Homemade Boozy Gift Round Up

Everyone loves receiving a homemade gift of the food variety. Even more so when it tastes good! Here’s a quick round up of some of my favorite items to make and give.

Make It: Mocha Pecan Rum Balls // stirandstrain.com

Mocha Pecan Rum Balls

 Kiss of Fire Aperol Jellies // stirandstrain.comKiss of Fire Aperol Jellies

Fernet Branca Jelly // stirandstrain.com

Fernet Branca Jelly

Make It: Meyer Lemon Bitters // stirandstrain.com

Meyer Lemon Bitters

holidayspicesyrups1

Holiday Spice Syrups

Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Sauce // stirandstrain.com

Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Sauce

Angostura Brownies // stirandstrain.com

Luxardo Cherry and Angostura Brownies

Jameson Whiskey Truffles // stirandstrain.com

Jameson Whiskey Truffles

Molasses, Cocoa Nib & Black Strap Rum Cookies // stirandstrain.com

Molasses, Cocoa Nib & Black Strap Rum Cookies

Make It: Mocha Pecan Rum Balls

Make It: Mocha Pecan Rum Balls // stirandstrain.comIt’s that time of year where I put booze in baked goods and share the recipe with you!

This year I participated in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap once again. I was so set on making rum balls (it’s another thing I’m getting to cross off the “to make” list) that I didn’t really think about how well they would transport across the country. So, if you’re reading this and you received a box from me… apologies if they were either melted/smooshed/etc… Hopefully that shouldn’t matter cause you thought they tasted so good you ate them anyway.

cookie swap

These rum balls are different from what I grew up with. Mostly they’re like fudge chock full of nuts and aged rum. Then rolled around in coffee flavored jimmies. Do you call them jimmies? Apparently these are one of those regional food items that every part of the country calls something else. You may know them as sprinkles. Or.. I dunno. What else do people call them? I also grew up eating American Chop Suey which apparently only people from Rhode Island and New Hampshire eat.Make It: Mocha Pecan Rum Balls // stirandstrain.com

There is no actual baking in this recipe. Yes, there’s a double boiler but all that is required of you there is to get some water hot and then stir for about 5 minutes. What I’m really saying here is don’t be afraid of the confection; it’s amazingly simple to make but looks super hard and that means people will fawn all over you for making this.Make It: Mocha Pecan Rum Balls // stirandstrain.com

I’m keeping this post short. It’s the holiday season! You all have a million other cookie recipes to make (or gawk at).Make It: Mocha Pecan Rum Balls // stirandstrain.com

Let’s do this!

Adapted from Carla Hall’s Rum Balls

1/4 cup aged rum, Brugal 1888 used here
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (70%), finely chopped
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
coffee flavored jimmies for rolling

  1. Heat the rum in a small skillet over medium until reduce by half. Set aside.
  2. In a heat proof bowl, melt chocolate, espresso and butter over a double boiler (or if you don’t have one, a medium sized sauce pan with about an inch of simmering water with a stainless steel bowl on top will also work). Stir to combine.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the pecans, rum, powdered sugar and salt until fully incorporated. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. This can also be prepared a few days in advance and stored, covered, in the fridge. (If refrigerating, let mixture fully come to room temp before trying to scoop.)
  4. Portion dough into 1-inch balls and roll in sprinkles. Chill in an air tight container until ready to serve.

The consistency is very close to fudge with lots of crunchy bits from the pecans. While present in flavor, the rum takes a backseat and is pretty subtle. If you want more punch from the rum, then increase rum by a tablespoon before reduction.Make It: Mocha Pecan Rum Balls // stirandstrain.com

Happy holidays guys! I hope you try your hand at making these!

Chocolate Roundup for National Chocolate Day!

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that National Chocolate Day falls so close to Halloween. Whoever is coming up with these “holidays”, and I think it quite possibly could be a food blogger, is making it easy for me to come up with roundup posts at least once a month. Hey, mostly it means I get to re-introduce some older posts you all might not be familiar with. Like some of these:

Chocolate Rye Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

The Chocolate Rye Cocktail

Chocolate Smoked Porter Beer Mousse // stirandstrain.com

Chocolate Smoked Porter Beer Mousse

Angostura Brownies // stirandstrain.com

Angostura Chocolate Luxardo Cherry Brownies

Chocolate Chili Mint Vodka Fizz Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Chocolate Chili Mint Vodka Fizz Cocktail

Make It: Chocolate Smoked Porter Mousse

Chocolate Smoked Porter Beer Mousse // stirandstrain.comBeer doesn’t make too many appearances here, so when you see it in the title, expect it to be special.

Today I thought I’d try and get a recipe in before a holiday arrives, kinda a big deal around this site. For me, Easter has always been about the baskets of candy. Although I may have been raised Catholic, I jumped ship from that a long time ago and now Easter is another holiday associated with a big family meal. And chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.

