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.

Mixology Monday: Anise Cream Coffee

Anise Cream Rye-Spiked Coffee // stirandstrain.com
Mixology Monday LogoWeekend mornings always start with several cups of coffee. Years ago I had a French Press but it was kind of chintzy and broke on me; I only just replaced it a month ago. Since I am the only one drinking coffee in my house, I still make a full pot and will pour cup after cup, not thinking about how much caffeine I am ingesting until hours later my heart is pounding as if Animal is playing the drums in there. I’ve started to cut down on the coffee by replacing the giant coffee pot with a French press. It’s very unlikely I will clean the whole thing out just to make another round too.

So why the coffee talk? Well, because it’s the base for this month’s Mixology Monday cocktail! No, it’s not a coffee theme, Nick from the Straight Up blog has given us ANISE as the special ingredient this month.

Since it’s all kinds of cold lately, I decided a nice hot, boozy drink was in order. But where to put the anise? In a cream! Seriously though, I saw this challenge as an excuse to go buy myself a whip cream dispenser. It will have other purposes later (none of which will include whippets FYI) so I figured now was the time to splurge on one. Tis the season to give (to oneself).Anise Cream Rye-Spiked Coffee // stirandstrain.com

First thing you need to do is make the cream infusion:
1 cup organic whipping cream
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
3-4 whole star anise

In a small sauce pan, combine all ingredients over medium-high heat. Bring to just under a boil and reduce heat to low. Keep at a simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let stand until room temperature. Strain the mixture, cover and refrigerate over night. The next day, whip by hand (stand mixer, hand mixer, etc…) or funnel contents into a whipped cream dispenser. Keep refrigerated if not using right away.

For the Drink:
1 oz. Rittenhouse 100 Rye
4 oz. Hot Brewed Coffee (Groundworks Black Magic Organic Espresso used here)
1/4 oz. simple syrup (or more/less to taste)
infused anise & vanilla whipped cream

1 whole star anise for garnish

In a glass mug (or regular mug if you want), add simple syrup, rye and coffee. Stir gently to combine. Top with anise vanilla whipped cream and garnish with the whole star anise.

By itself, the coffee and rye are quite strong, and too…’alcohol forward’ if you catch my drift. The cream drastically cuts that back and evens out the whole drink. Rye and anise are a wonderful combination together. Although usually strong flavors on their own, here they work as accents to the other players in the drink. The espresso has an earthiness that pairs well with the vanilla, and as a whole, the drink is only slightly sweet with a nice kick of spice.

Anise Cream Rye-Spiked Coffee // stirandstrain.comWhy not put sugar in the cream mixture? Personally, I’m not a big sweet drink drinker. Here it’s important to balance the sweetness of each drink with the person’s preference. Did I mention this is a great brunch drink? Whipping cream has a slight sweet edge to it and I find that adding a touch of simple syrup to the coffee itself disperses enough sugar throughout. Could you flavor the whipped cream to just be sweetened? Yes, Add about a 1/2 ounce of simple syrup to the mixture before beating/funneling into a whipped cream dispenser.

Make It: Bourbon Vanilla Caramel Sauce

Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Sauce // stirandstrain.comAbout this time every year I start mentally writing an inventory of things I should start making for Holiday gifts. I have to think about it this early because I usually forget until about a week before Christmas, freak out, and consult the list I made two months ago. This is just how I deal with life and presents.

I was totally that kid that baked for the holidays and passed out cookies and got my teacher a Valentine’s Day gift bag (admittedly only once for that. But she was a great teacher and it was an excuse to buy heart colored tissue paper.) and since starting this blog and just, well, making A LOT of stuff, I’ve been going full force at edible gifts for the Holiday season. Rewind back to a few weeks ago and you will find me wide-eyed in front of a steaming sauce pan of sugar and butter and other deliciousness. Myself and a friend decided to take a caramel making class, the selling point for me was the “Beer and Pretzel” caramels on the list of what we would make. Seriously. Beer reduction and pretzels and caramel living together in one bite-sized wrapper. Oh, but the wrappers. The only aspect I wasn’t prepared for in this class, after spending two or almost three hours making caramels, was the hour long process of individually wrapping each damn caramel I made. After an hour I was kinda done with caramels for the time being and I brought them all in to my office the next day. The beer ones being the surprise hit.

