By Paige Rhodes

In autumn, even the pumpkin-fixated tend to grow tired of it by the time Thanksgiving actually rolls around. This pumpkin-free Dirty Chai Cheesecake has all the autumnal flavors associated with the season and then some. The not-so-secret ingredient is espresso, giving this cheesecake the “dirty” part of its name. If you go to a coffee shop and order a dirty chai, you’ll get a regular chai tea latte with a shot of espresso. This cheesecake is that beverage in delicious dessert form. Make it as your Thanksgiving dessert and watch it disappear before the pumpkin pies are even touched.

Dirty Chai Cheesecake
Yields: 12 Servings

1 1/2 cups gingersnap cookies
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup granulated sugar

24 ounces full-fat cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup full-fat sour cream at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 shot of espresso
3 large eggs at room temperature
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground dried ginger
1/8 tsp ground pepper

Adjust oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

Use a food processor or blender to grind the gingersnaps. Mix the gingersnap crumbs, melted butter, and granulated sugar together with a spatula in a medium bowl until combined. Press into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Make sure the crust is very compact and tight. It will be thick. Place the springform pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 7 minutes. Allow to slightly cool as you prepare the filling.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and granulated sugar together on medium speed (about 3 minutes) until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add the sour cream, vanilla, almond extract, espresso, and spices and beat until combined. On low speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until just blended. Do not overmix the filling after you have added the eggs.

Pour the filling into the cooled crust. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the center is almost set.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely to room temperature.

Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight (preferred). Loosen the cheesecake from the springform pan and remove the rim. Cut into slices and serve chilled.

Top with whipped cream and chocolate covered espresso beans, if desired. Cover leftover cheesecake and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.