How to get a leprechaun to give you directions to his pot of gold

It’s March my friends.  And that means St. Patrick’s Day.  And that means beer.  And Irish names.

A couple of years ago I shared my favorite chocolate cake recipe.   If you’ve been playing along at home, you’ll recall that its secret ingredient is a can of stout beer.  I’m ashamed to admit it has taken me this long to extrapolate the wonders of dark beer and chocolate to brownies.  That’s right, beer.  And brownies.

The good news is that the lightbulb finally went on, and I have a recipe for you.  Like its cousin, the chocolate stout cake, this brownie recipe also begins with a can of beer.  But here, the stout is reduced to about 1/2 cup.  Wait, allow me to explain myself.  I don’t mean that there is less beer.  I mean that it literally gets reduced down via a strong simmer until all that is left is a deep, dark stouty concentrate.  Pwah…less beer.  As if.

Also playing a starring role in this recipe is over a pound of bittersweet chocolate.  Combined with butter and melted until smooth and velvety.

You won’t taste the beer in the brownie.  But, like vanilla or coffee, dark beer boogies with the chocolate to create a deeper, more sophisticated flavor.

I happen to have it on good authority that leprechauns love beer brownies.  So.  Bake up a batch, find a leprechaun and trade for that pot of gold.  Or, keep the brownies for yourself.  The situation is win-win.

Soundtrack

Still stuck on that 80s channel on Pandora.

Stout Brownies

Ingredients

  • 1 can stout (like Guinness or Murphy’s)
  • 18 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • .5 lb (16 TBS) unsalted butter
  • 1.25 C granulated sugar
  • 1.5 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 TBS cocoa powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2.25 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 C roasted walnuts

Directions

  1. In a medium heavy-bottom saucepan, bring beer to a simmer.  Simmer gently until beer reduces to about 1/2 C.  Remove from heat and let cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9X13 pan with parchment and butter or oil pan and top of parchment.
  3. Using a heavy-bottom saucepan,  melt butter over low heat.  Remove from heat, add chocolate and allow to sit for 3-4 minutes.  Whisk to incorporate chocolate until mixture is completely smooth.  Allow to cool to room tempurature.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, salt and cocoa.
  5. Whisk-in eggs one-at-a-time.  Whisk-in vanilla and beer reduction.
  6. Whisk-in chocolate and butter mixture.
  7. Fold-in flour mixture and then nuts until just incorporated.
  8. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 35-45 minutes, until a wooden skewer comes up with moist crumbs when inserted.
  9. Allow to cool completely before cutting.

 

 

Chocolate Stout Cake

Let’s get this month started properly.

Guinness Stout.  Chocolate.  Buttercream.

Shall I continue?

A work colleague (and fantastic baker) introduced me to this cake recipe several years ago. And I’ve been exploiting it ever since.  This is by far my favorite way to make chocolate cake.  It is dark and not as sweet as some chocolate cakes, which makes it a perfect foil for the globs of buttercream I like to slather on top.  And, if you are so inclined (as I am from time to time), it gives you a good excuse to pop the little widget on the Guinness can or bottle and enjoy a pint or two while baking.

This cake recipe is a little unusual in that you start it by boiling together a couple of cups of a good stout beer, butter and cocoa.  Strange brew indeed.

While the brew cools a bit, beat together eggs and sour cream.

Then the beer mixture is added to the sour cream.

After this, the dry ingredients are incorporated.

The result is a gorgeous, silky cake batter.  I’ve made layer cakes, sheet cakes and cupcakes with this recipe.

Here is the do what I say, not what I do portion of the post.  I thought it would be cute to make mini cupcakes without the wrappers so that when I topped them with the frosting they’d look like little beers.  Good idea in theory, a little short-sighted in operation.  First, if making cupcakes, only fill each cup about 2/3 full.  In the picture below they are filled to the top.  Not a good idea.  Second, these guys need wrappers.  Despite oiling the already non-stick pan, I had a heck of a time getting the little buggers out of the pan. This recipe will make about three dozen full-sized cupcakes, six dozen babies or two eight-to-nine inch cakes.

While this cake would be fantastic topped with a cream cheese or sour cream frosting, my go to is an Italian buttercream recipe from Gourmet magazine.  Hey–you know how some people have the dates of their deceased loved-ones in decals across the back windows of their cars.  Do you suppose there is a foodie out there with a Gourmet Magazine RIP on their car?  Just wondering.

Anyhow, Italian buttercream starts by creating a sugar syrup.  Yes, you’ll need your candy thermometer.

While the syrup is coming up to temp, egg whites get whipped into soft peaks with a little sugar and salt.

Then things get really fun.  Start up your standing mixer and slowly add the hot syrup in a steady stream.

This is going to heat things up a bit.  Don’t worry though, keep that whisk attachment (or handmixer) going.

It wouldn’t be buttercream without the butter. The butter gets added a tablespoon at a time.

At some point it will start to look like something has gone horribly wrong.  It hasn’t, keep on whisking.

A little later you’ll think, really, this isn’t right.  It is.

Eventually, the whole mess will come together and you’ll have beautiful, smooth butter cream frosting.

What you do after is up to you.  Me?  I topped my little stout cupcakes with a dollup of butter cream and dusting of sanding sugar.