One of the last recipes we tackled that night was not actually a candy, but a sauce: caramel sauce (it was, after all, a caramel class). This sauce made its way into a cake about 3 days later. And now it is making its way here to the site. Why? Because I’ve decided to add some Bourbon and vanilla beans to it and make jars of it for presents this year. Friends, you are welcome. Try not to eat the whole jar in one sitting.

Are you thinking this is going to be too hard? It’s not. I had one hand holding a cell phone trying to pay attention to my mother while she went on about something for 45 minutes and started and finished this whole recipe by the time I got off the phone with her. That includes prep by the way.

Don’t want to give this as a gift? Ok, put it on ice cream, or sandwich it between cookies, or DO YOU REALLY NEED A REASON FOR CARAMEL SAUCE?!bourbon-caramel-3Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Sauce // stirandstrain.com

Caramel is boiling sugar. The recipe moves quickly so get all your ingredients together before you start and please, try not to spill it on yourself, it will hurt like hell.

Adapted recipe from The Gourmandise School
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter, Plugra is awesome and used here
1 cup heavy cream, room temp
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 tsp fleur de sel, Murray River used here
1 oz. Buffalo Trace Bourbon
Seeds from one vanilla bean, or 1 tsp of vanilla bean paste

  1. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, combine sugar, water, vanilla seeds (or paste), and lemon juice. Stir once to combine. On medium high heat, cook until sugar dissolves, brushing the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush if sugar crystals stick to the sides. Bring to a boil, undisturbed (do NOT STIR), until sugar reaches a dark amber color. (This can take anywhere between 10-20 minutes. Whatever you do, don’t leave the pan. It will almost always burn if you step away.)
  2. Carefully add the cream. It will bubble and hiss like crazy, but this is normal. Bring back to a boil, then add in butter, salt and bourbon. Stir to combine and until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Let cool and then jar up.

Here’s a few notes:

  • Your sauce is going to look watery at first. Don’t keep cooking it. If you pull a spoon out of the sauce and it leaves a layer, your sauce is thickened. As it cools it will thicken up much more. And once you stick it in the fridge, the next day it’s even more thick.
  • DO NOT STIR IT WHILE IT COOKS. Just don’t, it will create crystals and it will be grainy and gross.
  • The bourbon is added at the end, so you will taste it. That is the point of adding it to the sauce. Don’t like bourbon? You can add an aged rum if you like. Or just leave out the booze too if you have to.
  • Besides the lovely bourbon taste, mainly you are going to get a buttery, salted caramel with hints of vanilla. And you will keep telling yourself, One more spoonful, until there is nothing left.Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Sauce // stirandstrain.com

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.

Ruby Fizz // Happy 2 Years to Me

rubyfizz-5I’ll start right off by apologizing for the misleading title. The drink didn’t turn out Ruby colored, or even a pale pink. You get a nice eggshell color when the foam subsides. Oh, but it’s delicious so let’s just put that name game past us.

Around New Year’s I started hearing about a drink called a Diamond Fizz. Ooh fancy pants, I thought. After digging into the recipe, the only marked feature is that you replace the soda water in a Ramos Gin Fizz with Champagne. I still had a couple bottles of Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs at home and didn’t feel the need to go buy more sparkling anything. In my head I imagined the rosiness of the wine to come through and create a two-toned drink to which I would name it the Ruby Fizz. Not so fancy as a diamond, but still pretty classy.rubyfizz-1rubyfizz-3

Alas the color didn’t turn out right, but still keeping the essence of the base (or topper in some Fizz cases), I decided on sticking with that name.

