For Holiday Desserts, Ditch the Vanilla and Raid Your Liquor Cabinet Instead

Add a little splash from your favorite bottle.

Dessert, Liqueur

11/22/2021 11:01:00 PM

Add a little splash from your favorite bottle.

When it comes to holiday baking, look to liqueurs, spirits, and fortified wine s for a glorious range of flavoring options.

The Flavor Bible. “But sometimes it doesn’t have a place and can muck up things.” As the holiday season comes barreling in, I urge you to reclassify that ubiquitous bottle of vanilla as one ofmanypies, your bread puddings, your trifles, tortes, and tarts. This year let’s look to the liquor cabinet for a glorious range of flavoring options.

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Let’s back up a bit and consider why vanilla is so frequently used in pastry and baking in the first place. Vanilla extract is an alcohol-based product made by combining a high-proof neutral spirit with the dried, cured, and fermented bean-filled pod of the vanilla orchid—usually vanilla planifolia, vanilla tahitensis, and sometimes vanilla pompona. Vanilla is grown predominantly in Madagascar, and it remains one of the most fickle, intricate, labor-intensive spices on earth, as the plants are still hand-pollinated in a process that dates back to the 1800s. Each flower is capable of producing a single pod that takes nine months simply to mature; the entire process takes years, from cultivation through fermentation, until the beans finally make it to your grocery store shelves. Vanilla introduces and enhances floral, fruity, creamy, spicy, and rich notes in food—but some of those same characteristics (and more!) can be found in a wide variety of liqueurs and spirits.

Baking with whiskey, rum, and brandySome of the most cherished characteristics of vanilla are the luscious aromatic notes sometimes described as woody. Barrel-aged spirits like rum, whiskey, and brandy also tend to carry those flavors but also offer deeper caramel and savory spice notes that vanilla doesn’t. headtopics.com

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