I’ve learned a lot about food, wine, and cooking from my parents. My father has been making cheesecakes for well over a decade. At one point, he even sold them to restaurants for resale. Lemon, cherry, chocolate, you name it–he’s made them all, and every single one of them has been a hit for all that were lucky enough to get a precious bite. Because they were so relatively common, I’m not sure why I found the idea of making one so intimidating. I think the fear of an under-cooked gooey center or a faulty spring-form pan might have been two potential reasons.
My husband Nick had never had the opportunity to try one of my dad’s cheesecakes, so for Thanksgiving this year, cheesecake was the simple dessert choice. I mean, you have to have a dessert for Thanksgiving, and Nick HAD to try one of my dad’s cheesecakes eventually. That whole two birds, one stone thing… yeah, it’s an expression for a reason. So we went for it–together. I figured if I watched my dad while he was making it and learned his secrets, I’d be ok on my own. Here you have it–one of my dad’s great cheesecakes, this one with Bailey’s Irish Cream, white chocolate, and pecans.
You start with the crust–and the crust, in my mind, is the best part of cheesecake. Whoever thought of crumbling up graham crackers is a genius. Good lord, the combination of the grahams, pecans, butter, and sugar in this… to say that I was licking the bowl is an understatement. Once combined, you press the crumbly mixture against the sides of the buttered pan, coating about 2 1/2 inches up the sides. (Confession: my sides were more like 3 inches high to begin with, but yeah… my nibbles off the top brought us down a half-inch. Oopsy.)
After pressing in the crust, you cool it in the fridge before pouring in the custard filling–mostly comprised of cream cheese, of course, plus the Baileys, some white chocolate, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. A trick from my dad… you know when the cheesecake is set when you just start to see cracks around the edges, and the center seems to slump down just a bit. Then it’s time to cool again.
While the cheesecake is cooling, you mix the sour cream with powdered sugar for the topping. Smooth the glaze over the top and style the pecans and crumbled pecans to your decorative liking and chill until ready to serve. And that’s it. You’re done. Perfectly creamy, awesome crust, a touch of booze… cheesecake heaven was found for Nick (and ok, I enjoyed it too.) Cheesecaking-making fear has been eliminated. Thanks Dad.
Baileys Irish Cream Cheesecake
Bon Appetit, January 1991
10 whole graham crackers, broken into pieces
1 1/4 cup pecans (5 ounces)
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/3 cup Baileys Original Irish Cream liqueur
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 ounces imported white chocolate, broken into pieces
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 ounces imported white chocolate, grated
12-24 pecan halves
- For crust: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly butter 9-inch diameter springform pan with 2 3/4 –inch-high sides. Finely grind graham crackers, pecans, and sugar in a food processor. Add butter and blend. Press crumb mixture onto bottom and 2 – 2 1/2 inches up sides of prepared pan. Refrigerate 20 minutes. Wash and dry food processor.
- For filling: Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until smooth. Whisk eggs, Baileys, and vanilla in medium bowl until just blended. Beat egg mixture into cream cheese mixture. Add white chocolate to the food processor and pulse until little pearls form. Add to cream cheese mixture in electric mixer.
o Pour filling into crust-lined pan. Bake until edges of filling are puffed and dry looking and center is just set, about 50 minutes. (If you start to see small cracks form, the cheesecake is done.) Cool on rack.
- For topping: Mix sour cream and powdered sugar in small bowl. Spread topping onto cooled cake. Refrigerate until well chilled, about 6 hours. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead.)
- Sprinkle grated chocolate over cake. Place pecans around edge and serve.