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cooking with alcohol

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
I am trying to make a bourbon chocolate cake. When it is cooked I cannot taste any bourbon flavor. Does the alcohol burn off while cooking? If it does is there a flavoring that will take the place.
post #2 of 14
there is a popular theory that alcohol evaporates in cooking.

true, but not entirely true. some percentage of alcohol remains.

that said, pure alcohol is essentially without taste.
so, iffin' it comes or goes, "alcohol" isn't an element of taste

what is the taste element is all the "other" stuff in the booze.
if you can't taste the bourbon, add more next time.
post #3 of 14
Have you considered baking the cake, prob with more bourbon in there as Dilbert says, then when cooked, sprinkle some bourbon onto the cake? Give it a go :)
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

post #4 of 14
I almost lost all sense of smell a few months ago ( That makes me realize how much that sense has to do with what we think is "taste".

My wife just made an apple cake with Rum. She put tons of Rum in it. When we ate it, she thought it had a strong Rum/Alcohol taste. I didn't taste it at all - I couldn't have guessed there was any kind of alcohol in the cake to save my life.

Maybe we taste alcohol through the nose?
post #5 of 14
Seventy to seventy-five percent of what we perceive as taste actually comes from our sense of smell.

Taste And Smell
post #6 of 14
This is why many bakers use extracts. Rum x is stronger then rum. Dilbert is correct the alcohol itself has little if any taste and heat causes it to disipate. I might try cooking the liquor down first and slightly reduceing it so the flavor gets stronger without the alcohol then use it in the cake. The 1 or 2 ounces you add now will be double strength without increasing liquid to cake.
post #7 of 14
Well I doubt it's 75%. More like 15% in my opinion. As someone who can barely smell anything, I can still taste pretty much everything. I certainly haven't lost 75% of my taste, thank god!

Try this: next time you're eating, pinch your nose with one hand, and try to see how your taste is affected. It is somewhat affected, but certainly not by 75%.

Where does that quote come from? I couldn't find it in the linked article.
post #8 of 14
When you cook wines or spirits the alcohol evaporates off leaving you with a more mellow flavor, alcohol in food is very harsh and the chocolate cake should not taste like bourbon straight from the bottle. If you cannot taste any hint of bourbon at all then up the quantity.
post #9 of 14
silly question, what kind of bourbon did you use? just curious.
post #10 of 14
Increase the amount of bourbon, but reduce it down to intensify the flavor while insuring that the amount of liquid will remain the same.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
post #11 of 14
If you want the sensation and taste of bourbon, add the bourbon after the cake is baked. Do this by poking holes in the cake with a wood or metal skewer, then douse it well with the bourbon of your choice. I'm surprised no one's mentioned it as it's r the way pro's do it and the way you should too. If all you want is a background taste, use extract.

Bourbon, and for that matter most other strong spirits, do not reduce to concentrate flavors well. At least it's never worked for me. You can always try it; and if you're curious you should.

Really good bakers like to use Stroh's Rum for its intense flavor -- you may have heard of it. It's about 180 proof; which puts paid to the theory that less alcohol implies more flavor. Also, most extracts are nearly pure alcohol as well. But the flavor's so intense you don't use enough volume for the alcohol to have much effect. A good substitute for Stroh's is Captain Morgan's (spiced) Rum and its less expensive clones -- but we're getting away from your bourbon cake.

When I bake with booze, I usually stay with less expensive brands that mimic their betters' flavors. I find Rebel Yell is a very good choice as a cooking bourbon. Crow and Granddad work well too. Mixing and cooking does too much to the flavor profile to make expensive bourbon a good choice. There's no reason to break into the Beam Black, Dickle 12, Maker's Mark or Woodford Reserve -- unless you're adding the booze after as I recommend.

post #12 of 14
The question of how much we taste with our sense of smell is complicated.

Our taste buds are limited to five different sensations: Salt, sour/bitter, sweet, spicy hot (like chili), and savory. The idea that savory is one of the basic tastes is recent to the west but is traditional in Asia. Until the last decade or so, we only recognized four. I understand the literature reflects support in the physiologic data but to be honest I haven't kept up with it and am just sharing what penetrates the hard knob of bone I call my head.

At any rate, the other flavors are largely detected by olfactory nerves terminating in the velum (soft palate) behind the hard palate. The velum is also loaded with trigeminal nerve endings, but my understanding is these don't contribute much to the sense of taste. Of course, olfactory nerves located in and behind the nose play a part as well. I suspect "olfactory" is often confused with "smell" in a way which overrates the contribution smell plays in taste.

Hope this helps,
post #13 of 14
If you want to try it, I read, some years ago, a discussion about the chemistry of spirit reduction. I'm not a chemist -- this wasn't a very technical article at that level; the point was about the history of science, specifically the development of distillation, but that's irrelevant here. Anyway...

The trick, as I understand it, is to reduce the stuff extremely slowly. Ideally, you'd get a flask with a very narrow neck and bring the booze to just below the boiling point -- watch out, as it will boil at a lower temperature than water. Then monitor the process carefully. Once you have reduced it by about 50% or so, it becomes less important to boil slowly, I think because of something about the low presence of alcohol and high presence of sugar, but I don't really remember.

Realistically, I suspect your best bet is the smallest deep saucepan you can get the liquid into with maybe 1/2" of headspace. Monitor quite carefully. Be careful of boil-over: you could end up with a nice column of flame. My recollection is that this doesn't do good things for the flavor, to say nothing of your kitchen, but I really can't recall -- I could have that backwards, but I suspect not.

Personally, I'm not such a big fan of booze in baking. I'd rather eat chocolate cake and drink the booze on the side. :beer:
post #14 of 14
It is the best way of adding the flavour to cakes, especially like your christmas fruit pudding made at least a month prior to eating.

And when making a good trifle, pour some sherry onto the cake in the bottom. Then you don't have to worry about reducing it. You get the added alcohol tasting as it is from the bottle. Where would Tiramisu be without it?

(BTW - I did mention it earlier :p Beat you to it - for once :crazy: )
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

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