Holiday baking is better with bourbon

Give it a shot: Eggnog Waffles with Cinnamon Whipped Cream only require one tablespoon of bourbon, which means you can add a kick to your dessert without draining the bottle.
Give it a shot: Eggnog Waffles with Cinnamon Whipped Cream only require one tablespoon of bourbon, which means you can add a kick to your dessert without draining the bottle. TNS

Morgan Murphy loves bourbon so much that he has found ways to enjoy the barrel-aged spirit at every meal.

At breakfast, the Alabama-based travel writer and food critic dapples his oatmeal with extract made by infusing bourbon with vanilla beans. At lunch he spikes sandwiches with apple-bourbon barbecue sauce, and at dinner he sips Sazeracs and dines on steak topped with bacon, onion and bourbon marmalade.

Murphy doesn’t stop there: “I just love cooking bourbon in a dessert,” he said.

Murphy’s book Southern Living Bourbon & Bacon: The Ultimate Guide to the South’s Favorite Food Groups (Oxmoor House 2014) contains a dozen recipes for decadent, bourbon-infused desserts that are perfect for cooler nights. Think bourbon-pecan pralines and pie, bourbon-cream cheese brownies and bread pudding drizzled with buttery bourbon sauce.

Bourbon adds complexity to sweets, Murphy says, and the alcohol “puts a kick in your girdle.”

Bourbon is made by aging whiskey in new, charred, American white-oak barrels, which contribute to the spirit’s amber color and smoky flavor. By law, bourbon must be made from at least 51 percent corn, and bottled between 80 and 160 proof (that’s 40 and 80 percent alcohol by volume).

Every bourbon has a unique flavor profile, and those flavors shine through in a dessert. When it comes to selecting a spirit for a recipe, Murphy recommends skipping the cheap stuff and selecting an affordably priced bottle that you would enjoy sipping. (Choosing a higher- or lower-proof bourbon, however, does not affect the end result.)

Murphy uses Bulleit bourbon in his pecan tarts. In his book he writes that Bulleit is an “amber beauty, with its notes of spice, rye and cedar.” The spirit’s woodsy characteristic “pulls out the complex flavors of the pecan,” Murphy said. “So pecan pie tastes — this isn’t a word — pecan-ier.”

Bourbon can echo and amplify nutty, caramel or vanilla flavors in a dessert. But it can also contrast those flavors with unexpected hints of leather, tobacco or smoke. Murphy’s Bourbon and Coke Cake, for example, looks like a classic chocolate Bundt cake. But the spirit in the batter and glaze adds an intoxicating aroma and a jolt of vanilla-tinged fire to every sweet bite.

“Bourbon is not a meek flavor,” Murphy said. “It’s a bold flavor that marches across your palate.”



Morgan Murphy says this is his favorite recipe from “Bourbon & Bacon.” “I just love what the bourbon does for the pecans,” he says. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

1 (9-inch) frozen unbaked deep-dish pie crust shell, thawed, or 1 (9-inch) refrigerated pie crust, defrosted as directed on box

1/2 cup unsalted butter

3 large eggs

1 cup dark corn syrup

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup bourbon

1 cup finely chopped pecans

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1 cup pecan halves

Heat oven to 425 degrees. If using a refrigerated pie crust, place the crust in a pie pan, pressing it into the bottom and sides. Press a fork’s tines into the rim of the crust for a crimped appearance.

Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat, swirling pan occasionally, about 2 minutes. Butter should foam and bubble and turn a light golden brown. Do not allow butter to burn. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, beat eggs at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended. Gradually stir in syrup, sugars, lemon juice, vanilla and salt; beat until smooth. Add bourbon, stirring until blended. Fold in melted butter until combined. Stir in chopped pecans. Pour filling into pie crust and arrange pecan halves on top. Bake in a 425-degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and continue baking for 40 to 45 minutes or until set. Remove from oven, and cool on a wire rack.