Before you read on let me just mention one thing. There is an egg white in here. NO! Don’t be scared! If you go out for cocktails you might see an egg white turn up on the occasional menu. This is a good thing, I’ll explain. Reading about egg whites in cocktails, I kept coming across the notion that they only add a silky texture to the drink- no egg taste. However, it wasn’t until I made this drink that I realized that yes, it really is silky. The cocktail transforms into something airy, like a cloud in your mouth if you will. Is there a chance you can contract Salmonella? There could always be a teenie tiny chance. You can avoid this by using dehydrated egg whites or getting very fresh eggs, super pasteurized eggs, or liquid egg whites. Your choice. I still lick the spoon after baking every time and I have yet in my life so far gotten sick from doing it.rubyfizz-2

Let’s continue with the drink making!

2 oz. Plymouth Gin
3/4 oz. Simple Syrup (1:1)
3/4oz. heavy cream
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2-3 drops of Orange Flower Water
1 egg white (from a medium to large egg)
1-2 oz. of Blanc de Noirs (or another sparkling Pinot)

  • Combine all ingredients except the Blanc de Noirs in a Boston Shaker and dry shake (no ice yet!) until frothy. Add ice and shake vigorously for about TWO minutes. Yes, seriously, that long. You got someone around wanting to show off some muscles? Have them do it. You want to show off your muscles? Make this drink.
  • Add the Blanc de Noirs to the bottom of a chilled wine glass, or a Collins glass (some recipes call for adding it in last but that killed my foam when I tried it). Fine strain the rest of the drink on top.

My first whiff of the drink is a lot of the berry from the Blanc de Noirs, then subtle floral notes from the orange flower water. Those floral notes open up into a fuller flavor after you pass the smooth layer of aromatic foam. For a drink with cream in it, it’s not heavy at all. There is a tiny bite from the citrus and the fruity gin in the finish.

This cocktail is so light and refreshing you could drink it at breakfast, but I could also see it in place of fruitier white wines to have with fish or light appetizers. One note on the orange flower water: be careful with the drops. I found that two were plenty for adding that floral note to the drink, but more and it tastes like perfume. Gross. I cobbled this together from several sources to get a solid base for the drink, but I disagree with those wanting to add more than 3 drops of the orange flower water. Also, don’t skip the dry shaking as it really helps start the foam. If you find that you can’t shake the shaker for the required time, I’ve read of a couple places that use a blender or an immersion blender to help blend the egg white and cream. I just unearthed a frothing device (it looks like this) and I imagine this could also help in place of an immersion blender. I will have to try on the next recipe.rubyfizz-6

 

TWO YEARS!

Last Wednesday was officially my two year anniversary here on this blog. I would have written something had I not been preoccupied with doctors and the like for the past week. But here I am now! Scanning my latest booze purchases as I unpack and place them with my current stock, I can’t help but notice how my liquors have changed. I’m still buying the same bases: gin, whiskey, rum, etc… but when I look over the brands, it’s what I don’t see anymore that amuses me. I remember when the only whiskey I had on hand was Jack Daniels. And there was a bottle of Jose Cuervo too, and not much else. Now we’ve had to expand where the liquor goes, taking up a large section of a credenza (until that bar gets built!).  I see a lot of small batch products, a lot of products that you couldn’t get in the U.S. five years ago (thank you cocktail movement), and around 12 bottles of bitters I’m still trying to get around to opening. It’s been a lot of fun writing and explaining to my husband about my need to budget in alcohol into every month. Many of the first resurgence of cocktail blogs seem to be cutting back, falling off, writing elsewhere, but I’m discovering a whole new group of cocktail enthusiasts to which this is all a new love. And I’m exciting to be adding a few new drinks in there too.rubyfizz-4

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…