spring festival and also determined by the full moon. Holi, has many legends and interpretations, I like to think of it as a celebration of romance and the colors of spring. It is a time for making merry. People, tend to let go and enjoy a lot of alcohol laced drinks and snacks and desserts galore.

For the occasion, I made a version of a baked cheesecake traditionally made with paneer (Indian cheese and caramelized sugar. Yes, it is kind of a cheesecake meets crème brulee, and is traditionally called chena poda, which translated means burnt cheese, so see even the names are similar. This dessert and style came my way earlier this year on our vacation to the eastern state of Orissa, a green and lovely place with amazing seafood and beautiful beaches.

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Yes, I like to fondly look at pictures like this to remind myself of the more peaceful times of life. So, now back to the dessert, I made a few tweaks here and there to make it my own. For starters, traditional Indian desserts are cooked slowly on wood fire stoves in instead of ovens and desserts like this cheesecake are cooked in clay pots. So, I swapped that for a regular oven and ramekins.

The for the sugar base, I used my favorite sweetened, yes, maple syrup! Ok, I used ricotta cheese too! Now, folks before you start saying not sure how authentic this recipe is, let me tell you the magical warm concoction of the base syrup formed by the maple syrup and the cardamom is truly magical. It makes a good substitute for a date palm jaggery that is traditionally used for this dessert. Very similar to maple syrup, extracted the same way from the sap of the date palm jaggery.

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So, essentially I used thickened maple syrup instead of a traditional caramel. Also, the cheese is meshed with some flour something I actually skipped with an eye towards gluten. So many people I know are trying to avoid gluten these days, and much like my vegan recipes I avoid it naturally wherever possible. The rest is simple, I did think we could actually turn this dessert over, but it makes for a moist and soft upturned fragrant light cheese cake. You can garnish the dessert with chopped nuts and fruits as you wish, I normally use raisins but all the raisins in my house are soaking in rum for the bread pudding I will be making for this Friday’s class at Hilltop Hanover Farm.

Spices and Seasons – Indian Cheesecake for Holi (Spring Festival of Colors)

Ingredients

  • 11/4 cup whole ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 6 green whole cardamoms
  • 1/2 cup brown or maple sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • Chopped pistachios to garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and grease 4 ramekins
  2. Mix the ricotta cheese and almond meal. Peel the cardamoms, crush the seeds and mix well into the cheese with 3 tablespoons of the brown or maple sugar.
  3. In a separate pan heat the maple syrup and bring to a brisk simmer and cook for 4 minutes until thick.
  4. Spread the maple syrup over the bowls. Press down the ricotta mixture into the ramekins. Place the ramekins in a larger casserole that is filled with water 2 inches deep.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes. Turn off the oven remove the baking dish and sprinkle the cheese mixture evenly with the remaining sugar.
  6. Place under the broiler for 4 minutes.
  7. Turn off the heat and let it rest for 20 minutes.
  8. Turn the dessert over, garnish with pistachios and serve.
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Indian Maple and Cardamom Cheesecake – Chenna Poda

Ingredients

11/4 cup whole ricotta cheese

1/4 cup almond meal

6 green whole cardamoms

1/2 cup brown or maple sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup

Chopped pistachios to garnish

Method of Preparation

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and grease 4 ramekins

Mix the ricotta cheese and almond meal. Peel the cardamoms, crush the seeds and mix well into the cheese with 3 tablespoons of the brown or maple sugar.

In a separate pan heat the maple syrup and bring to a brisk simmer and cook for 4 minutes until thick.

Spread the maple syrup over the bowls. Press down the ricotta mixture into the ramekins. Place the ramekins in a larger casserole that is filled with water 2 inches deep.

Bake for 25 minutes. Turn off the oven remove the baking dish and sprinkle the cheese mixture evenly with the remaining sugar.

Place under the broiler for 4 minutes.

Turn off the heat and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Turn the dessert over, garnish with pistachios and serve.

 

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About Author

Rinku Bhattacharya, the Spices & Seasons blogger, loves meshing seasonal produce with fresh spices. Most of her recipes are inspired by her Indian heritage, and her cooking is practical, easy and well suited for a busy lifestyle on the go. As a mother with two young children, her recipes are also usually balanced and kid-friendly. Rinku is the author of the blog, Spice Chronicles (formerly,Cooking in Westchester), where she shares her life experiences and original recipes. Rinku is blessed with a gardener husband, who always surprises her with a prolific and fresh supply of produce to keep her creative instincts flowing. Rinku has been teaching recreational cooking classes for the past nine years. Rinku is the author of two cookbooks: The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles an award winning (Gourmand 2013) cookbook that highlights culture, memories and recipes from her childhood transformed where needed for her Lohud kitchen and Spices and Seasons that marries Indian flavors with local and seasonal produce. Rinku can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest and is also a contributor for Zester Daily.

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