THE USE OF ALCOHOL IN BAKING
Adding alcohol to cakes can have several functions. If we want to improve crispness and crunchiness, we can add alcohol especially to shortcakes and biscuits because it will slow down the gluten-forming process in flour. If we apply it to the mass, we will break the bland taste of a butter.
What about a baking with yeast?
A good example of this kind of treat is Pączek – filled doughnuts from Polish cuisine. Initially stuffed with bacon or meat and eaten as a treat during vodka drinking. Then at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries also served with fruit jam and rose vodka. The alcohol added to the mass evaporated during frying preventing fat absorption from happenig.
The tradition of pastries around Easter is long and complicated, especially when it comes to names 😉
The lexicographer Jan Mączyński wrote about Pączek in the 16th century. He also mentioned pastries such as Kalach ( a traditional Eastern European bread, the name originates from the Old Slavonic word “kolo” meaning “circle”, “wheel”). In the dictionary of another 17th-century linguist Grzegorz Knapski the word Kalach appears as synonyms of bagel and obwarzanek. At the beginning of the 19th-century Samuel Linde described Easter Cake (in polish: “Baba Wielkanocna”) as a kind of cake with the shape of a “Turk’s turban”. Nowadays we believe that the name of Easter Cake is a reference to the shape that the women’s skirts used to have (narrower at top, wider at bottom). As indicated by Polish historian Zygmunt Gloger in “The Book of Polish Things”, Easter Cake was a wheat flour cake, with the addition of saffron (to give a yellow color) baked in copper or clay dishes.
Coming back to the alcohol, there is also a story that Polish King Stanisław Leszczynśki, while staying somewhere in Lorraine, tried a very dry Easter Cake. He didn’t liked it, so he added some rum and probably began the habit of adding alcohol to this cake.
Another kind of Easter snack known as Kalach in eng. is very popular in the Silesia region of Poland. Here its called Kołocz Śląski. In contrast to original rounded version, this one is square and it has been entered in the Register of Protected Geographical Indications.
Article by Sebastian Gaik tour guide in the Polish Vodka Museum.