For this recipe I teamed up with a friend of mine who recently joined her Dad’s business… of MAKING CHOCOLATE at Kakao Berlin. How cool is that job? Kakao Berlin is a non-GMO chocolate company that sources beans from all over the globe and is crafted in Germany, the land of chocolate and beer. She gave me some chocolate to try out and I settled on a nice semi-sweet 64% (Stuttgart). If you want to go darker the 75% (Brandenburg Dark) is fab too. Oh? What are we making today? BEER MOUSSE!kakaoberlin_logo-sm

The unlikely suspects.

I was introduced to the many uses of beer by an old work colleague of mine several years ago. He was the type making cheese and beer in his apartment before you started hearing about everyone making their own cheese and beer. He introduced me to beer ice cream floats and beer mousse among other other recipes. The beer mousse here is made from scratch (unlike the first version I ever tried using a can of powder. It was gross; don’t do it.) and it’s super easy to whip up, although you’ll need 3 bowls. Sorry. Ask your significant other or roommate to be on dish duty with promises of fluffy chocolate mousse with hints of smoky beer. Watch how quickly they wash those bowls.

Also, a big thanks goes out to Jackie a.k.a. the Beeroness, who helped me with this beer and chocolate pairing. She has a chart; go check it out. The beer that worked the best here was Epic Brewing’s Smoked Porter. The smokiness is more aggressive than Stone’s Smoked Porter, so take that into consideration when making this. I tried a few chocolate stouts too, and found it a bit redundant to put into chocolate. The best part is that you don’t use too much beer in the dessert, so when it’s done you can “pair” the rest of the beer with the mousse. It works.

Couple of tips: don’t go too stiff on beating the egg whites or the cream. I did that on the first batch and sadly it did not incorporate well into the chocolate and looked weird. Tasted great so I ate it all, but, alas, not photogenic. You also don’t need a double boiler to melt chocolate. A sauce pan with about an inch of water simmering with a heat-proof bowl over it works great (and is my way). If that doesn’t work for you, very carefully try the microwave version. You just need to watch that and melt in small time increments since it will easily burn.Chocolate Smoked Porter Beer Mousse // stirandstrain.com

Adapted from Chow.com
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, callets, or chopped from a block, Kakao Berlin 64% Stuttgart used here
1/4 cup Epic Brewing Smoked Porter
3 egg whites at room temperature
3/4 cup cold heavy cream

  1. Fill a sauce pan about 2″ with water and place a heat-proof bowl over the top. When the water is simmering, add chocolate and beer. Start stirring to combine. You want the end result to look glossy. At that point remove from heat and set aside to slightly cool.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat the cold heavy cream until firm, but not stiff peaks form. A chilled bowl will help move this along. Fold the cream into the chocolate/beer mixture.
  3. Lastly, beat the egg whites until firm, but not stiff, peaks form. Fold in half of the eggs, and then stir in the rest gently.
  4. Chill mixture until ready to serve, at least 30 minutes.

*If you’d like some homemade whipped cream for this, beat together 1/2 cup of cold heavy cream, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon of superfine sugar until you reach desired consistency.

Not too sweet and richly chocolate with hints of the smoked porter. The mousse firms up quite a bit in the refrigerator and gets a more ‘dense’ consistency to it the longer it sits. So, if you want a more delicate, light as air dessert, eat it out of the bowl.

Holiday Gift Guide: What I Want

I’m taking a break from reading emails where everyone is telling me to get “what I really want”. I figured I would just make up my own mind and make the last gift guide on here this season “what I really want”.

My Holiday Cocktail Gift Guide // stirandstrain.com

What I really want, is to be able to buy Stranahan’s in California again since it’s been at least over two years since I could. I’d also like to picture myself as a cocktail, something with a giant straw umbrella hat would be fitting. An ice maker that makes crystal clear ice? In my bathroom?! Or wherever the hell I want?! And seriously, I could totally use a saber to cut open bottles of champagne. Now, if only I could get a year of Uber rides for free (while eating Gin & Tonic chocolate bars and a full punch set up in the back).

1. Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey 2. Punch Bowl Set 3. Veuve Clicquot Brut 4. Drinkify Me! 5. Gin and Tonic Chocolate Bar 6. Champagne Saber 7. Portable Clear Ice Maker 8. Uber Rides

Bake It: Irish Whiskey Truffles with Baileys Crystals

Jameson Whiskey TrufflesThis year while thinking of a St. Patrick’s day cocktail I recalled a post on a website that made Irish Car Bomb cupcakes. They’re fantastic, albeit a lot of work, FYI. And as much as I wanted to do an Irish Car Bomb for the Low Rent Cocktail of the Month in March, I thought something less obvious would be better for my Irish Holiday. But something with Irish Whiskey all the same.jameson-truffles-1

So this month we’re ‘baking’ up the alcohol and throwing it into truffles. Chocolate Truffles can look amazingly elegant, but let’s not kid ourselves. They are chocolate we melt, let it get hard again and form into balls which we eat by the handful. Not as much work as those cupcakes but just as nice looking.

