I have a bit of a love / hate affair with food trends. Bacon in everything – including donuts and ice cream just does not appeal to me. Most bacon is loaded with nitrates and while I’ll fully admit that a plate of bacon and eggs is pretty damn tasty – I’m not a huge fan of processed meat. Neither am I a fan of deep-fried things – I don’t even want to try deep-fried turkey, deep-fried Mars Bars, or deep-fried pickles.
So I’ve approached the salted chocolate, salted caramel, salted-everything craze with a little scepticism.
Still, I happen to think salt is a pretty critical ingredient and am not adverse to placing the salt on top of something, where once upon a time – it would just have gone into the ingredients without attention being drawn to it. And I admit to having speciality salts in my kitchen. I’ve currently got a Himalayan and a Sicilian salt, both of which may or may not be a con but do taste extremely good.
And if you’re concerned about salt in your diet – don’t rush to give it up quite yet. First, read this excellent article in the NY Times about the flimsy evidence against salt.
If you share my scepticism about food trends – this baked Baileys cheesecake might just be the antidote. It’s a practically perfect cheesecake – not overly sweet, dense and creamy, there’s no salt at all added to the actual cake, and the combination of flavours is beautiful.
I normally like fruity desserts but with St. Patrick’s Day looming, I thought an Irish-type cake might be in order. You can make your own inexpensive Irish cream – see the recipe by clicking here. The salted caramel Irish Whiskey sauce can be made with whatever whiskey you have on hand – and if you don’t want to use whiskey – you could just use a glug of pure vanilla essence.
Baked Baileys Cheesecake (recipe adapted from an old Harrowsmith Cookbook)
3 – 250 gram packages cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup Baileys Irish Cream (see recipe for homemade Irish Cream here) or for an alcohol-free version – substitute 1/2 cup of creamy coffee
200 grams digestive biscuits (I used about 20 Peak Frean’s LifeStyle Bran Crunch biscuits)
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 300°F and place oven rack in the centre of the oven.
To make the crust – pulse the biscuits in the food processor to large crumbs. Combine crumbs and melted butter and press evenly onto the bottom of a lightly greased 8″ spring-form pan.
Place the softened cream cheese in a large bowl and beat on medium speed until there are no lumps. Add sugar and beat until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing very briefly each time (do not over mix). Stir in the Baileys Irish Cream and vanilla.
Pour into the prepared pan and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 60 minutes or until the top looks MOSTLY set. Try to resist opening the door until the 60 minutes is up. Turn the oven OFF and leave the cake in the oven for at least another hour or several until the oven has fully cooled.
Once the oven has cooled, remove the cake, run a butter knife or spatula-style-knife around the edge of the cheesecake and chill the cake in the pan for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Once the cake is well-chilled, spread with Baileys whipped cream and serve the caramel Irish Whiskey sauce on top and/or on the side.
To make the Baileys Whipped Cream – whip 250ml of whipping cream to firm peaks, then add 1-2 tbsp of Baileys Irish Cream and 1 tbsp icing sugar and whip briefly to combine.
To make the Salted Caramel Irish Whiskey Sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 cup light cream
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons Irish Whiskey (or whatever whiskey you have on hand)
sea salt or coarsely grained salt to finish
Mix the brown sugar, cream, and butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook while stirring gently until the mixture thickens – this will probably take about 5 minutes. Keep the heat low or the mixture will go grainy. Remove from heat and stir in the whiskey. When the sauce cools enough not to melt the whipping cream on the cake – drizzle over cake and finish with a light sprinkle of sea salt or other coarsely grained salt.