Ras Malai (Indian Cheesecake)

Every year my husband teaches the Ramayana, an Indian epic, in one of his courses. At the end of the reading he serves his students some Indian food, including this homemade version of Ras Malai. It is delicious. The recipe is adapted from Beyond Curry by Hemalata Dandekar.

Ras Malai (Indian Cheesecake)
Cheesecake
1 (32 oz.) container whole milk ricotta cheese
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
a pinch of sea salt
2 Tbsp. shelled unsalted pistachios, crushed in a mortar and pestle

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl mix together ricotta, sugar, vanilla and salt until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 9×13 glass baking pan. Bake for 40 minutes until bubbling and set. Make the cardamom cream sauce while the cheesecake is baking. Remove cheesecake from oven. Cool 10 minutes on a rack then cut into 24 squares. Gently drizzle cooked cardamom cream sauce over the ras malai. Use all of the sauce even if it looks like too much. It will soak into the cheese. Tastes best when allowed to chill overnight so the flavors can mature. Sprinkle pistachios over ras malai just before serving. Serves 12-15.

Cardamom Cream Sauce
1 c. half and half
1 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. sugar
a pinch of sea salt
1/2 tsp. cardamom seeds (out of the pod), crushed in a mortar and pestle
5 strands saffron

In a saucepan combine half and half, cream, sugar and salt. Crush cardamom in a mortar and pestle until it is roughly ground, not a fine powder to yield 3/4 tsp. roughly ground cardamom. Add cardamom and saffron to the cream mixture. On medium low heat bring to mixture a boil and let simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes or until it has reduced by a fourth. It should be slightly thickened and very pale yellow.

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