Sunday, March 29, 2015         

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Baking with booze

Using alcohol as an ingredient enhances flavor and adds new ones to pies, cakes and other goodies

By Stefanie Nakasone


While visiting the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin last year, I decided to take a breather at a cafe on the second floor of the mammoth five-story building.

Little did I know, I was about to fall in love.

After getting in line, I peered into the food display case. And there it was: a large dark chocolate cupcake made with the popular Irish beer.

Curious, I tried one, and OMG! It was incredibly rich and so delicious that I still dream about it, all these months later.

After doing some research, I learned why that cupcake was so delectable: stouts like Guinness, when paired with dark chocolate, deepen the chocolate flavor without being overpowering.

Cooking process, followed by percent of alcohol retained:

>> Stirred into hot liquid, 85 percent

>> Stirred in and baked/simmered 15 minutes, 40 percent

>> Stirred in and baked/simmered 30 minutes, 35 percent

>> Stirred in and baked/simmered 1 hour, 25 percent

>> Stirred in and baked/simmered 1-1/2 hours, 20 percent

>> Stirred in and baked/simmered 2 hours, 10 percent


Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture


This discovery only enforced what I've known for years. Adding alcoholic beverages to your baked goods can be a great way to enhance or add flavors, whether it's cakes, cookies, candies or cobblers. And during the holiday season, an alcohol-laced dessert is always a fun party dish.

Wanting to replicate the taste of that amazing cupcake, I found a recipe for dark chocolate Guinness cookies that uses dark chocolate cocoa and dark chocolate chips for a rich treat. The delicate cookies are soft and caky, just like those cupcakes.

Perhaps the most well-known spiked dessert is rum cake, a traditional holiday confection in the Caribbean that has become popular in the United States. The sweet and buttery bundt cake — a descendent of the English's Christmas puddings, which usually call for brandy — is often made with plums and raisins soaked in rum.

Baking a rum cake is rather simple, not much different from making a typical bundt except for the addition of liquor. But be careful not to add too much — I once had the unfortunate experience of biting into a chocolate rum cake that was so potent, I had to spit it out.

A variation of the rum cake is the Irish cream cake, which uses a liqueur that adds a sweet, creamy flavor. I have made Irish cream cakes many times since discovering a particularly tasty recipe during college. It is simple, using cake mix and instant pudding mix, but the Irish cream in both the cake and glaze gives it an extra creamy kick.

The recipe is also versatile — you can switch up the cake mix and pudding flavors to create a totally different dish. For example, use strawberry cake mix for a strawberries and cream cake. You can even try using a flavored Irish cream, such as Baileys' caramel or coffee variations.

The recent abundance of flavored spirits adds another layer to alcohol baking. An endless flavor spectrum, particularly with vodkas and rums, has been popping up everywhere — from sugary-sweet options like cotton candy, marshmallow and chocolate to fruity flavors like coconut, orange and raspberry.

I recently stumbled across an apple crisp recipe that used Malibu Island Spiced Rum. Although I don't like apples myself, I decided to try it out for a family gathering on Thanksgiving.

While the crisp wasn't very crispy, the taste just screamed "holiday season." Warm, baked apples with cinnamon and nutmeg, a crumbly and sugary crust, all with a blast of rum — it was a hit with the aunties and uncles!

With so many boozy options, part of the fun is just experimenting. In cake recipes, you can try swapping out water for alcohol — a tip from my friend who works at a San Diego bakery. Or boil down your favorite liquor, intensifying its flavor, to make a glaze.

As with all experiments, it's good to do a test batch first, especially when baking. That's not only because the flavors could clash, but the look and texture could change dramatically. It's a bad idea to substitute alcohol for water in frozen desserts, for example, because alcohol freezes at a far lower temperature than water.

One thing to keep in mind: The common belief that all alcohol cooks out is not true. A bundt cake — which usually requires about an hour of baking time — retains about 25 percent of the alcohol when it is mixed into the batter, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In the glaze made for my Irish Cream Cake recipe, only 15 percent of the alcohol burns away because the liqueur is added after the glaze is taken off heat.

The alcohol remaining is certainly not enough to get someone drunk. But in consideration of those with allergies, or others abstaining from alcohol, it's important to let everyone know that a dessert is spiked.


>> Cake:
1 (15.25-ounce to 18.25-ounce) package butter-flavored cake mix
1 (3.4-ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup Irish cream liqueur

>> Glaze:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup Irish cream liqueur

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 10-inch bundt pan. Set aside.

In large bowl, combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, water, oil and Irish cream liqueur; beat until well combined.

Pour mixture into bundt pan and bake 50-60 minutes, or until long toothpick inserted in middle of cake comes out clean.

Meanwhile, make glaze: In saucepan over medium-low heat, combine butter, water and sugar. Bring to boil and simmer 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in Irish cream liqueur. Set aside.

Remove cake from oven and let rest 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan by inverting onto serving dish. With fork, poke holes all over cake. Brush glaze over cake slowly, allowing it to be absorbed into cake. Serves 12.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 530 calories, 28 g fat, 9 g saturated fat, 95 mg cholesterol, 450 mg sodium, 63 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 46 g sugar, 5 g protein


Adapted from Malibu Rum recipe

4 large red apples
1-1/2 cups spiced rum
1-1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter, cold

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and thinly slice apples. Soak slices in rum for at least 1 hour.

In large bowl, mix oats, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar. Cut in cold butter using a pastry blender.

In 8-by-8-inch pan, take apple slices out of rum and layer with crumble mixture; repeat for a second layer. Pour rum over top layer of crumble. Bake for 40 minutes. Serve warm. Serves 16.

Note: For those with a sweet tooth, coat apple slices in white sugar before layering, and serve with whipped cream or a la mode.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving (not including whipped cream or a la mode): 320 calories, 13 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 105 mg sodium, 34 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 17 g sugar, 4 g protein


1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup Guinness
2-1/4 cups flour
1 cup dark cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (12-ounce) package dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, beat butter and sugars, then beat in eggs. Mix in Guinness until loosely combined (it will resemble cottage cheese).

In another bowl, whisk flour, dark cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in two or three intervals and mix until dough forms. Stir in chocolate chips.

On a lined cookie sheet, drop spoonfuls of batter about 1-1/2 inches apart.

Bake 12-15 minutes. Makes 36 cookies.

Approximate nutritional information, per cookie: 170 calories, 8 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 22 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 14 g sugar, 2 g protein

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