By Stefanie Baum, ICC Professional Culinary Arts Student
If your family is anything like mine, there’s a lot of pressure this Thanksgiving to arrive at the family gathering with a dish that will impress. Now that I’m in culinary school, my family expects me to bring something that’ll really delight their palates. But what many of them don’t realize is that there just isn’t enough hours in a culinary student’s schedule (especially for one that works multiple jobs in addition to school) to dedicate the time, energy and creativity to prepare a dish that won’t get Chopped. There may be no shortcuts in a professional kitchen, but instead of an elaborate turkey or side, I decided to develop a recipe for a special elixir that’s still sure to please (and makes a great low cost hostess gift!).
My homemade Irish Cream recipe has been in the works for years—about a decade ago, I was bartending at this tiny craft beer bar on the north shore of Long Island and a regular customer of mine from Ireland brought in a bottle of her Homemade Bailey’s as a gift to me around the holidays. It was a kind gesture, but it was abysmal—in fact, it was undrinkable. It was basically just whiskey and cream—and if that doesn’t make your stomach curdle, then looking at the separated mixture would. But, it was the effort and thought that stood out to me most, and it got me thinking about creating my own version that wouldn’t curdle and would at the very least be drinkable and at the very most, something my friends and family would look forward to receiving and drinking each year.
My first few attempts were admittedly too strong, unbalanced and too thin. But that’s why recipe testing exists. I like to approach it like a science experiment, and my working hypothesis was that I could create a version of Bailey’s that would be well-balanced, thick but not too thick and would have a shelf life of at least 30 days. I set out to prove a lot and in the process developed my own method for recipe testing.
Step 1: Establish Flavor
I picked up a bottle of store bought Bailey’s and had a taste (ok, many tastes), and noted the flavors present—its creamy, slightly nutty, chocolatey sweet, boozy with a hint of coffee. Now, what ingredients can I use that will achieve those flavors?
Step 2: Establish Texture
Bailey’s has a viscous texture on the thicker side, but not quite a milkshake. What can I use to thicken cream without whipping it? Sweetened-condensed milk! Now, which whiskey is going to blend the best?
Step 3: Combine Flavor Elements to Preserve Texture
This is the tedious part of trial and error and recording each measurement for each batch. But the real fun part is taste-testing each batch to lock in the best ratio.
Step 4: Test Shelf Life
This is a little annoying because you’re intentionally ruining a perfectly fine batch, but it’s worth it because you wouldn’t want to give a gift to a loved one that is spoiled or will potentially spoil quickly. For this, I left three bottles in the fridge for varying amounts of time, in different containers. One was a mason jar, one was a recycled wine bottle with a screw cap and one was a recycled wine bottle with a reused cork. The corked bottle spoiled in 2 weeks, the screw cap wine bottle spoiled in 5 weeks and the mason jar kept for a whopping two and a half months—but I recommend setting the expiry date in conjunction with the expiration date of the cream used, although the alcohol does help preserve it longer. Better safe than sorry.
Step 5: Lock in the Recipe
It’s so easy to fall into the cyclical trap of the retesting and re-tasting. Once you have something you’re happy with—write it down, stick to it and enjoy it!
Homemade Irish Cream
Note this recipe is for ages 21+, please drink responsibly!
1 cup heavy cream
1 14-ounce can sweetened-condensed milk
1 ⅔ cups Irish Whiskey (I prefer Tullamore Dew)
3 T dark chocolate syrup
1 t vanilla extra
¼ t almond extract
1 t instant coffee granules
- Combine all ingredients in blender.
- Blend 1 minute and 30 seconds.
- Enjoy immediately, or store in an airtight container for up to 30 days. Shake well before serving.
Generally, I recycle screw cap wine bottles to store the Irish Cream. Tie a bow on it with a tag and personal message and voila, you’ve just made a beautiful and delicious holiday gift.
I hope this recipe helps you out in a time crunch this holiday season!
About Stefanie Baum
Stefanie Baum spent the better part of the past decade as a creative manager working on social media marketing and advertising campaigns for some of the biggest brands in the world like Google, Cheerios, Pepsi and Twizzlers. As exciting as that was, she always wanted to do something that directly made people happy and for her, that’s cooking. She’s currently enrolled in the Professional Culinary Arts Program and works as culinary assistant to Nikki Dinki, author of Meat on the Side and Food Network Star contestant, recipe testing and producing social media content.