Drinking your cookies
Every kid has a favorite cookie. Mine were Mom’s coco-mint sandwiches, thin chocolate wafers layered with green, minty frosting that tasted better than any Oreo. The recipe calls for peppermint oil and green food color in the filling, but a teaspoon of crème de menthe works just as well. Why substitute alcohol for the more usual flavorings?
One only has to compare what’s in the baking aisle to any liquor store to see why. Most supermarkets carry vanilla, almond, rum and lemon extracts—a limited range at best, especially as many are artificial. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of top-shelf spirits and liqueurs to choose from. The best are made with natural ingredients that yield intense flavors. Pastry chef favorites include Grand Marnier, Absolut Citron vodka, limoncello, Absente Absinthe, Meyer’s dark and spiced rums, bourbon and a whole orchard full of liqueurs, including St-Germain elderflower, Kahlua coffee and Bärenjäger honey and Nocello walnut. (Read my story in today’s Kansas City Star to how pastry chefs use each of these.) And that’s just a start. There’s also a world of flavor to be found in beer, hard cider and wine.
But what about the booze? Contrary to popular belief, it does not “cook out.” According to Krystina Castella’s book, Booze Cakes, about 25 percent of the alcohol stirred into cake batter remains after an hour in the oven. The shorter the cooking time, the higher the percentage of residual alcohol. Anything added after cooking, say, in the frosting or syrup, retains full potency.That said, most recipes call for just a few tablespoons of spirits, so the final quantity is quite small.
Baking with spirits isn’t about getting drunk, anyway. It’s about authentic flavor, complexity and experimentation. After all, he Boozy Baker came about because author Lucy Baker decided to play with a bottle of ouzo someone had brought to a party (fig and orange cake with ouzo glaze was the result).
Most of all, it’s about having some delicious fun in the kitchen. I think I’ll go find that bottle of crème de menthe and get to baking. Or maybe I’ll try the Cointreau. Or the Domaine de Canton ginger. Or Chamboard. Or…
Cookie ingredients: 3/4 cup butter (softened), 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 egg, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 2 cups flour, 3/4 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 cup milk.
Frosting ingredients: 3 tablespoons butter (softened), 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, 2-3 drops green food color, 1-2 drops peppermint oil (or substitute 1 teaspoon crème de menthe for the food color and oil).
To make: Cream butter and granulated sugar in a bowl until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a separate bowl. Gradually add dry ingredients to creamed mixture, alternating with milk, mixing well. Shape dough into two 10 x 1-1/2 inch rolls. Wrap in waxed paper and chill for several hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 325F. Cut chilled rolls into 1/8-inch slices. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet immediately and allow to cool completely. Make frosting by beating butter, powdered sugar, milk, food color and oil (or crème de menthe) until creamy. Assemble cookies. Makes about 3-1/2 dozen.