Taking it a step further I also dehydrated (as best as I could) Baileys Liqueur to keep with the Irish-ness of this alcoholic dessert. Initially I was going to fill the truffles with the Baileys until I saw this post on the Alcademic’s blog, where I learned about the world of dehydrating liquors for cocktails. Totally blew me away as I now had a new concept to play with.

Dehydrating the Baileys though was tough. Keeping the basic rules to follow from that post, I still ended up keeping it in the oven for about 36 hours at 170° and all of the liquid never fully dehydrated. However, enough did for a lovely crunchy topping to put on the truffles, so not all was lost. One change for the next time I dehydrate liquor (or a liqueur), is to keep it in a thinner layer. I found that the bottom liquid stayed gelatinous under the top crust that crystallized first. Best advice for any of you wanting to try this is to test several times to see what works best in your oven!

jameson-truffles-3I use a 1/4 cup of Jameson in this recipe. That might seem like too much, but the flavor becomes very subtle as it is mixed into the chocolate and cream. It is definitely there, but not blaringly WHISKEY. If you want more of that flavor, slowly try adding in more and tasting as you go. Keep in mind that the whiskey does not cook out, since it’s added in at the end, so let’s keep this dessert 21+.jameson-truffles-2 jameson-truffles-4jameson-truffles-7

Recipe adapted from Food Network
8 oz Extra Bitter Chocolate (Callebaut 70.4%), finely chopped
4 oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate (Callebaut 53.8%), finely chopped
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup Jameson Irish Whiskey

For Garnish:
1/2 cup Valrhona Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
Baileys Irish Cream, dehydrated and ground into a powder (see recipe below)

  1. Place chocolates in a medium sized heat-proof bowl. Set aside. In a 1-1/2 quart saucepan, heat cream on the stove until boiling and immediately pour the cream over the chocolate. Let sit for five minutes. Stir chocolate until smooth. If, like me, you did not chop your chocolate fine enough, you may need to create a double boiler (by placing your bowl of chocolate and cream over a sauce pan of simmering water) and reheat chocolate until fully melted. Try and chop it fine on the first try. Stir in Jameson. Mixture will look separated, however keep stirring until smooth- it will happen.
  2. Refrigerate for about an hour until firm but not rock solid.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a disher, or spoon, portion out the chocolate mixture into balls around an 1″ in diameter. I was able to get roughly 30 balls. Refrigerate again for 15 minutes. Pour cocoa powder in a shallow bowl.
  4. Take the truffles out and either toss directly into the cocoa powder as is using a fork to move around and coat the truffle, or smooth out the truffles into smooth balls and then coat in the cocoa powder. Coat the top of the truffles with ground Bailey’s crystals working quickly by hand. Your fingers will create some heat that might make the crystals warm and sticky. If you find this happening while you coat the truffles, refrigerate the mixture for 5 minutes and take back out again to finish.

Dehydrated Baileys Irish Cream

1/4 cup Baileys Irish Cream

Set oven to 170°. Pour Baileys into a silicon container and place into oven. As mixture starts to solidify on top, break up top bits to expose all of the liquid. Test for doneness starting after 18 hours. Like I mention above, my mixture hit its wall at 36 hours as some of the mixture was more like a caramel and never dried out. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Break up all of the crystalized parts and, using a mortar and pestle, grind the mixture into a powder. Refrigerate in an air tight container until ready to use.jameson-truffles-5

By combining the extra bitter and semi-sweet chocolate, these truffles are not too sweet, but have a deep earthiness from the dark chocolate with a hint of sweetness and the subtle flavor of the Jameson. The crunchy bits of the Bailey’s on top provide a touch of caramel sweetness. Want to make this like an Irish Car Bomb? I bet they taste spectacular beside a pint of Guinness.

What to do with Amaretto: Part Two, make whipped cream

amaretto-whipcream-1January always seems like a “hands off” month when it comes to any subject other than how to be healthy. People are waking up, shaking off a month and a half food and booze induced coma, swearing off all evils for at least a few weeks. February seemed a more proper month to post this. All of those resolutions are out the window right now and people need a reason to put whipped cream on everything.

