Look, we all have to draw the line somewhere. I have over the years insisted that making some things from scratch were just crazy, best left to others, and one by one come around and worse, as if I’d forgotten my repudiation of five minutes earlier like some sort of toddler, extolled the virtues of doing so. Cases in point: Graham crackers, marshmallows, bagels, dulce de leche, pop tarts, rainbow cookies, goldfish crackers, apple strudel, fully from-scratch hot fudge sundae cakes and Russian honey cakes but if you were to suggest I should make my own yogurt, croissants or sushi, despite the fact that I would be delighted if you made any of these things, doubly so if you brought some to me right now, I would probably rather unpack the last box from our last move (two-plus years ago), not even jokingly labeled “Unfiled Files.” Look, we all have to draw the line somewhere. I mean, what’s next if I cross these lines? Milling my own flours? Smoking my own pork belly? Making our own Bailey’s-style Irish cream?
Well, actually: yes. And here I go again: But it was so easy! You could and totally should do this at home! I had heard over the years that you could make this at home easily but — and I think this is the fulcrum on which we balance our yup/nope choices to cook things that amply exist outside our kitchens — I wasn’t unhappy with what I could buy (Bailey’s) so why would I bother? Irish cream has always been a favorite cold-weather indulgence, in or outside coffee. I’ve even made french toast with it. We always have a bottle around. But in the last couple years, I’ve found it almost too sweet to drink and I guess you could say we were on a break.
But now we’re making up for lost time. Guess how long it took me to make this? 5 minutes, and that includes measuring. Guess how soon it is ready to drink? Instantly. Guess how long it keeps? I have read both 2 weeks and 2 months but I realize that we’re probably never going to find out the latter. Guess who controls how sweet or creamy or boozy it is? You! Guess how close of a match it is to the bottled stuff? With my eyes closed, I’d unquestionably take a sip and say “Wow, Bailey’s is even better than I remember it. Why don’t I drink it more often anymore?”
Here’s the plan for last-minute gifts for the Irish cream-lovers in your life:
1. Buy or order some bottles. The recipe below fills one of these carafes with enough leftover for a glass for you (you’re welcome). You could also fill 2 1/2 of these small jars which come in packs of 6, something you will not regret. (I plan to use them for milk and cream carafes for coffee when have people over for brunch, something I never have when I need.) I’m sure there are other lovely options out there too, these are just the two I used here.
2. Make this recipe, scaling it as needed.
3. Tie it up with a little ribbon (or thin fairy lights I cannot resist) and a little label and make everyone happy, including yourself, who is not waiting in line at a crowded, stressed-out store but at home on your sofa, holiday music playing and a warming drink in your glass.
Tell me, tell me: What are the dishes that you will never, ever cook? I don’t mean “Maybe if you convinced me I would…” I mean, Nope, Nada, Never Going To Happen, Deb dishes. I can’t wait to see where our lists line up.
Homemade Irish Cream
- To add a faint coffee flavor: Mix 1 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee powder with the cocoa and then continue as written above, whisking the cream slowly into it. I did not do this; I felt the flavor was much more authentic without it.
- To make less sweet: Add more cream and more whiskey, 1 tablespoon of each at a time.
- To make less boozy: Add more cream and condensed milk, 1 tablespoon of each at a time.
- To make more boozy: You’ve got this.
- 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 cup (235 ml) heavy or whipping cream
- 1 (14-ounce or 415 ml) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup (235 ml) Irish whiskey (I used Jameson)
In the bottom of a pitcher, whisk cocoa powder and a spoonful of cream into a paste. Slowly, whisking the whole time, add more cream a spoonful at a time until the paste is smooth and loose enough that you can whisk the rest of the cream in larger splashes. Once all of the cream is in, whisk in condensed milk, whiskey and vanilla. Cover with lid or plastic wrap and keep in fridge for up to two weeks, possibly longer.
Serve in a tiny tumbler filled with ice, or splashed into coffee.