From cocktail-dessert hybrids to beery breads, Baking Business finds out what ’s brewing when it comes to baking with booze.
Alcohol is often used in cooking not only to add flavour, but also to enhance the already-present flavours of a dish, which it does in two ways via the olfactory system.
Firstly, by aiding evaporation (alcohol molecules evaporate quickly), the alcohol helps to carry the dish’s aromas directly to your nose. This works best when there is a low concentration of alcohol – preferably one per cent or less. With high concentrations you run the risk of the alcohol dominating the dish.
The second factor in alcoholic enhancement is alcohol’s ability to bond with both fat and water molecules.
Because our aroma receptors—which are responsible for the perception of flavour— only respond to fat-soluble molecules, the alcohol bridges the gap between the nose and food (which is primarily water based).
Most chefs and home cooks use alcohol in cooking, especially in sauces, braises and vinaigrettes, but it also has a long history of use in baking. One of the oldest and mostly commonly known baked goods containing alcohol is the black forest gateau. The chocolate sponge and whipped cream based cake contains a rich cherry filling, which is enhanced with a cherry-based spirit called kirsch (‘kirschwasser’ in German).
Adding alcohol to baked goods, whether it’s beer to breads or champagne to a cake can give the finished product a more complex finish with the flavours of fermentation, while liquors can produce herbal, smoky, and floral flavours and aromas.
Alcohol can be substituted with extracts where necessary, but the flavour-enhancement it provides can’t be replicated.
When it comes to baking, sweet whites and sparkling wines can be used to substitute some of the liquids in cake recipes for a bolder, more intense flavour, or for saturating finished cakes, like a rum soaked pound cake. Spirits and liquors can be difficult to get the ratio right without overpowering the dish, so syrups for coating cakes and muffins are a great place to start.
When baking with alcohol, keep in mind that contrary to popular belief; all of the alcohol doesn’t evaporate, so the finished product will still be a bit alcoholic. Also, when buying alcohol for cooking, don’t go for the bottom shelf figuring the flavour will be masked; use only what you’d be willing to drink for the best result.
Would you like a cocktail with that?
Alcohol of all varieties has long been used in baking, but now there’s a bakery-meets-bar crossover that’s putting the party in pastry.
Among them is Brisbane’s Nodo Donuts—purveyor of gourmet, gluten free doughnuts—which has recently launched a brunch time cocktail menu to the delight of its adoring fans.
The Nodo team has created a line-up of natural, organic and fair trade boozy offerings that highlight native mixology and include unique craft alcohol producers. Brunch enthusiasts can sip on Nodo doughnut martinis along with acai spritzes and mandarin mimosas.
While drinks and doughnuts for brunch might sound like a left-of-field concept to some, Nodo owner Kate Williams says the booze and baking trend has been wholeheartedly embraced by customers.
“People are really embracing the brunch scene more than ever and we felt it was the perfect extension of the Nodo dine-in offering, which is a full 150-seat cafe at our Newstead location,” she says.
“Sweet treats and cocktails are a perfect cheeky excuse to celebrate certain occasions and events, and we’ve embraced this with our drinks menu.”
Kate says the response from Nodo’s customer base has been “overwhelming”, with the brand’s donut martini becoming a bestseller.
“The donut martini is so delicious. We use a fair trade organic cacao liqueur, organic vodka made from quinoa, fresh-pressed raw almond milk, cinnamon and single-origin espresso. It’s truly a unique cocktail, and matches the donuts perfectly,” she explains.
Liqueur: The Sweet Spot
Liqueurs are distilled spirits that are sweetened with flavours or extracts. Liqueurs have always been an extremely versatile baking ingredient, and now there’s a growing number of Australian made contenders to consider. Tamborine Mountain Distillery’s Cherry Liqueur is divine, while Mr Black’s Cold- Drip Coffee Liqueur, for example, makes a brilliant substitute for plain old coffee in tiramisu.
Spirits: Dessert in a Bottle
Spirits are often used to add a complexity to desserts, and now the reverse is becoming increasingly popular. Australia’s Otter Craft Distilling (OCD) produces small-batch pure vodkas, including OCD Cocoa Vodka, made using sustainably sourced and traceable cocoa nibs. These nibs are steeped for 10 days to extract the warm, rich golden velvety character that gives OCD Cocoa Vodka its unique flavour. Intense and layered flavours of deep dark chocolate, cocoa dust and fudge brownie with hints of raisins and dates, that build to a warm and long bittersweet cocoa finish.
Wine: Rich and Hearty
Wine is, of course, a popular and versatile ingredient in any baker’s arsenal. Often used to create hearty bases for pies, it adds a richness and depth of flavour to slow-cooked meat and mingles beautifully with aromatics. For an unusual twist, why not try making your own mead (honey wine). Mead goes beautifully with slow-cooked chicken and would make for a very unique pie or tart. To make your own mead, you just need a sterilised unlidded jar, 200g raw honey and 800ml filtered water. Stir it once a day for 10 days and you’ll have made your own mead.
Beer: Beer from Bread
So you may have heard of beer being made from sourdough, but have you heard of Kvass? This traditional fermented Slavic beer is made specifically from rye or ‘black’ bread, with the darker colour of the bread contributing to the colour of the resulting drink. In many countries it’s considered nonalcoholic as the alcohol content from fermentation is fairly low (1% or less). Kvass is commonly served unfiltered with the yeast particles still in it, adding to its unique flavour and high vitamin B content.