The imagination that goes into baking is nothing short of amazing. Many baked recipes include the use of alcohol or liqueur. One liqueur that has found popularity in baking is kirsch formally known as kirschwasser. This cherry based brandy doesn’t quite seem like it is derived from the bright coloured fruit because it is colourless and lacks the sweetness associated with most varieties of its source fruit. If you want to bake something that requires kirsch but don’t have any you will need a kirsch substitute suitable for baking. To get an understanding of what kirsch substitutes will work in baking and how well we need to understand kirsch first.
What Is Kirsch?
Kirsch is a brandy that is made from cherries. Its full name kirschwasser is German for cherry water. This name is befitting because kirsch unlike most brandies is colourless and looks like water or vodka. Brandy in general is made from further distilling wine. In the case of kirsch, the wine of origin is made from sour cherries though there are modern versions that use sweeter cherry varieties. The cherries are used whole including the seeds. Kirsch does not have a distinct colour because it is aged in ash barrels or waxed barrels and therefore does not get any pigmentation from the wood of the barrels. It has a high alcohol content somewhere between 40 and 50% alcohol by volume (ABV). Kirsch is used in baking cakes such as the Swiss Zuger Kirschtorte and the extremely popular German Black Forest cake. Kirsch has a hint of cherry flavour and slightly bitter almond taste that comes from the liqueur being made with the cherry seeds included. Kirsch is a unique variety among liqueurs so what can you use in place of it when baking?
One easy substitute for kirsch in baking is cherry juice. This makes sense as kirsch is made from cherries so this substitute will keep the cherry flavour in your recipes. Cherry juice works very well if you’re trying to make the recipe but avoid the alcohol in kirsch. Cherry juice is however much sweeter than kirsch in flavour. So in addition to getting a recipe that tastes sweeter, you will also have to watch for the sugar content. It’s best to look for reduced-sugar cherry juice. If you cannot get your hands on cherry juice you can try other fruit juices such as apple, raspberry, pomegranate and black currant will work but be prepared for a different flavour based on the juice.
Vodka And Cherries
If you want a kirsch substitute that will allow you to keep both the alcohol and the cherry flavour then the combination of vodka and cherries may work for you. It also happens to be cheaper than buying a bottle of kirsch so this could work very well for many. All you need is vodka and either fresh or frozen cherries. For best results go for the same amount of vodka as kirsch required in the recipe. Add the cherries and vodka to a blender and blend until completely smooth. This will work well for most baked recipes and maintain that cherry flavour.
A very good substitute for kirsch in baking is fruit brandy. This works best in desserts such as trifles and fruit tarts. What you should be aware of is that you will get a different flavour from kirsch so you should keep in mind how the base fruit of the brandy works with the recipe. You will have no shortage of fruit varieties to choose from as fruit brandies include but are not limited to raspberries, blueberries, apples (applejack), prunes, apricots, peaches and even juniper berries. You’ll probably favour this substitute if you want a different flavour to your baked recipes.
Liqueur De Mirabelle
Liqueur de Mirabelle is a French liqueur that is made from Mirabelle plums. This costs more than kirsch but if for some strange reason you happen to have some in your pantry or cellar it makes a very good substitute for kirsch in many baked recipes. It is sweeter than kirsch so you will probably find it most useful in recipes such as trifles, cherries jubilee and Black forest gateau. Liqueur de Mirabelle is also harder to find than kirsch and many other substitutes on this list so will not be for everyone.
Cherry preserve is already widely used in baking especially in dessert treats. It doesn’t require a stretch of the imagination to use cherry preserve as a substitute for kirsch in baking. On the upside, cherry preserve possesses the cherry flavour that kirsch does. Cherry preserve is however thicker in texture and you can remedy this by adding warm water and mixing to thin the texture of the preserve. It has no alcohol so will be welcomed by those avoiding alcohol. Cherry preserve will also be sweeter than kirsch though the additional water will bring this down somewhat.
Grappa is an Italian brandy that is made from grapes hence the rather revealing name. Grappa can make a good substitute for kirsch in baking. Grappa is what is called a pomace brandy because it is made from pomace, the name given to the solid remains of grapes that are squeezed for winemaking. It contains between 30 and 65% alcohol by volume so it will bring as much alcohol to recipes as kirsch. Grappa is fruity and aromatic but the flavour will be different from kirsch.
Depending on the reason you need a kirsch substitute in baking you have a few options. Cherry juice and preserve will work well for those avoiding alcohol though the former has a high sugar content while the latter will need additional water to bring the texture closer to kirsch. Vodka mixed with cherries will probably the most widely available direct substitute. Fruit brandy, Liqueur de Mirabelle and grappa make good substitutes but will work best for those open to a different taste in recipes.