We're tipping our Irish hats to my family's heritage for a change this week for St. Patrick's Day. Fortunately, Tony loves both of the recipes we're sharing today, so I won't be losing my Italian-by-marriage credentials anytime soon.
Bailey's Irish Cream Cheesecake, for Tony, equals happiness. We've offered this dessert at Sarello's many times throughout the years, and the recipe is always requested whenever we do.
In fact, it's so good there's hardly room for improvement, but I think I've found a way to make it even better by making your own Irish cream liqueur. We've included this recipe as a special bonus, just for all you lads and lasses out there (over 21, of course).
Many people find the prospect of making a cheesecake from scratch a bit intimidating. I'll admit - I've had that same perception, so I turned to the talented Ben Walker, our Sous Chef at Sarello's, who just happens to be a master of cheesecake.
Chef Ben gave me some great advice to ensure that my cheesecake turned out as good as the ones he makes for our guests. He began by stressing the importance of having all of the ingredients at room temperature before starting, as this step nearly guarantees that the right consistency is achieved when mixed together.
Using the paddle attachment of your mixer, combine the filling ingredients to create a smooth texture, adding the eggs one at a time just until incorporated.
Chef Ben recommended using a spring-form pan to prevent leaks and provide easy access to the cake. For easy removal, lightly coat the bottom of the pan with cooking spray, followed by a liner of parchment paper.
And finally, to fully ensure that the cheesecake is evenly cooked throughout, it must be baked in a water bath. People tend to recoil when they hear that, thinking this technique signals that the recipe is beyond their skill set. I used to be guilty of this, too. But, really, all it means is preparing a pan of water to set the cake pan in before it goes into the oven. It's that simple, and makes a world of difference in the result.
To prevent any water from creeping inside the cake pan, Chef Ben suggested lining the outside with aluminum foil. Once the cake is baked, allow it to cool for about 30 minutes. Then refrigerate until ready to serve, up to four days.
See? Cheesecake made simple and delicious. The Irish cream liqueur is even easier to make, and we won't tell anyone if you sip as you bake. May the luck of the Irish be with you (and Chef Ben) always!
Irish Cream Cheesecake
1 3/4 cups finely crushed Oreo cookies (about 20 whole cookies)
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
4 large eggs
1/3 to 1/2 cup Irish Cream liqueur (recipe below)
3/4 cup mini real semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
For the crust:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the cookies in a food processor and mix until finely ground. In a medium bowl, combine the crushed cookies with butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Lightly coat the bottom of a 9-inch spring-form pan with cooking spray, and line with parchment paper. Press the mixture into the bottom and about 1-inch up the sides. Bake for 6 to 7 minutes. Set aside. When the pan is cool, line the outside with aluminum foil to prevent the water bath from leaking in.
For the cheesecake:
Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.
Using the paddle attachment of your mixer, combine the sugar and cream cheese and beat at medium-high speed until creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Taste, and if the texture is grainy, gritty or lumpy, keep mixing until smooth.
Continue beating, and add the eggs one at a time until just incorporated. Stir in the liqueur by hand.
In a small bowl, stir together ½ cup chocolate chips and 1 teaspoon flour; gently stir into the cream cheese mixture. Pour the batter into a spring-form pan and sprinkle the remaining chips over the batter.
A water bath is recommended to ensure the cake is evenly cooked. To prepare, use a pan large enough to contain your baking pan (like a roasting pan), and fill with 1 inch of water. Place the cheesecake pan in the center.
Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour or until center is set and firm to the touch. (Cheesecake surface may be slightly cracked.) Cool for 30 minutes. Cover pan or transfer to airtight container and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving; overnight is even better.
To store, place in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Do not freeze.
Chef Ben's tips:
- Use the entire Oreo - there is no need to remove the cream filling.
- The alcohol cooks off during the baking process, so kids of all ages can enjoy this cheesecake.
- All cheesecake ingredients should be at room temperature before starting.
- Once the batter is ready, firmly tap the bottom of the mixing bowl against the counter several times to remove any air bubbles. This helps to prevent the cake from cracking.
Homemade Irish Cream Liqueur
1 cup half and half or heavy cream
1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
1 to 1 2/3 cups Irish whiskey (we use Jameson)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 to 1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
In a blender, combine all ingredients and blend on high for 30 seconds. Store in a tightly sealed container, and refrigerate for up to one month. Shake well before serving.
- Start with the smaller measurements of the whiskey, coffee granules and almond extract; taste and adjust upwards as desired.
- Heavy cream will create a richer, thicker liqueur than half and half.
Home with the Lost Italian is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello's restaurant in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 9-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org. All previous recipes can be found at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com