Baking with Bourbon

Back about the time of the bourbon festival, reader Julie asked for a few bourbon-infused baking ideas. This morning reader Linda kindly forwarded this link full of boozy recipes. If there are any keys to successful baking with bourbon, I’d say they are: a.) employ it only in very sweet preparations, since bourbon is a comparatively sweet liquor; b.) combine it with similar vanilla and especially caramel flavors like brown sugar and molasses, and; c.) unless you want a strong alcohol flavor, employ it only in situations where the alcohol can easily cook out: sauces or things made in shallow pans (thin pies, bars or cookies). Remember, however, that even a sauce that’s thoroughly boiled won’t rid itself of every vestige of alcohol. So if you don’t want any in your dessert, use a different flavoring. Thanks Linda!

6 thoughts on “Baking with Bourbon”

  1. Now yer talkin’ my language again: Bourbon! But which one to bake/cook with — the “cheap stuff” or the good stuff. I tend to do both… but then again I tend to drink both too. In fact, I drink both without the branch! Have you noticed any benefit to cooking with the good stuff or is it mostly just the egotistical bragging rights that is the benefit? (When I mention egotistical… I’m talkin about moi, of course.)

    1. Hehe…of course!

      The way I look at it is this: if you have expensive bourbon to waste on baking, call my 1-800 number and I’ll send the truck around to pick it up immediately, as your priorities are clearly WAY out of whack. Good bourbon should be taken orally in liquid form. Failing that, administered intravenously. Never under any circumstances should it be baked with. Use only the cheap hooch. It’ll be overly sweet, full of caramel and candy-like flavors, in other words, exactly what you want in a bread pudding.

      I once saw a TV chef recommend truly good brandy for a cherries jubilee recipe. “Good God man, you’re going to burn it! BURN it!!” I screamed. Alas he couldn’t hear me and ended up immolating probably $20 worth of liquor he might have used for the noble purpose of tying one on.

      But seriously, in almost all instances where an alcoholic beverage is used for either baking or cooking, there are so many flavors at work that the important (and expensive) subtleties are lost. My guiding principle is to use to always use the real thing (i.e. not those pre-bottled “cooking wines”) but use the cheapest possible stuff.

      – Joe

  2. There’s a recipe for a chocolate bourbon bundt cake that was in the New York Times awhile back that’s one of my favorite cakes. I love it dearly and have made it often. Oddly enough – I don’t drink. I don’t like the taste of bourbon by itself, but mix it with chocolate and I am there wanting second helpings.

  3. Of course, if you want the flavor sans the alcohol, you could always use a rotovap a la Modernist Cuisine…if you’ve got a few grand to spend on a (dare I say it?) borderline gimmicky appliance.

    1. Great solution if you’re Bill Gates!

      Bill, let me know how they go.

      And Evan, thanks for the tip! 😉

      – Joe

  4. Thanks for the links and recommendations- looking forward to trying some of these!

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