With Nawroz just a week away, I'm excited to share an innovation I've enjoyed with my family with the world: sheer chai cheesecake! (read more about Nawroz here). Sheer chai has been an all time favorite drink of mine (read more about it here) and reincorporating it into foods I've enjoyed has been a fun foodventure.
This cheesecake combines my love for sheer chai, the classic balance of a smooth tea biscuit flavor with a not overly sweet, balanced cheesecake with a bite of pistachio. I take the essence of Afghan sweets and have combined them here with a classic American cheesecake, taking the best of both of my backgrounds into one dish.
Afghan sweets tend to be more bread based, with a slight sweet flavor that is not as richly indulgent as a typical cake. Afghan sweets also often incorporate a nutty component, using nuts to add texture. Finally, using a simple rich cream is considered a dessert like delicacy in Afghan foods. Thus, this sheer chai cheesecake truly highlights the key components of Afghan desserts: with a more simple bread like base in the tea biscuit, a balance of a not overly sweet but still sweet edge cheesecake, topped with crushed pistachio, and it doesn't even need the cup of tea that is the constant companion of any Afghan dessert as it is incorporated inside instead.
I purposefully created a no bake cheesecake to make this a more accessible dish to recreate. Baked cheesecakes can be an intimidating venture for novice bakers, and thus I created this no bake iteration to allow more of you to be able to easily recreate this in your kitchens. I hope you enjoy this as much as my family has, as it is now a new fusion staple to our Nawroz table. Noshejaan!
Sheer Chai (no bake) Cheesecake Recipe
Makes 12 individual mini cheesecakes or one large cheesecake
1 package tea biscuit cookies
16 oz cream cheese, room temperature
14 oz sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
approx. ½-1.5 cup sheer chai concentrate
1 cup milk
1 tsp cardamom
Create sheer chai concentrate (do not add to milk, only create the tea. Find recipe here). Bottle that tea concentrate and set aside
Create an 8 oz. glass of sheer chai, adding approx. 1/8 cup chai concentrate to milk to create the pink milk tea.
Dip tea biscuits into pink milk tea and remove quickly, so they are soft enough to crush but retain shape. For individual cheesecakes, place into bottom of each bowl and press together to form a crust base. For large cheesecake, repeat this process until bottom of cheesecake pan is covered, pressing in the crushed tea biscuits to form a 1.5-2 inch base. Chill crust in freezer for at least ten minutes.
Alternatively, you may use 11 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp of sugar. Take tea biscuits, crush them and combine in a bowl with butter and sugar. Combine until forming a firm mass. Utilize as base for cheesecake, pressing the crumb mix into a pan, spreading it to form a 1.5-2 inch base. Chill crust in freezer for at least 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, create the filling of the cheesecake. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese in a large bowl until smooth. Beat in condensed milk slowly, add in lemon juice, cardamom and vanilla. Once you have formed a smooth mixture, add in sheer chai concentrate, approx. ¼ cup should be sufficient depending on how potently pink of a sheer chai you have.
Tip for sheer chai: warm the tea concentrate in the microwave for 2 minutes prior to adding to mix, this will increase the potency of the color of the chai.
Utilize your judgment for how much chai to add. Add until it creates a desired pink color to the cheesecake mix.
Pour the filling into the crust and smooth out the top. Refrigerate for 10 minutes. Remove from refrigerator to add crushed pistachio crumbs and edible rose petals, as well as a tea biscuit dipped halfway into the cheesecake for styling. Refrigerate again until firm, approximately 2.5-3 hours.
Unclasp sides of cheesecake pan and remove for serving. Noshejaan!