Carrot Halwa Mini Cheesecakes

“Flavor of halwa
But dressed as cake,
These little orange devils
Do compliments take.
The reminder of winter
On a busy Indian street,
Hustle and bustle of vendors
And a small warm treat.
Feeling of family
With spoons of love,
And some other ingredients
That don’t measure up much”
For the crust
1 packet (approx 50 g or 8-10 pieces) chocolate ladyfingers or 6-8 pieces butter shortbreads
½ teaspoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
For the cheesecake
1 packet (8oz) 1/3 fat or fat free Philadelphia cream cheese
1 large carrot (about 1 ½ cups), finely grated
2 cups whole milk
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon condensed milk
6 tablespoons brown sugar
¾ teaspoon cinnamon powder
4-5 green cardamoms, finely crushed
Grease well a mini muffin pan with butter or oil and keep aside.
Prepare the crust
Crush the ladyfingers/shortbreads in a blender to a fine powder. Add the butter and sugar and mix well. Take 1 teaspoon of the mixture and press at the bottom of each mould in the muffin pan. Bake for 5-8 minutes in a 325 F pre-heated oven. Keep aside to cool.
Prepare the cheesecake
Heat the milk, condensed milk and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a deep pan. Once it comes to boil, add the carrot, cinnamon and cardamom and cook on medium-low flame till the carrot is completely cooked and all the liquid has been absorbed. Approx 25-30 minutes. Discard any pieces of cardamom skin and keep aside to cool.
In the meantime, get the cream cheese to room temperate. Beat together with the remaining sugar until its light and fluffy. You can taste it at this point to adjust the sugar as required. I don’t like my desserts overly sweet so keep them on the less sweet side. However, do remember that we will be adding the carrot mixture to this, which also has some sugar.
Now add the egg to the cream cheese and beat well for a few minutes. Lastly add the carrot mixture and lightly mix till it forms a homogeneous mixture. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the mixture into the muffin pans prepared earlier.
Heat the oven to 325 F. Prepare a dish with water and place it on the lowest shelf of the oven (a water bath). Bake the cheesecakes for 18-20 minutes. Keep a close eye on them as you want to stop baking as soon as the top is set- it will still be a little jiggly, but not wet. Switch off the oven at this point and let the cheesecakes cool slowly in the oven. Once the oven reaches room temperature, remove the muffin pan and slowly take out each mini cheesecake with the help of a knife. They should slide out quite easily if the pan was well greased. Refrigerate and enjoy!