Most cooks at one time or another cook with alcoholic beverages. Whether it is wine, beer or spirits, cooking with alcoholic beverages adds a depth and sophistication to so many dishes, both sweet and savoury.
Rum is most famously employed in rum babas and the traditional truffle-like rum balls that roll our way every Christmas, we even throw in a few raisins and add rum to ice cream. Scotch whisky is the eponymous main ingredient in Scotch Whisky Cakes, sherry is a must have ingredient for the best trifles and brandy has been glugged generously on fruitcakes and puddings for eons. We brine our poultry, mussels and even bathe our beef tongue in beer, we marinate cuts of beef in red wine and use it to enrich our sauces, and in short, many of us have decided that if we are going to cook, we often look to the liquor cabinet for inspiration.
Take bourbon for example. Bourbon is probably best known in this country as the spirit in a Mint Julep or Old Fashioned, but is equally at home in a Manhattan or Whisky Sour. Bourbon is an American whisky made from at least 51% corn mash and aged at least 2 years in charred oak barrels, resulting in a medium-sweet deep amber spirit that is often described as containing notes of the aforementioned smoky oak, vanilla, tobacco, toasted walnuts, fruit…the delicious sounding tasting notes go on and on, depending on the bourbon and the rhapsodic evaluations of the imbiber.
So it is no wonder that bourbon lends itself quite favourably to culinary applications. It is delicious in barbecue sauce, as a glaze for wings, in baked beans, as a cure for salmon, even in a savoury mushroom sauce for steaks.
And, after all those delectable main courses, you can try splashing bourbon around in your dessert preparation.
At Chez Piggy restaurant In Kingston, Ontario, the Bourbon Pecan Torte has been a hit with customers for years, combining the heady and intoxicating flavours in bourbon with the sweet crunch of roasted pecans and deep, dark chocolate. This is a rich dessert, moist, rich and heavy, and perfect when you feel like, well, nuts, chocolate and bourbon in one bite!
We recently had a hankering for this dessert, so we made it with Wild Turkey 81, an 81 proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon that has notes of butterscotch, vanilla and oak and finishes with rich spice and toast; perfect, we think, for this beautiful little indulgence.
Bourbon Pecan Tort
-from The Chez Piggy Cookbook
½ lb unsalted butter
8 oz semi sweet chocolate
1.5 cups toasted pecans, chopped
1.5 cups sugar
1 cup cocoa
6 eggs, room temp
½ cup Wild Turkey 81 bourbon
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate
¼ cup unsalted butter
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
Line sides and bottom of a 9” springform pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 F
Melt chocolate and butter over warm water in a double boiler. Set aside and let cool slightly. Place pecans, sugar and cocoa in a bowl and blend with an electric mixer. Mix in eggs until smooth. Add melted chocolate mixture and bourbon. Mix until blended, but do not whip. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour. Let cool before springing pan. Refrigerate.
To make glaze, melt chocolate and butter over warm water in a double boiler, stirring to mix. Remove from heat and let cool until chocolate begins to thicken. Spread chocolate on top and sides of cake. Press toasted chopped pecans around the outside. Chill. Serves 12.