Booze spiked hot cocoa really doesn’t need a recipe (add alcohol until satisfied). However, measurements might be needed for a topping. Yes, a topping. Not being much of a marshmallow lover, I always have enjoyed a rather large dollop of whipped cream on my hot cocoa. And in this scenario, I have a bottle of Amaretto that needs using up. So for the next installment of “What to do with that bottle of Amaretto“, we will spike some whipped cream with it. Mmmm….amaretto-whipcream-6

Have you seen those new bottles of already spiked alcoholic whipped cream? Are you as freaked out as I am? Why does this exist if it takes 10 minutes to make on your own? You don’t even need to put pants on.

amaretto-whipcream-2Let’s make some Amaretto Whipped Cream:

8 oz. of cold heavy whipping cream
1 oz. of Amaretto
2 tbsp of sugar (I am using granulated and it dissolved just fine)

  • Start whipping the cream and add in the Amaretto and sugar. Mix until medium/firm peaks form, around 5 to 7 minutes. For softer whipped cream, beat it less. The colder the environment, mixer, whisk, etc. is, the faster your whipped cream will whip up.
  • When desired consistency is achieved (and you’ve taste tested, and maybe tested a few more spoonfuls if no one is looking), use right away or store in an air-tight container. Whipped cream will last 2-3 days in the refrigerator.

amaretto-whipcream-3amaretto-whipcream-4amaretto-whipcream-5Concerned your whipped cream will taste too much of alcohol? Don’t fret, even with an ounce of Amaretto, this recipe yields more like 2 to 2-1/2 cups, and mixed throughout is more subtle than you think. Also, the cream and sugar help cut through the sting of alcohol to let more of the almond flavor of the Amaretto stand out. I added my whipped cream to a mug (an awesome Mayan tiki mug no less) of Mexican Hot Chocolate. The flavor of the Amaretto was a match for the earthy, spiciness of the drink. Adding a touch of nutmeg on top doesn’t hurt either. I imagine this would work just as well with Swiss Miss.

Don’t want hot chocolate? Sneaking a piece of cake during your bout of trying to be healthy? This is spectacular on spice cakes or just dipping cookies into. Or strawberries! Valentine’s Day is this week…

Bake It: Angostura Bitters & Luxardo Cherry Brownies

Sometimes we do this thing at my house where we’ve decided we want to be healthier and get rid of all the ‘unhealthy’ snacks in the house. So suddenly there is no more processed goodies about. We’re left with a container of unsweetened cocoa powder and a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips shoved in the back of the fridge. All you bakers out there are rolling your eyes and saying ‘yeah, and?‘ right about now. What I’m left with is two main ingredients to make a whole bunch of desserts and unhealthy foods. The challenge though, is to actually make something from scratch.

I love to bake, but I don’t get to do it as much as I used to. Now I’m mainly focused on cocktails. Then I decided to marry the two.

When I realized there was nothing to snack on at the house I went in search for a quick and easy recipe I could throw together with not much effort but be satisfied with the end result. I remembered I’d seen on Shutterbean a pretty straightforward brownie recipe that would accomplish both goals. But I wanted to put my own spin on it. Also, I wanted something my husband would want to eat and that meant throwing some kind of fruit into it and getting the walnuts out (otherwise I’d be staring the pan down with no regrets). Lately he’d been on a cherry kick and as an afterthought, I figured I would stick a couple cherries on top. Then I spotted the bottle of Angostura bitters and I had an idea. My first batch had a 1/2 ounce, but I found I wanted the bitters to be stronger throughout the brownies. Then I threw in a whole ounce and it was magic.

(recipe adapted from Shutterbean.com)

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1-¼ cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 oz. Angostura bitters
1 cup luxardo cherries (syrup drained off as much as possible)

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 8″ square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line bottom and sides of the pan with parchment.

Mix flour, salt, cocoa powder & baking powder together in a bowl. Set aside.

Place butter and chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water; stir frequently, until almost melted. Remove from heat; stir until completely melted.

Whisk in sugar until smooth. Add bitters and stir to combine. Whisk in eggs. Fold in cherries. Gently whisk in flour mixture until smooth (do not overmix).

Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached (they should form a ball when rolled between your fingers), 50 – 55 minutes. Cool completely in pan.

Use parchment paper to lift from pan; peel off and discard. Cut into squares (this is much easier to do with these brownies if you stick them in the freezer after they have cooled slightly for about 20 minutes).

I found that adding the bitters and the cherries made the batter a bit thicker and took more time to bake thoroughly. I would start checking on them at about the 50 minute mark and test every 5 minutes after. The end result is a fudgy brownie that has some super spicy notes from the bitters, and with the cherries, are reminiscent of chocolate covered cherry cordials. I decided to split the chocolate between semisweet and bittersweet to cut a bit back on the richness and try to highlight more of the spice. They really make a great holiday brownie too (I’ve now made this enough times over the past two weeks that I have the recipe memorized and could make them in my sleep).

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