All 75 recipes in this tipsy cookbook include strong spirits, the results not of a barfly lifestyle but of one food writer’s devotion to never wasting a drop.
by Bakery Boy
Why bake with booze? It’s a question Lucy Baker gets asked a lot now that she’s written her first cookbook, The Boozy Baker: 75 Recipes for Spirited Sweets (2010, Running Press, $18.95).
“I really like to bake,” says the Boston-area native and Brooklyn resident, who insists it’s pure coincidence that her last name matches her profession. “I often find myself with a little leftover wine or a couple shots of liquor at the bottom of a bottle, so I find ways to use it in recipes. I figure there’s no sense letting it go to waste.”
A morning person, 40-mile-a-week jogger, and marathon runner who answered my call bright and early, proving she’s no night-owl booze-hound, Lucy also points this out: “Alcohol—from spirits, such as bourbon and rum, to liqueurs like amaretto and crème de menthe, to wine and beer—imparts a subtle, sumptuous warmth that deepens the flavors of desserts and makes them taste even more decadent, luxurious, and sinful.”
That’s why her cakes, pies, tarts, cookies, brownies, mousses, and other tasty creations include stiff belts of bourbon, brandy, gin, rum, tequila, vodka, whiskey, or the high-impact flavors that come with cognac, crème de cacao, framboise, Jägermeister, sake, schnapps, stout beer, and other potent beverages.
“I think baking with booze if fun, plain and simple,” she adds. “Besides, people have always looked for consolation in the bottle and in the cookie jar, so why not combine the two?”
BORN TO BAKE Lucy grew up baking brownies with her mom and snacking on cookies with her dad, positive experiences she says made choosing her career path easy.
A freelance food writer and recipe tester, she contributes two columns to the online food website SeriousEats.com (Mixed Reviews, a hands-on and critical look at boxed mixes on the market, and Edible DIY, a guide to edible gifts you make yourself). For three years she helped edit cookbooks for publisher HarperCollins, and she has written articles for Edible Brooklyn, Publishers Weekly, Popular Mechanics, and Time Out New York.
The Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing she earned at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, helps explain the pleasant storytelling nature of her cookbook.
FAVORITES I was drawn first to Lucy’s recipes for Molten Chocolate Orange Cake, a gooey mess in the trendy “lava” category, loaded with bittersweet chocolate and Grand Marnier, and Bottoms Up Pineapple-Tequila Cake, partly because I had just bought the perfect pan for it and partly because I had a couple of inches of tequila left in a bottle and appreciated finding a hangover-free use for it.
Later I tried the Cherry Pie with Scotch and Walnut Crumbles (I’m a scotch fan and walnut trees grow on my parents’ farm); the Red Wine Caramel Tart (my wife likes red wine and I never pass up caramel anything); and the Blueberry-Port Slump with Almond Dumplings (because I raise blueberries and always look for new ways to bake them). Everything turned out well.
Eventually I’ll make the Dirty Girl Scout Cookies, Dark and Stormy Hermits with Raisins and Rum, Boozy Baked Apples, and Pink Elephant Milkshakes, if only for their fun names.
Lucy tells me two other favorites suit the current season. “With fall’s colder weather here, give the Bourbon Apple Crisp a try. Bourbon always seems like a fall-y type of liquor to me, all toasty and warming,” she says. “And wherever you are for Thanksgiving or whoever you’re sharing the holiday with, the Coconut-Sweet Potato Pie is a good choice, with coconut rum in the crust and in the filling too.”
My compliments—and cheers—to the chef!
SAMPLE RECIPES Lucy and her publisher, Running Press, graciously agreed to share two recipes from The Boozy Baker with the Bakery Boy Blog.
– Southern Comfort Red Velvet Cake (click here to see recipe in separate post)
– Beer Profiteroles with Chocolate-Beer Sauce (click here to see recipe in separate post)
DRINK WITH THAT? As a bonus suiting the theme, The Boozy Baker also includes 25 drink recipes for stirring up cocktails that pair nicely with some of the book’s baked goods. A few examples:
Ginger Highball—goes well with Gingery Peach Cobbler
Orange Sidecar (including cognac or brandy and orange liqueur)—goes well with the puffy and golden Sidecar Souffle
Clearly Cosmo (vodka and cranberry juice, shaken and stained)—goes with the fudge-cake-like Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Orange Liqueur Cream
Double Mint Fizz (gin, lime juice, crème de menthe)—goes well with the heavily minted and pie-like Grasshopper Tart with Chocolate Chips
Beer Margaritas (light beer, tequila, grand Marnier)—goes well with the summery-zesty Margarita Meringue Pie
BONUS RECIPE: MAKE YOUR OWN VANILLA EXTRACT
Sneaking a swig of vanilla extract from her mother’s pantry as a child—it didn’t taste at all the way she expected, warm and sweet like its aroma—was part of Lucy’s journey to professional foodie. Here’s her Boozy Baker recipe for concocting your own.
Homemade Bourbon Vanilla Extract
3 vanilla beans
1 cup bourbon
Rinse a clean, empty jam jar or a mason jar with boiling water to sterilize it. Set aside. Split the vanilla beans in half lengthwise with a small, sharp knife. Add them to the jar. Pour the bourbon over the vanilla beans and screw the jar’s lido tightly. Give the jar a few good shakes. Place the jar in a cool, dark cabinet or closet and let it steep for 8 weeks, shaking occasionally. The extract will darken over time. Homemade Bourbon Vanilla Extract can be used in place of store-bought vanilla extract in any recipe. There is no need to remove the vanilla beans. Makes 1 cup.
A review copy of The Boozy Baker: 75 Recipes for Spirited Sweets by Lucy Baker was provided by Running Press, a division of Perseus Books Group; (215) 567-5080.