I've been collecting cream cheese recipe cards since I was a teenager, and have had a slight obsession with making cheesecakes. I even made two large ones for my own 21st birthday party. I should have realised then that I was destined for the catering business. A family recipe came about in the 1970s, when my grandma visited her sister in the USA – a country which undoubtedly makes some of the most irresistible cheesecakes in the world. The famous Cheesecake Factory chain there boasts more than 30 signature cheesecakes, although the baked New York cheesecake is the most popular.
For a touch of Irish luxury, Baileys Cheesecake is a scrumptious dessert. For some, the perfect cheesecake is all about the fluffy filling, for others it all starts with a perfect, easy to slice, biscuit base. For my base, I’m using bourbon cream biscuits to create a nice balance of chocolate with the cream liqueur. If you don’t have a food processor, simply bash the biscuits in a ziploc bag with a rolling pin.
I have to admit our trusted family baked cheesecake recipe was fairly foolproof. But it’s worth noting a few tips to achieve a smooth, light and fluffy filling. Bringing all your filling ingredients to room temperature will help the cream cheese to mix lump-free. Unlike traditional cakes, avoid over-whisking and adding too much air to the filling (which might lead to cracking). Placing a dish of hot water in the base of the oven will help moisten the air and stop a skin forming. And finally, to avoid overbaking (which gives a dry texture), the best secret is to stop baking the cheesecake when it is still a bit wobbly in the centre. It will continue to bake as it sits in the residual oven heat. If you do get a cracked cheesecake (it can happen), a clever topping of berries, whipped cream and flaked chocolate will hide myriad sins.
Baked Baileys Cheesecake
Makes a 20cm Cheesecake
200g Bourbon Creams (approx 15 biscuits)
60g butter, melted
400g full fat cream cheese, room temperature
200g sour cream
150g caster sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp Baileys Irish Cream Liqueur
To serve: whipped cream, raspberries, chocolate flake
1. Preheat oven to 180°C fan (190°C conventional). Blitz the biscuits in a food processor to a fine crumb. Melt the butter and stir through the biscuit crumb with a knife until it resembles wet sand. Into the base of a well greased 20cm (8inch) springform cake tin, first use the back of a teaspoon to spread out and level the crumbs, firmly press with your hands until tightly packed, chill in the fridge for 10 mins to harden the base.
2. Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, slowly whisk the cream cheese, sour cream and caster sugar until lump free. Next add one egg at a time until smooth, followed by the vanilla extract and Irish Cream liqueur.
3. Pour the mixture over the chilled biscuit base and bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes. Normally, after 35 minutes, the cheesecake will still have a slight wobble in the centre, but turn the oven off while leaving the cheesecake to cool inside the oven for 1 hour (resist the urge to open and close the door).
4. Remove from the oven and run a thin knife around the inner edge so the sides don’t stick to the tin as it shrinks away from the tin walls. Allow to cook at room temperature fully before covering with clingfilm and transferring to the fridge.
5. When ready to serve, remove from the tin, and decorate with whipped cream, fresh raspberries and flake.
Variation: Digestive biscuits provide an alternative yet classic biscuit base or you can combine them with half and half amaretti biscuits, Oreos or hob nobs. Chopped hazelnuts add a good crunch.