Booze deserves as much prominence in your measuring cup as in your cocktail glass.
Whether it’s a smoky spiced rum added to a cake batter, or a splash of port into a chocolate cake mix, alcohol brings flavour, moisture, and tenderness to your baking.
In any given recipe, use the same amount of alcohol as you might an extract such as a vanilla extract. Aged in oak barrels, bourbon brings a toasted vanilla tinge to cake mixes and cookie dough.
Red wine, port and brandy add sweetness as well as a subtle wine flavour. You’ll find these flavours bring a new dimension to gingerbread and fruit cakes.
Alcohol changes the texture of baked goods. Because vodka doesn’t encourage gluten in a pie dough to the same extent as water, a splash of vodka into a pie dough will create a flakier crust. The same goes with tart and shortbread dough.
For flaky results, two splashes of vodka are recommended: One for the dough and one for the baker!
To bring a pronounced flavour to your baking, sprinkle your liqueur or spirit directly on your cake layers, or fold it into the frosting or the whipped cream.
As part of a glaze, booze can impart sweet and unusual flavours right through a cake, not to mention creating a rich, moist bite. A simple vanilla or scratch cake mix can be transformed into something special with a liqueur-flavoured glaze and an imaginative garnish.
With the busy Christmas season upon us, glazes have a great advantage. They are simple and quick to make.
Here is a recipe for a basic glaze.
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup liqueur
2 tablespoons water
Bring the sugar, butter, liqueur, and water to a boil in a small 1-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir constantly for 3 minutes. Take the glaze off the stove and immediately spoon it on to your cake. Numerous small coatings give the best results. Apply your garnish after the final application. It should stick nicely.
A vanilla cake could be topped with a glaze made from lemon-flavoured Limoncello and garnished with a candied citrus peel. How about a rich, aromatic, almond-scented Amaretto glazed cake, topped with toasted almonds?
Baste a chocolate cake with an orange-flavoured Grand Marnier glaze, then pretty it up with chocolate curls. Chocolate and coffee is always a winner. Think about a Kahlua glaze garnished with fresh berries.
Complex flavour profiles can be created by poaching citrus peel, aromatic herbs and /or spices within the glaze. (Remove visible pieces before the glazing process.) Rosemary, cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, sage and bay leaf come to mind.
The originality of your creations will be guided only by your imagination and personal taste. Between the liqueurs available at Lucky’s Liquor and international ingredients available in most grocery stores, the sky is the limit.
Writing this column is firing up my imagination! For our family’s first open house of the holidays, my concoction will involve tequila and poaching Kaffir lime leaves into the glaze. An attractive garnish of chopped dried pineapple an
d lime zest should wake up everyone’s taste buds.
Bon appetite! Remember, one splash for the glaze, one for the cook!