Wines, beers and spirits have long been enjoyed as drinks but have taken on a new role as flavoring ingredients in cooking and baking. Although some countries have used them liberally in the past, they are now being used in many traditional and non-traditional cuisines and cooking application throughout the world.
The cook does not have to be a bartender or wine steward to use these beverages properly in the kitchen. A basic understanding of types of beverages, and the flavors that dominate them, is an important aspect of modern nutritional cooking.
Alcoholic beverages provide another way to enhance the flavor of foods. Although most people think of alcoholic beverages only as drinks, they are used by professional chefs to impart unique tastes to cooked foods or pastry items.
Many different kinds of alcoholic beverages may be used to flavor foods and pastries before, during, and after cooking or baking. Wines, beers, ales, brandies, and various liqueurs have been used for centuries to flavor some of the most common and exotic foods and pastries.
Alcoholic beverages represent part of an entire spectrum of flavors that can blend in with or dominate the flavors of any particular dish and can give character to the final presentation. When enhancing flavors in food, chefs cannot afford to overlook the versatility provided by using these liquid flavors enhancers.
The history of wines and beers is as old as recorded history itself. How they were discovered and when they were first used may never be known but have often been the subject of speculation. Humans have enjoyed the spirit of these drinks for thousands of years. As cooking and baking developed, so did the use of these natural flavors enhancers. Brandies and liqueurs can give extraordinary distinction to otherwise simple tastes. These liquids can impart character and excitement to the easiest of preparations without fat or other unhealthy components.
Not only wines, beers, brandies, and liqueurs impart flavors to foods, but many may add to the nutritional value of a finished product. Alcohol by itself does not add nutritionally to the human diet (and is usually reduced or eliminated by evaporation during cooking or baking), but the beverages containing alcohol can contribute to nutrition.
Some wines contain potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron. Most other wines aid in the absorption of these minerals as well as zinc when made a part of a meal. Researchers are investigating any correlation between moderate wine consumption and a healthy level of high-density lipoproteins (HDL, or the “good” cholesterol) in the bloodstream. If true, then moderate wine consumption (one to two glasses per day) may play a role in reduced risk for heart attack and stroke.
Beers contain traces of protein or amino acids, fats, and some B vitamins, which remain in the bottle or can form the yeast used in the fermentation process. Liqueurs are often flavored with the essences of herbs and spices and were originally created as medicinal cures. Their contribution to health can be argued but not totally denied.
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