Nolen Gurer Cheesecake Trifles

The new year has brought in its wake a lot of ill health and consequent lethargy. I still haven't gotten completely over the severe diarrhoea that engulfed me since Christmas. So needless to say, my kitchen activities have taken a beating. But me being me, it's difficult to stay away from my jars of spices, bars of cooking chocolate and the protein aisles in the markets. What adds to the glory (or woe, given my tummy condition in this case) is the rampant dominance of nolen gur (date palm jaggery) in the markets and sweetmeat shops. Come winter and nolen gur must make way into my kitchen. Only thing, it wasn't my kitchen this time. My friend P was throwing a new year's party for his friends and family and I was summoned to whip up some "offbeat" continental delights. Thank God for me P's cousins B, S and S were gems in the kitchen — grating carrots, frying bacon, slicing bell peppers and what not. The cleanliness freak that P is, he was relegated to cleaning up after us, a job that we didn't at all mind entrusting upon him! The salad was chopped and set aside, the mains were marinated and refrigerated. What demanded our utmost time and patience was the dessert, in this case Nolen Gurer Cheesecake Trifles.
We had shopped the day before like maniacs, planned out our not-so elaborate menu with a lot of care and caution, segregated the pork eaters and non-eaters and then embarked on our culinary expedition. So as I beat the cream cheese and whipped the heavy cream, B busied herself with making the almond praline while the others systematically kept chopping the gur and melting it. By the time the desserts were done, we had almost forgotten that we had other things to cook. They turned out slightly sweeter than how I would have liked, so I'm just adjusting the quantity of gur in the recipe. This recipe is a joint effort of B and I so I won't take full credit for it. :)

Makes 12 trifles
Ingredients:

For the crust:
Digestive biscuits: 20-25
Butter, at room temperature: 75 gm
Jhola gur (the liquid form of jaggery): 6-8 tbsp + some for garnish

For the cheesecake:
Cream cheese, at room temperature: 2 packets (224 gm each)
Heavy cream, chilled: 350 ml
Jhola/patali gur: 250 gm (in case you're using patali gur, break them up into small chunks and melt them and let them cool. They'll crystallise as they start cooling, but don't worry, once mixed with the cream and cheese, the crystals will lose their texture.)

For the praline:
Almonds, cut into slivers: 100 gm
Sugar: 100 gm
Water: 50 ml

Method:

For the crust
1. Crumb the biscuits by hand or in a mixer pulse them slightly or till the consistency of the rubble. You don't want them to be absolutely fine. With your hands now mix the butter with the biscuit crumbs till its grainy. Add the nolen gur and mix some more. Line the base of your trifle bowls/jars/glasses with this crust, press them till they are smooth and even and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours. We kept ours refrigerated for 10 hours or so.

For the praline

1. Heat sugar and water till the sugar caramelises and becomes amber in colour. Swirl the pan all this while, but don't stir it. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and pour the caramelised sugar over them. Let it rest till it becomes hard and cracks. Crumble it then.

For the cheesecake:
1. Beat the cream cheese into a smooth consistency. Set aside.

2. Whip the cream in an ice bath with a hand blender with chilled whisks till soft peaks form, say 10 minutes. Beat for 5-7 minutes more till the peaks are medium, but not stiff.

3. Fold the whipped cream gently into the cheese, a little bit at a smooth till everything is incorporated smoothly. Now mix in the gur/jaggery. Keep tasting as you're doing it, because you don't want your cheesecake too sweet. Add the crumbled praline and fold in. Your cheesecake mixture is done.

4. Take out your trifle bowls and pour in dollops of the cheesecake mixture and put the back in the refrigerator. Allow them to chill for 6-8 hours or overnight.

5. Garnish with a little bit of whipped cream, drizzle some jhola gur and sprinkle some almond flakes before serving.
P took the photographs but is afraid that they didn't come out too well. Artificial light, you guessed it! :(

I'm sending this post for Kolkata Food Bloggers' event on Poush Sankranti

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