Per serving: 937 calories, 58 g fat (15 g saturated), 147 mg cholesterol, 99 g carbohydrates, 9 g protein, 656 mg sodium, 4 g fiber.

Source: “Bourbon & Bacon” (Oxmoor House 2014).



This waffle recipe is a great way to use up excess eggnog. Bonus: There’s only 1 tablespoon of bourbon in the batter, so you don’t have to drain your favorite bottle to make a batch. Makes 3 to 4 servings.

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, plus more for garnish

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups eggnog

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 tablespoon bourbon

For the whipped cream:

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons sugar

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the waffles: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, eggnog, butter and bourbon. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. The batter will be slightly lumpy. Preheat a waffle maker according to manufacturers’ instructions. Pour the recommended amount of batter into the waffle maker. Cook until golden brown.

To make the whipped cream: Add the heavy cream, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Start with the mixer on low (to avoid splatters) and then increase the speed gradually to medium high. Whip until stiff peaks form. Do not overbeat or it will look curdled.

To serve, top the hot waffles with a generous dollop of whipped cream. Serve with a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Per serving: 1,031 calories, 66 g fat (39 g saturated), 387 mg cholesterol, 90 g carbohydrates, 18 g protein, 1,356 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.




This tart tastes and smells as good as it looks. Bake one and your house will smell like spiked apple cider for hours. Makes 8 servings.

1 (9-inch) refrigerated pie crust, defrosted as directed on box

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 cups thinly sliced, peeled cooking apples (about 4 medium)

For the sauce:

1 1/4 cups apple cider

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons bourbon

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place cookie sheet in oven while oven heats. Place pie crust in 9-inch tart pan, then bake crust on preheated cookie sheet for 7 minutes, or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, in large bowl, mix 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, ginger and cinnamon until blended. Add apples, toss until evenly coated. Arrange apples in concentric circles in partially baked crust, overlapping slices and beginning at outside edge and working toward center.

Cover top of tart with foil; place on preheated cookie sheet. Bake 40 minutes. Remove foil; bake 8 to 10 minutes more, or until apples are tender and crust is golden brown. Cool on cooling rack 30 minutes while making sauce.

To make the sauce: In a 1-quart saucepan, bring cider to boiling over high heat. Boil 4 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1 cup. Stir in butter and 2 tablespoons brown sugar; continue boiling 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. In small bowl, stir 1 tablespoon cornstarch into bourbon until dissolved. Stir bourbon mixture into sauce; boil 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Cut tart into wedges and serve with warm sauce.

Per serving: 235 calories, 9 g fat (3 g saturated), 8 mg cholesterol, 40 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 183 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.

Source: “The Big Book of Pies & Tarts” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2013).



Most of the alcohol in the cake will evaporate, but the glaze is pretty potent, so this dessert is strictly for the 21-and-over set. Makes 1 (15-cup) Bundt cake; 10 servings.

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened

2 1/2 cups sugar

3 large eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup cola soft drink

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup bourbon

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoons salt

For the glaze:

1/4 cup unsalted butter

3 tablespoons cola soft drink

2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

1 tablespoon bourbon

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

To make the cake: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy. Gradually add sugar; beat until blended. Add eggs and vanilla; beat at low speed until blended.

In a small bowl, stir together cola, buttermilk and bourbon. Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in another bowl. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with cola mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed until just blended after each addition, stopping to scrape bowl as needed. Pour batter into a greased and floured 15-cup Bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then carefully transfer the cake to a plate and cool for 30 minutes.

To make the glaze: While the cake cools, combine butter, cola and cocoa in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until butter melts. Remove from heat; stir in bourbon. Beat in confectioners’ sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Drizzle warm glaze over the cake.

Per serving: 795 calories, 35 g fat (21 g saturated), 151 mg cholesterol, 110 g carbohydrates, 8 g protein, 667 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.

Source: “Bourbon & Bacon” (Oxmoor House 2014).