Making Milk Liqueur

There is a way to make a milk liqueur that you can add to acidic /fruity drinks, and it won’t curdle! Sure, this is mostly because it has already curdled, but hey! You still get a surprising amount of milky delicious flavour from it. So much so, that I am willing to bet that letting the milk infuse the alcohol for a long period of time allows many more of the alcohol-soluble flavors to leave the milk and go into the alcohol than you would get if you simply added whey to alcohol as a shortcut. You even get that miraculous milky velvety texture.

It is easy enough to make your own, you simply mix equal parts milk, sugar, and vodka together and let it sit for two weeks. Hopefully by then, the milk proteins will have denatured and separated out from the liquids and the alcohol. If this has happened, you should then filter out the curdled solids with a cloth or coffee filter, leaving a rich golden liqueur for sipping or mixing (discard the solids).

Some milk liqueur in progress.  You actually want/need it to separate like this. And it will get yellower as it ages.

I was lucky enough to get some separation doing it this way, but apparently this doesn’t always work. Some people suggest putting a lemon, orange, or other citrus fruit into the mix. The acid in the fruit will help denature the proteins and speed up the clumping process. However, I just wanted a pure milky flavour, without any overpowering citrus in the mix. Especially if I want to mix this into cocktails, I don’t want the extra complexity of orange in there. Don’t get me wrong, I can imagine that this could taste like a delicious Creamsicle. Just not what I was going for. Apparently, some people also put chocolate into the mix. Again, sounds delicious, but not the pure essence of milk that I want.

And here is the same jar of in-progress milk liqueur, 2 weeks later. Note the interesting separation pattern of solids, liquids, solids. Some pretty cool density separation going on here.

So is there some other way to make sure your milk will curdle correctly, every time? I guess you could use vinegar, but that would be even grosser than lemon. And then it hit me… why not use cream of tartar?

All you need is a more acidic environment to denature the milk proteins, and cream of tartar is a relatively flavourless acid – one that is often added to pastries which need acidity for the chemistry to work, without adding any offending flavors.

Seemed like it should do the trick, so to the second batch (which was about 2 cups total) I added 1.5 teaspoons of cream of tartar before sealing it up and mixing. This worked perfectly! By the second day I already saw loads of separation, and the alcohol/water phase continued to get richer and more golden as time went on. It was absolutely a better result than without the acid!

Now I can make drinks with shrubs (and other acidic flavours) in addition to milk liqueur, and not worry about it curdling and becoming gross.

Whiskey, cherry shrub, milk liqueur, and a cherry. It was surprisingly milky and delicious. How often can you taste these flavours together? Not very, since the milk normally curdles! This is a breakthrough.

I hadn’t considered this before making milk liqueur, but this could even the be the first time you get to taste milk mixed with acidic ingredients like lemon or shrub, because the 2 week infusion process brings all the milk flavours into the liqueur while also removing the curdling elements. So essentially this liqueur opens up all new possibilities. Delicious possibilities.

Making a Crumb Coat

I used these new techniques to make and decorate Doc's birthday cake this year.
I used these new techniques to make and decorate Doc’s birthday cake this year. Sorry for the horrible photo, I didn’t know that I was going to blog about crumb coats until after the cake was already eaten, so I used this photo of the cake at a bar.

After years of making cakes, I’ve only just learned about using crumb coats – a thin layer of icing to trap the crumbs – to make the task of icing the cake easier. Another handy trick is to freeze the cake while it is still slightly warm. This inexplicably makes the final (thawed and frosted) cake incredibly moist. Some people suggest that it “traps the moisture in.” Maybe. Heh. Maybe. It also lets you wait indefinitely before decorating your cake. Combined, the techniques are even more powerful: the thin crumb coat freezes hard on the frozen cake, keeping those crumbs good and stuck and letting you glide over it like a frozen lake when giving it the final coat.

To make a crumb coat, all you need to do is spread your frosting over your cake very thinly, not really caring about tearing up crumbs. Let the cake sit for about 15 minutes or so, to let the frosting layer cure and harden, trapping all those crumbs forever in their carbonite-like tomb. Just use the same frosting that you plan on using for the outer coat, so there is no need to have different batches of frosting (unless this is something you really want). Then, after the frosting has cured, put on your final coat of frosting as you would normally. Note that you no longer have any problems with pesky crumbs.

Sure, you could be extra careful and use your mysterious tricks to not get any crumbs in the first layer and call it a day, but honestly I can rarely get that to work. Plus it is so much easier to frost a cold cake.

Some people say they get mixed results with freezing, and also suggest not to crumb coat a frozen cake (they suggest letting it thaw first), because their frosting separates. I use buttercream frosting and I have never had problems with it separating on a frozen cake, but I suppose that is something to keep in mind.

If only I knew it sooner, this trick could have saved me so many tears!

Autumn Cooking Frenzy

Autumn Cooking Frenzy

You can’t, you won’t, and you don’t stop cooking!

I find that the autumn crops and flavours are my favourite, so once a year I let myself get caught up in an autumn cooking frenzy. It is a fun seasonal ritual to have, plus I really like to eat the things I make. Last year I made eggnog and pumpkin pie (from a pumpkin), the year before I made purple yam pie, et cetera.

Today, Doc and I both ended up spending the entire day in the kitchen. Doc made us breakfast, lunch, and dinner, while I made a bunch of weird seasonal things that were not for eating straight away. Whenever we weren’t cooking, we were cleaning the kitchen. Know that one of Doc’s meals included a ghost pepper grilled cheese sandwich with a plum and shallot salad. So he doesn’t mess around, either. Continue reading “Autumn Cooking Frenzy”