If what TD says is true about there being a sandwich in every beer, there is definitely a cake in every pint!

Chocolate Stout Cake

Bon Appetit, September 2002

Ingredients

  • 2 C stout (such as Guinness)
  • 2 C (4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 C all purpose flour
  • 4 C sugar
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 1 T baking soda
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 C sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare pans

In a saucepan, bring stout and butter to a simmer over medium heat.  Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth.  Cool slightly.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in large bowl.  In a separate bowl or standing mixer, beat eggs and sour cream to blend.  Add stout mixture to egg mixture and beat to combine.  Add-in flour mixture and blend briefly on slow speed until just combined.  Divide batter as desired.  Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes our clean, 18-35 minutes.

Vanilla Buttercream

Gourmet, January 2004

This recipe makes about 6 cups frosting

Ingredients

  • 4 large egg whites at room tempurature
  • Rounded 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 2/3 C water
  • 1 1/3 plus 2 T sugar
  • 4 sticks (2 C) butter, cut into tablespoon pieces and softened
  • 2 t vanilla

Combine whites and salt in a very large bowl. Stir together water and 1 1/3 cups sugar in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan until sugar is dissolved, then bring to a boil over moderate heat, without stirring, brushing any sugar crystals down side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in water.

When syrup reaches a boil, start beating egg whites with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until frothy, then gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and beat at medium speed until whites just hold soft peaks. (Do not beat again until sugar syrup is ready.)

Meanwhile, put thermometer into sugar syrup and continue boiling until syrup registers 238 to 242°F. Immediately remove from heat and, with mixer at high speed, slowly pour hot syrup in a thin stream down side of bowl into whites, beating constantly. Beat, scraping down side of bowl with a rubber spatula, until meringue is cool to the touch, about 10 minutes in a standing mixer or 15 with a handheld. (It is important that meringue is properly cooled before proceeding.)

With mixer at medium speed, gradually add butter 1 piece at a time, beating well after each addition until incorporated. (Buttercream will look soupy after some butter is added if meringue is still warm. If so, briefly chill bottom of bowl in a large bowl filled with ice water for a few seconds before continuing to beat in remaining butter.) Continue beating until buttercream is smooth. (Mixture may look curdled before all of butter is added but will come back together by the time beating is finished.) Add vanilla and beat 1 minute more.

Note: buttercream will freeze very well in an air-tight ziplock bag.

All Hail Kale (chips)

Whaaaaat? Kaaallllleeee? Yes, that cruciferous king of anti-oxidents, kale. In chip form. You know, like potato chips. Or banana chips.

So here is the scoop. Last summer my husband and I spent a week camping up in the Northern California Redwoods. On the way up, we stayed in a little town along the 101 called Ukiah (it’s Haiku backwards…pretty Zen huh?). Ukiah is located in the Southern part of Mendocino County and while the area boasts some fantastic wineries, we were there for the beer. The organic beer at the Ukiah Brewing Company to be specific. http://www.ukiahbrewingco.com/.

The beer was definitely tasty and we did our best to try it all. However, the kale chips were the true scene stealer. When we saw them listed on the specials board we were intrigued. And a little scared. Did I mention how cruciferous kale is? So, we ordered some. Deep green and melt-in-you-mouth crispy, these little gems were salty, nutty and delicious. After all, this wasn’t some sort of raw-food patchouli -scented yoga practicing kale, man—this was kale you eat while drinking beer.

We assumed the chips at the Brewing Company were fried, however, a little research upon returning home from our adventure yielded several recipes for baked kale chips. So I started experimenting and to be honest, I’m pretty sure I’ve discovered Nirvana—at least where dark green vegetables are concerned. Seriously, they are that good.

And super easy. Blink and you’ll miss the recipe.

Start with a bunch of kale (or if you live in my house, two bunches, one for each greedy kale cruncher). There are several types of kale. I’ve tried this recipe with curly green and red kale (the red is surprisingly sweet). I haven’t tried it with Tuscan kale–but assume it would be great.

You want to remove the ribs. I find it easier to flip the leaves face-down and then just cut out the ribs.

Once you have strips of just the tender leaves, tear them into bite-sized pieces, wash thoroughly and allow to dry completely.

After the kale is dry, toss it into a large bowl (it’s hard to tell the scale of the bowl in this picture but, it’s a big one).

Now, for every bunch of kale, mix together a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of your favorite vinegar. I’ve tried several kinds and my favorite is white balsamic. But, use whatever toots your horn.

I know you know what is coming next. Dump your vinaigrette into the kale and toss the salad (yes, I just said that) until you’ve got every piece coated. Then, salt and pepper to taste.

Now the whole lot goes onto a sheet pan. Spread the leaves into a single layer. I like to line the pan with parchment–because, well, if you haven’t figured it out yet, I line everything with parchment.

Into the oven for 15-20 minutes. Be sure to flip the chips halfway through. And now you’ve got kale chips. Use them to win friends and impress neighbors. Or just eat them yourself.

I have no idea if these will keep stored over night as they’ve never lasted over night in our house.

Kale Chips

  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 1 TBS vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut-out ribs and tear kale leaves into bite-sized pieces. Wash and let dry thoroughly. Mix together oil and vinegar and toss into kale coating every piece. Spread into a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes until crispy, flipping chips halfway through baking process.