Is there alcohol left after I bake with vanilla extract?
Lágrima recently hosted a vanilla party in Salt Lake City, Utah with a group of wonderful and amazing women and the inevitable question about vanilla and alcohol came up. We never want to shy away from a question but discuss it head on. We even searched a few sites such as the Mormon Dialogue and sites for LDS about the Word of Wisdom.
First, whether you choose to cook with alcohol is a personal choice and here at Lágrima we love everyone and want to support their beliefs. The goal of this post is to help inform the dialogue to support your personal choices and those who you may be cooking for.
Second - Yes, our vanilla extract has alcohol in it. The United States FDA mandates that Pure Vanilla Extract contain a minimum of 35% alcohol content - Lágrima is certainly compliant here.
Now, that said, does the alcohol remain in your baked goods? And the answer here is, most often - No. And any that does is fractional to the original amount.
Here is where our co-founder Neil's engineering and science background might be helpful (remember, he has a degree in bio-medical engineering).
The boiling temperature if ethyl alcohol is 173 degrees F at sea level.
Consider that those cookies or the cake you baked at 325 or 350 F is nearly twice the boiling temperature of alcohol. Now, if you bake gooey brownies and like them super soft in the middle, we can't guarantee that 100% of the alcohol in the vanilla is evaporated out of your goods. And of course if you use vanilla (or any extract) in a cold item, the alcohol will remain.
One last thing: consider that at elevation, liquids boil at a lower temperature (this is due to reduced atmospheric pressure at higher elevations -- people say the 'air is thinner').
- At sea level, water will boil at 212 degrees F.
- At 3000 feet above sea level water will boil at 206 degrees F.
- At 5000 feet above sea level at 203 degrees F.
The same goes for alcohol - higher elevation, lower boiling point. Given that Salt Lake City is around 4000 feet in elevation you can be confident that that the alcohol in vanilla extract is evaporating at lower temperatures.
From a different point of view, consider how the industry looks at Alcohol Units:
A teaspoon is 5 ml in volume. If you bake 2 dozen cookies with 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract you have 0.41 ml of vanilla extract per cookie before baking and the alcohol content is 35% so only 0.146 ml of alcohol. If 85% of the alcohol bakes off you have 0.0219 ml of alcohol left in the cookie. A medium-sized glass of wine (175 ml) has around 24 ml of alcohol. So, your cookie (from a batch with 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract) will contain 0.00091 the amount of alcohol as a glass of wine. We have found that this is far less than the content of alcohol found in juice due to natural fermentation.
Again, we know this is a subject to be carefully considered and hope this helps inform the conversation. If in doubt use alcohol free vanilla extract which Lágrima does not carry.
We sincerely hope this post is helpful and helps allay any concerns. Please leave a comment or ask a question. We'd love to dig into this topic further.