Back in the early days of our relationship, I may have poked some good-natured fun at Matt for being what I would call a “Prom Drinker”. A prom drinker, for those of you who don’t know, is someone who would walk up to a sophisticated bar and ask for a Malibu Sunset, a Midori Sour, or, God forbid, a Mudslide. Matt was nowhere near that embarrassing, but the first time he ordered a Bailey’s on the rocks, I pinched his cheek and called him adorable (he was). And then I tasted it and was like, hot damn, that’s really good.
Bailey’s Irish Cream was invented in 1971, so it can’t really be classified as “classic Irish drink”, but it’s no less delicious for it. It’s rich and creamy, with a whisky bite tempered to a dessert-like sweetness. An indulgence all by itself. So why not use it as the inspiration for a St. Patrick’s Day dessert: Bailey’s parfaits?
When we first started playing around with the idea, we realized we wanted something more flavorful than just a few tablespoons of Bailey’s folded into whipped cream, so we decided to make our own version of an Irish Cream custard, or Bailey’s parfaits. One that has notes of chocolate, vanilla, coffee, a hint of nutmeg and more than a splash of good Irish whisky. Note that the whisky gets added in two stages: most of it gets cooked into the custard itself, but 2 tablespoons are added at the very end to give it a little extra kick.
The key to making this pudding (or any other stove-top custard), is to use a good, heavy-bottomed pot and to keep the heat low. This both prevents the eggs from curdling and keeps the alcohol from cooking out completely. We love our 2-Quart All-Clad Saucier for jobs like this because the rounded bottom allows the whisk to reach all the edges. Any good pot will work though, as long as it’s not too thin. You want to use low, even heat to gently bring up the temperature of the egg yolks to around 170ºF, when they will thicken and create a luscious custard. (By the way, Nerds with Knives has made other custards and curds – take a look!)
To start, add the cornstarch, salt, half and half and 1/3 cup of the whisky to the pot, set it on low heat and whisk until the cornstarch fully dissolves, about a minute. Then whisk in the sweetened condensed milk, chocolate syrup and egg yolks. With the heat on low, keep whisking until the custard reaches 170ºF, which is when it will turn thick and creamy. It will take about 5 to 7 minutes or so, don’t be tempted to blast the heat up, just be patient and keep stirring. Once it’s thick, remove the pot from the heat and immediately whisk in the butter, vanilla, espresso powder, nutmeg and the remaining 2 tablespoons of whisky. Keep whisking until the butter is fully melted and the pudding has become smooth and glossy.
You can transfer it straight into a bowl, but we like to pour it through a fine mesh strainer to ensure the custard is perfectly smooth, with no lumps. Don’t forget to scrape the back of the sieve to catch any custard that clings. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the custard to prevent a skin from forming, let it cool to room temperature on the counter and then chill it in the refrigerator for several hours. NOTE: The custard can be made up to 2 days ahead. Since this is a custard, it won’t set up as firmly as a pudding, but it’ll still be thick and spoonable.
About a half an hour before you plan to make the Bailey’s parfaits, place the mixing bowl and whisk attachment for the stand mixer (or a bowl and beaters for a hand mixer) into the refrigerator so it will be nice and cold when you’re ready to whip the cream. That’s one of the tricks to getting perfectly whipped stiff peaks. Once the custard is chilled and you’re ready to assemble the parfaits, place the Oreos in a sealable plastic bag and crush them into coarse crumbs with a rolling pin or the bottom of a pot. (You can also pulse them in a food processor if you really like doing dishes.) Add the cream to the chilled bowl, turn the power to low and mix until the cream is frothy, about 1 minute. Add the confectioners’ sugar, turn the speed to medium-high and whip until the cream forms stiff peaks, which will take about 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the power of your mixer.
To assemble the Bailey’s parfaits, gather 6 to 8 pretty glasses or small jars (you can mix and match if you want). Pipe or spoon a layer of custard into the bottom of the jars, then top with a layer of whipped cream and generous sprinkle of Oreo crumbs. Repeat with another layer of custard, cream and cookies. Finish with one more layer of cream, and a few sprinkled cookie crumbs on top.
Bailey’s Cookies and Cream Parfaits (with Irish Cream Custard)
For the Bailey’s Custard:
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/3 cups milk or half and half
- 1/3 cup Irish whisky plus 2 tablespoons divided
- 14 ounce sweetened condensed milk
- 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup eg Hershey’s
- 3 large egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter , softened
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or paste
- 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
For the Parfaits:
- 1 cup heavy cream very cold
- 1 1/2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- 12 Oreo cookies crushed
- Place the cornstarch, salt, half and half and 1/3 cup whisky in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart sauce pan over medium-low heat. Stir everything together until the cornstarch dissolves, about 1 minute. Whisk in the sweetened condensed milk, chocolate syrup and egg yolks.
- Cook on low heat, whisking constantly, until the custard turns thick and creamy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove it from the heat and immediately whisk in the butter, vanilla, espresso powder, nutmeg and the remaining 2 tablespoons whisky. The custard will become smooth and glossy. Transfer it to a bowl through a fine sieve to remove any lumps. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the custard to prevent a skin from forming, let it come to room temperature and then chill it for several hours.
- Once the custard is fully chilled, add the cream to the chilled* bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or use a large bowl and a hand mixer). Beat on low speed until cream turns foamy, then add the confectioners’ sugar and whip on medium-high until stiff peaks form, 2 to 5 minutes.
- To assemble the Parfaits, stir the chilled custard to loosen it, then spoon or pipe a layer of custard about a third of the way up a clear jar or pretty wine or cocktail glass. Add a layer of crushed cookies and a layer of cream. Repeat with another layer of custard, cookies, and cream, finishing with a few crumbled cookies. Serve the parfaits immediately, or refrigerate for up to an hour (cookies will begin to soften after about an hour).