Guinness cheesecake

guinness-cheesecakeGuinness cheesecake is as good as it sounds, or at least as good as it sounds to me, because many people have given me puzzled looks when I first describe it. Some people just can’t imagine that the Irish stout would taste good in cheesecake, but based on how quickly my friends and my husband ate over the Thanksgiving holiday, I can assure you it is a good combination.

Unfortunately it has taken several tries to get the recipe right, and it should be no surprise to many experienced cooks that the secret lay in actually following the recipe as published in The Denver Post several years ago.

Robert McCarthy, then chef at Brix Bistro in Denver’s Cherry Creek North (and later chef at the Rialto Cafe), gave clear directions how to make the cheesecake, but I did not follow them because of previous success making a cheesecake following an Alton Brown recipe. Alton Brown’s recipe used a 9-inch pan, with the cheesecake baked in a water bath for one hour at 250° and with the heat turned off (but oven door closed) for an additional hour. So I was leery of McCarthy’s recipe, that called for a 6-inch pan and the cheesecake baked in a 325° oven for an 1-1/4 to 1-3/4 hours. I ended up following an unholy combination of McCarthy’s and Brown’s recipe and ended up with a soggy mess. Several attempts later, however, I have produced a cheesecake that have made me re-evaluate Alton Brown’s recipe (or at least the baking temperature).

Here are the ingredients for the Guinness cheesecake:

3 8oz bricks of cream cheese (room temperature)
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup Guinness stout
1 tbsp cornstarch (not in the original recipe)
1 tsp of vanilla extract (not in the original recipe and still untried by me, but seriously, what doesn’t improve with vanilla extract)

Crust (as stated in the original recipe)
1-1/2 cup chocolate cookie crumbs (Oreos)
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp melted butter

First, start boiling a pot of water and set the oven to 325°.

Next, begin with the crust by crushing Oreos (I used Safeway Tuxedoes because I’m cheap) in a food processor. I don’t follow the recipe here because I make a half Graham cracker/half Oreo crust. Some people prefer the Graham crackers; I prefer the Oreos. I also don’t add the sugar and butter because I include the cream filling. So my crust uses 8 whole Graham crackers and half a stick (4 tbsp butter) crushed in the food processor for one half of the crust, and about half a package of Oreos, from which about half have had the filling removed. This part of the recipe does not have to be precise.

Unlike the original recipe, I do not use a 6-inch springform pan (they leak), but instead a regular 9-inch aluminum pan lined with parchment paper (first greased with butter).  I spread out the two crust recipes on either side, making a black and tan that nicely matches the Guinness and bake the crust blind (without the filling) for 10 minutes. Set it aside to cool.

Next, beat the room temperature cream cheese and sugar (I used the paddle attachment on my KitchenAid mixer at the number 2 speed). Thoroughly incorporate the sugar, but don’t over mix if you want a dense cheesecake. It will be much easier to accomplish this with room temperature cream cheese. If you want to make sure you don’t have cracks in the cheesecake, you can add 1 tbsp of cornstarch.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and Guinness and add that to the mixer. This can get messy, so add the liquid slowly. Mix until the liquid is incorporated into the cream cheese (I still end up with a few streak of white). Add this filling to the now cool pan.

Now for the water bath. Add the pan to a larger cheap aluminum roasting pan and fill with the now boiling water to the height of the filling. Put the whole thing into the oven on the middle rack. Or to be smart, put the pan in the roasting pan, put all of that into the oven and then add the boiling water. I speak from experience.

The recipe says to bake for 1-1/4 to 1-3/4 hours, but I bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, open the door and admire it, turn off the heat and close the door for another 15 minutes. Then leave the pans in the oven but with the door open for another 15 minutes.

At 325°, there is just a hint of caramelization on top and the cheesecake is still just a little jiggly after 1 hour and 45 minutes in the water bath. Let it cool on the counter for an hour before leaving it in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, you’ll need to make another water bath to release the cheesecake from the pan. Leave the pan in the water for half a minute, remove it and pull out the parchment paper along the edge. Then invert the pan onto a flat surface covered with wax paper. Then invert that onto your actual serving dish, also covered with wax paper (although with luck, the parchment paper you used earlier is still in place).

The best method I’ve found for cutting cheesecake is with a long bread knife moistened with a wet paper towel. Wipe off (and eat) any cheesecake left on the knife before the next cut.

The original recipe recommends the cheesecake be served with chocolate syrup, fortified with a tablespoon of Irish whiskey, with which I concur. I further recommend drinking Guinness while eating the cheesecake. That way, you got a shot and a beer.

PS I may now try baking the Alton Brown cheesecake recipe at 325°. That recipe, while delicious, never achieved the denseness of this recipe, and Alton’s recipe has much more liquid.


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