Savor Irish Velvet: Irish Cream Custard

A very unique twist on a traditional dessert.  I enjoy integrating various kinds of spirits in my cooking - and since Irish cream is a favorite of mine, I try to use it the most.  Irish cream works especially well in desserts, from cakes to frosting and candy treats.  Custards, however, were uncharted territory for my alcoholic creations... until now!  A little bit of culinary technique makes this dessert a decadent delicacy.

Irish Cream Custard:

-  1 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (you can also use dark chocolate)
-  1/2 cup sugar
-  1 and 1/2 cups half and half
-  6 egg yolks
-  1/2 cup Irish Cream (ex: Bailey's, O'Mara's, etc)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and put oven rack on center position.  In a medium saucepan, bring half and half and sugar almost to a boil.  While sugar mixture is heating, whisk the egg yolks until they become a pale yellow.  When sugar mixture is almost to a boil, remove from heat and whisk in chopped chocolate until combined.  TEMPER the egg yolks with a spoonfull or two of sugar mixture into the eggs (so you don't scramble the eggs) and whisk together.  Once the eggs reach a higher temperature, add them to the rest of the sugar mixture and whisk until combined.  Add irish cream and gently stir into the mixture.  Use cheesecloth or a fine strainer to sieve the mixture and separate any potential bits of egg and chocolate.  Prepare a deep roasting pan by filling it with about 4 cups of boiling hot water.  Place 6 empty ramekins (4 oz size) into water bath and pour custard into ramekins.  Gently cover each ramekin with a square of foil to prevent the tops from over cooking.  Bake for about 35 minutes or until custards are set on the outer edges but slightly jiggly in the center.  Allow custards to cool completely and refrigerate.  Serve chilled with a dollop of whipped cream and dusting of cocoa powder if you'd like.

Cara's tips: Tempering and proper preparation of the water bath are crucial in making a successful custard.  There are no shortcuts here, as custard making is a very fundamental and delicate process.  Perfect these techniques and you will set yourself up for a multitude of victorious recipes that will have your friends thinking you are secretly a professional chef!  Enjoy the luck of the Irish by sprucing up a traditional chocolate custard recipe.

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