Ireland: Baileys Marble Cheesecake
You could make a case that of all the desserts a modern cook might think of off hand, the cheesecake is the most traditionally Irish. Desserts based on sweetened curds (called milseán) were mentioned in the epic poetry of Ireland as far back as 800 AD, as were numerous cream cheeses. (The milseán must have had a lot of honey in it: the word has since passed into modern Irish as the adjective for sweet and the noun for candy.) A little later on, in the early 1600's, descriptions of pastry-based curd cheese pies baked with milk and sweetenings start to turn up in Irish cookery writings, and then in the earliest cookbooks published in the late 1600's.
Tastes do shift over time, and the older version of the cheesecake, the curd tart or pie, has now become somewhat hard to find in Ireland. Most Irish home bakers and professional bakers alike prefer to work with ready-made commercial cream cheese instead of the curds that are the cream cheese's early stage. (However, recent immigrants to Ireland from central Europe have brought their own curd-cheesecake recipes here with them, and many Irish supermarkets and local stores in places with significant Polish, Slovakian or Czech populations are now routinely carrying such central European curd cheeses as tvarog.)
To reflect present preferences, here's an Irish cheesecake recipe that includes the ubiquitous Baileys Irish Cream*. And it's a marbled cheesecake as well -- the marbling being where the Baileys is. To reinforce the Baileys flavor, a little bit of both cocoa and coffee (which Baileys contains) are added to the dark part of the mix.
The recipe for the "base" cheesecake is derived from the famous cheesecake native to the venerable New York restaurant Lindy's. Though the original Lindy's went out of business in 1969 without ever formally releasing the recipe for their famous dessert into the wild, a recipe for the cheesecake turned up in Sunset Magazine in 1951. Bearing in mind Sunset's strong reputation as a reliable recipe source in the 50's, it seems likely enough that the basic recipe is very close to the real thing. (Please bear in mind that while there are a fair number of "Lindy's" recipes floating around on the Web, many of them are not accurate transcriptions of the Sunset recipe: one or another ingredient often falls out -- the vanilla beans, for example, or the cream. Our version of the recipe goes back to the original.)
This cheesecake is incredibly rich: a slender slice of it is normally as much as anyone will want after having had dinner first. It's a good thing that this cheesecake keeps well refrigerated for days and days, freezes brilliantly, and will keep in the freezer for up to six months. One warning in passing: this cheesecake needs 18-24 hours to set after baking, so you'll need to make it at least a day ahead. (But who wants to be baking anything but soda bread on St. Paddy's Day anyway?)
To make the cheesecake:
Have ready: 1 9-inch or 10-inch springform pan. Bring all the ingredients below to room temperature.
For the cheesecake's crust:
- 1 cup flour
- 2 vanilla beans
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar (superfine is best)
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1 egg yolk
For the cheesecake:
- 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar (superfine is best)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 5 large eggs
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, softened
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup Baileys Irish Cream
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee crystals
- 1 tablespoon cocoa
- 2 tablespoons hot water
To make the crust: Split the vanilla beans lengthwise. Using a small pointed knife, scrape the gummy black seeds into a mixing bowl. Add the flour and stir the vanilla seeds into it until well distributed. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the cubed unsalted butter. Then add the sugar, egg yolk, zest, and salt. Knead this mixture until it just forms a dough, or pulse it in a food processor just until it gathers together. Flatten this dough into a round, wrap in waxed paper (better for this than plastic wrap: waxed paper lets the dough breathe a little) and chill it for at least an hour.
After an hour, remove from refrigerator and preheat the oven to 400°F / 200° C. Remove the sides of the springform pan and oil its bottom lightly. Press some of the dough 1/8 inch thick on the bottom of the pan. This will be the cheesecake base. Don't be concerned if you find that this dough is very delicate and likes to tear while you're working with it. It's easy to patch: just press a little more dough over any holes or tears that develop while you're working with it. When the oven is ready, bake the cheesecake base in the center of the oven for 10-12 minutes, or just until golden. (You may need to decrease this time if you have a fan oven. Watch the baking base carefully to make sure that it doesn't burn.) When done, remove and cool, then chill. Don't be alarmed if you notice that it's shrunk a litle while baking. This is normal.
When thoroughly chilled, butter the sides of the springform pan and attach it to the base. Use the remainder of the dough to line the sides of the springform pan, pressing the dough to about 1/8 inch thick around the sides, and being careful that the side dough goes as far as possible up the sides -- ideally, all the way up, as this recipe will completely fill a 9-inch springform pan to the top. Allow a little overlap onto the base crust, and seal the side dough to the bottom crust by pressing it gently down all around the bottom edges. Again, don't worry if you find that this dough is very "short" and has a tendency to break and tear. Just use small pieces of it to patch up any holes or tears, pressing them into the spots that need fixing.
After lining the sides of the springform, if you're working in a 10-inch pan, you may want to to even out the top of the crust by carefully trimming the top of the dough all around with a plastic knife (or something similar that won't scratch the surface of your springform). When finished, set the pan aside.
For the cheesecake filling: Make sure all ingredients have reached room temperature before you start. When ready, add half the cream cheese, half the sugar, half the zests, and two tablespoons of the flour. Beat well: then add the rest of the cream cheese, the rest of the sugar, the rest of the zests and vanilla, the cream, and one tablespoon of the flour. (Reserve the remaining tablespoon.) One at a time, beat in each of the eggs: allow each one to be well beaten in before adding the next. Do the same with two of the egg yolks: reserve one.
When completely mixed, pour half the cheesecake batter into a second bowl. In a third, smaller bowl, add hot water to the instant coffee crystals: mix well until dissolved. Add the cocoa and whisk until well blended into the coffee mixture. Add the final tablespoon of flour and the final egg yolk and whisk well again until completely blended. Finally, add the Baileys and once again whisk lightly until completely blended.
Add this mixture to one of the bowls of cheesecake batter, and stir well until it is completely mixed into the second bowl and the whole second bowl is the same color. Alternately spoon and/or pour the two mixtures into the prepared springform pan. When the pan is full, carefully draw a knife through the mixture a number of times, both vertically and horizontally, to produce the marbling effect.
Preheat the oven to 550°F / 270° C (or as close as you can get to those temperatures). Place the cheesecake carefully on the center rack of the oven and bake at this temperature for 12 minutes. (If your oven will only go to around 500° F / 250° C, bake for 15 minutes.) Then reduce the heat to 220° F / 110° C. Whichever temperature you've used above, bake for another 60 minutes.
Open the oven, and quickly (wearing an oven mitt) jiggle the springform pan a little to check the cake's texture. If it is still "wiggly" or loose, it needs a little more time. Close the oven again and allow it to sit in the residual heat for another half hour: then remove and cool on a rack. However, if the cheesecake's interior seems firm when you first check it, remove it from the oven and cool on a rack as above.
When completely cool, refrigerate the cheesecake. Do not attempt to serve this cheesecake on the day you make it: it will not have had time to finish setting up, and will go to pieces. The day after you bake it, remove the cheesecake from the fridge and carefully unclamp and remove the springform pan's sides. If there are any signs of sticking when you start to remove the sides, slide a thin bladed knife between the cheesecake and the sides of the springform pan before unclamping it fully.
To make the nicest-looking slices: Slice while cold, using a sharp knife which has been dipped in hot water. Allow the slices to come closer to room temperature before serving, so that the flavor of the Baileys will be at its best.
*Yes, lots of people do spell it "Bailey's Irish Cream" or even "Bailey's Irish Creme". The name doesn't actually have an apostrophe, though.