If I had to choose a single moment to make a striking comeback, it would be right now. On the cusp of Diwali and Halloween.
Which is not ironic at all, cause being in-between the festival of lights & the holiday that celebrates the dead,I couldn’t have found a more melodramatic moment to make a comeback. *Pause for effect, and hopefully a slow clap*
Speaking of in between, that’s pretty much what life has been for the last few months. In between jobs, suitcases, states, continents and somewhere in between cake and cocktails.
Now that am the expert of living through the cracks, let me tell you something : You have to be prepared for inspiration to strike you anywhere. I mean literally anywhere. One day I found myself seated next to an Albanian chef on a train to Paris, and we shared a tupperware of his favourite dessert. On another, I filmed a 70 year old baker who made 200 baguettes in 2 hours. Heck, I even tried a cocktail with mustard in it!
So that’s the thing with us in-betweens. Never a dull moment, nor a decisive one. On the plus side, I’ve come back with a head full of ideas and a spring in my step. And this cheesecake is an ode to that spirit of in between.
Hands down, Diwali is a true foodie’s festival. And also my favourite. I swear, every time the doorbell rings a new box of something sweet makes its way into my kitchen. Indian sweets of all shapes and sizes, chocolates, nuts and even fruits show up, sometimes in packages so big that it can barely fit in the door. I swear that is not my imagination.
And while some people are doctors, some are lawyers, I am the ultimate gift unwrapper. I have ninja skills that allow me to tear through layers of festive packing and swallow half the box’s contents before the mother even gets to ask who was at the door. Impressive huh? I should put that on my resume.
Of the lot, Gulab Jamuns are the hardest to resist. For the uninitiated, these are fried balls of dough which is soaked into sugar syrup and a whole lotta love. They melt in your mouth and put you in a sugar trance from which there is no coming back. Its like Justin Trudeau planking on your kitchen counter. Yeah, them feels.
However, sometimes for no fault of my own, they land up in my cake.
This cheesecake is simple – no bake, almost healthy and super Indian i.e – no egg and easy to customize.I took it a step further and added some white chocolate and rose into the mix and it tasted like Diwali in my mouth. While I got the Jamuns from my favourite halwai shop, you can also make them at home using this recipe.
I’ve not added sugar or gelatine; infact there’s no ingredient that can wobble on its own. All it needs is a couple hours in the fridge to firm up and voila! you’ll be eating your face off. The cheesecake is delightfully soft and the Gulab Jamuns add that punch of sweet in an otherwise balanced dessert.
Pairing rose with Gulab Jamun is a complete game changer! See those cake toppers? Jamuns topped with rose sherbet sauce sprinkled with pistachios. I call them ‘Little O Moments’. They’re all the crackers you’ll need this Diwali.
Gulab Jamun & Rose Cheesecake
- Digestive Biscuits – 2 standard packets or 250 gms
- Ghee or Clarified Butter – 1/2 cup
- Hung Yoghurt – 150 gms (You could also try greek yoghurt)
- Paneer or Cottage Cheese, grated – 280 gms
- White Chocolate, chopped – 125 gms + 100 gms for cake toppers
- Rose Sherbet – 4tbsp
- Medium sized Gulab Jamun – 5 pieces
- Mini Gulab Jamuns – 3-4
- Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Crush the cookies in a food processor and blitz into fine crumbs. Empty into a bowl.
- Melt the ghee, add into the crumbs and stir to incorporate well.
- Tip the mix into an 8″ springform pan. Pat it down and onto the sides. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
- Heat a pan of water and place a bowl on top. Add white chocolate into it. Make sure the bowl does not touch the water and let it melt gently on slow heat. Take it off the heat when most of it has melted (smaller lumps will continue to melt) Whisk the chocolate to make it smooth. Leave to cool
- In a food processor, tip in grated paneer and blitz it for a minute till it becomes smooth. Add the yoghurt and cooled chocolate and blitz together for another minute.
- With the motor running, drizzle in the rose sherbet till everything is well incorporated.
- Arrange the bigger sized Gulab Jamun on the cooled cookie crust. You could also halve them to fit. Tip in the cheesecake mix and smoothen the top.
- Freeze for atleast 5 hours or overnight.
- To make the cake toppers, gently melt the chocolate and a tbsp of rose syrup. Whisk the mix to remove any lumps. Insert a toothpick into the small Gulab Jamuns and dip into the melted chocolate. Top with chopped pistachios to decorate.
- To serve, unmold the cheesecake and top with the chocolate Gulab Jamuns. Decorate with roses, slivers of pistachios and rose petals.
Here’s wishing you a prosperous Diwali and your fill of kaju katli (Yeah, I know your kryptonite) Here’s also wishing a spooky Halloween to you and all your boos *Wink wink
All images by Ishita Thakur