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Chai Cheesecake with Pears and Walnuts



2 cups smashed gingersnap cookies (about 28–34 cookies)

6 tablespoons butter, melted

4 8-ounce boxes cream cheese, softened to room temperature

⅔ cup dark brown sugar

4 tablespoons sugar

3¼ teaspoons ground cardamom

2½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

1½ teaspoons ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

4 large eggs

4 large egg yolks

⅓ cup tea, brewed dark using 2 teabags of black tea

1¼ teaspoons vanilla extract

¼ cup sour cream

Pear and Walnut Topping

3 medium-firm pears, Bartlett works well

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons honey

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 cup toasted walnuts


  1. Combine cookie crumbs and butter and press into the base of an 8-inch greased springform pan. Place in refrigerator until needed. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Place cream cheese and sugars in a bowl of a standing mixer and beat until smooth, but do not aerate. Scrape sides of bowl.
  3. Sift spices, then sprinkle into cream cheese mixture.
  4. On medium speed, add eggs and yolks one at a time, allowing them to fully incorporate before each addition.
  5. Add tea and vanilla followed by sour cream. Mix to combine.
  6. Pour batter into springform pan and place pan into a foil shield (wrap foil around and up the sides) so no water gets into the mold. Then place foil-wrapped pan into a high-sided baking dish large enough to also hold water (a 12-inch round sauté pan or cake pan works well).  Pour boiling water into larger dish so that it comes about 1½–2 inches up the side of the springform pan.
  7. Place in oven and bake for 60–75 minutes, until set. Turn off oven and allow the cheesecake to cool in oven for 30–45 minutes. Chill at least 3 hours, or up to 4 days wrapped. Top with pear and walnut topping and serve.
 Pear and Walnut Topping
  1. Cut each pear into thin slices, discarding seeds, about 14­–18 slices per pear.
  2. Place butter in a sauté pan and melt over medium heat. Swirl in honey. Add pears and sauté, stirring, for 2–3 minutes, until just heated through.
  3. Sprinkle in sugar and toss in walnuts to combine.
  4. Cook 1–2 minutes longer or until pears are starting to soften but are still retaining their shape. Transfer pears to a strainer and allow liquid to drain off for 5–10 minutes. Return sugar syrup to sauté pan and simmer for 1–2 minutes to thicken. Pour over pears and, once slightly cooled, place on top of cheesecake to serve.
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