New Beer’s Resolution

Christmas and New Years have come and gone. The gyms are filled with people struggling through their yearly work-out. The stores can’t keep enough kale, quinoa, or other so-called “Superfoods” on the shelves to satisfy the trendiest dieters.

I’m not really one to make New Year’s resolutions. January really isn’t different from any other month, and shouldn’t be the only time we set goals. That being said, I do have one project I’m looking forward to working on over the next year.

I’ll be babysitting a friend’s brewing equipment over the next year, which gives me an opportunity to venture into the world of home brewing. As with any goal, it’s a good idea to start small, and work up to where you want to be.

The first batch will be an easy one from a kit. And maybe adding a bit of personality with some dry hopping or flavorful adjuncts.

Step two will be more complex, brewing from malt itself. Any suggestions for techniques and potential flavours will be welcome, from fellow brewers and beer enthusiasts alike.

IMG_0436
These aren’t your typical cookie-cutter sugar cookies.

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to make and eat cookies (even eggnog-flavoured ones) year round (not just in December). The following is one of my favorites – a successful experiment from last year.

Rum N’ Eggnog Sugar Cookies

 

IMG_0438
Christmas pig never gets invited to holiday gatherings.

⅔ cup butter

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 tbsp. rum or rum flavoring

1 egg

2 tbsp. eggnog

2 cups flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp. nutmeg

¼ tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp salt

  1. Cream butter, sugar and rum together.
  2. Add egg and eggnog; beat thoroughly.
  3. Sift together remaining dry ingredients.
  4. Gradually blend dry ingredients into creamed mixture.
  5. Divide dough in half and cover or wrap in plastic.
  6. Chill at least one hour before rolling out.
    On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to ⅛” thickness.
  7. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters.
  8. Carefully transfer to cookie sheet and bake at 350°F (325°F convection) for 8-10 minutes.
  9. Let cookies cool before removing from pan.

IMG_0440

Makes about 36 cookies

Got any tips or tricks for a newcomer to the world of home brewing? Suggestions for a first or second beer style to try? Clever names for new brews? I’d like to hear about it – comment below or get in touch on twitter @theempirestrikesbock

Advertisements

Wookiee Monster

There’s less than a month to go until the Force will supposedly awaken. And here I am baking cookies.

Wookiee cookies to be exact. With oats, coconut, toffee bits and a hint of chocolate. The toffee bits will melt a bit in the oven and make these cookies a little…wait for it…chewy.

Honestly, I don’t have a lot to say about beer this week. This whole Star Wars thing has occupied most of my attention. However, I did stumble upon this little gem last time I was at my favorite beer haunt.

wells-sticky-toffee-pudding-ale-63For this recipe I used Wells Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale. This isn’t the first oddball beer flavor for the Charles Wells brewing family – this is the same brewery that put out the Banana Bread beer among others. This one comes very close to conjuring up an accurate likeness of the British dessert: rich caramel malt tones and a hint of molasses-like sweetness.

Can’t find the aforementioned ale? An English Brown Ale (e.g. Newcastle or Naramata Nut Brown) or a sweet oak-aged brew would do just fine.

Toffee Ale Wookiee Cookies

IMG_20151119_210928
The wild cookie, in its natural environment.

For the cookies:
3/4 cup unsalted butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1/4 cup brown ale

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tbsp cocoa powder

1 cup large flake rolled oats

1 cup quick-cooking oats

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

1 cup flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup toffee bits

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F (325°F in a convection oven).
  2. Cream butter and sugar.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla to butter mixture and beat until smooth.
  4. Gradually stir in cocoa, oats and coconut to butter mixture.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking soda.
  6. Add flour mixture to butter mixture gradually, stirring well.
  7. Add toffee bits to dough and fold to combine.
  8. Chill dough for at least one hour and up to 24 hours. The more time the dough has to rest, the more moisture the oats will absorb and the less it will spread out on the cookie sheet.
  9. Scoop dough with a teaspoon and form into balls, pressing down lightly onto nonstick or greased baking sheet.
  10. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.
  11. Place on wire rack to cool.

IMG_20151119_200826

 

Wookiee Cookie Icing

Chocolate:
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

2 tbsp. dark cocoa powder

3 tsp. milk

3 tbsp. corn syrup

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Vanilla:

1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

3 tsp. milk

2 tbsp. corn syrup

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

  1. Stir confectioner’s sugar, cocoa and milk together.
  2. Add corn syrup and combine until smooth. If icing is too thick to put in an icing bag, add a bit more corn syrup.
  3. Pour icing into piping bag fitted with a small round tip.

To Decorate:

  1. With the chocolate icing, draw two lines across the cookie’s “chest” to make the outline of the ammo belt.
  2. Fill in this line with more of the chocolate icing and smooth over the top.
  3. Use the vanilla icing to make those cute little snaggle-teeth and eyes. Add a little bit of food coloring for the eyes if you don’t want your wookiees to look possessed.
  4. Draw lines or add silverettes to the ammo belt to make your wookiee look more vicious.
  5. If you’re seriously having trouble with this and need more detailed instructions, Ro from Nerdy Nummies has an excellent tutorial on her Youtube channel using melted chocolate.

The Best of the ‘Wurst

oktoberfest-info_logoI have recently been informed that some family members were planning to attend Oktoberfest in Munich. Without me! Naturally, I was a jealous mess for several weeks leading up to the event. However, I did manage to pursue a similar experience (or as close as I could get) without leaving the province.

Oktoberfest began as a celebration of the wedding between the Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. The festivities were held on the fields in front of the city gates, while all of Munich’s citizens were invited to attend. The festival grounds which were thereafter known as the Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s meadow”) or “weisn” to the locals. Somehow this morphed into an anniversary party, then a public festival and has since become a tradition to consume fermented grain.calgary-oktoberfest-new2015-v1

The website offers some helpful information on planning your visit, as well as some interesting facts and numbers about the event. This year 5.9 million guests attended this year, while the Lost and Found collected 600 passports, 580 wallets, 320 mobile phones, 220 bags and “rucksacks” (or backpacks, whatever you want to call them), 18 cameras, 230 glasses and 45 pieces of jewellery or watches, among other more unusual items.The Calgary Oktoberfest is more or less an extension of the Calgary International Beer Fest – numerous local breweries get together, brew some special casks and flaunt their delicious wares. There are however a few more costumed attendees. And live music.

IMG_20150927_140230

I was impressed by the food offered there. Last Best put on a delicious pot of Elk Meatballs with a double-smoked bacon tomato sauce (I might have gone back for seconds). However, I was disappointed with the lack of German food. Where were the bratwurst? The schnitzel? Naturally, the next day I concocted the German food I’d missed. Starting with the following soft pretzels.


Bavarian Beer PretzelsIMG_20150927_135741

1 bottle (12 ounces) pilsner or Oktoberfest-style beer

1 package (1 tbsp.) active dry yeast

2 tablespoons olive or canola oil

2 tablespoons sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

4 – 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup baking soda

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon water

Kosher Salt

  1. In a small saucepan, heat beer to 110°F. Remove from heat and sprinkle yeast overtop.
  2. In a large bowl, combine oil, sugar, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, and 3 cups flour. Pour in yeast mixture and beat until smooth.
  3. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft, sticky dough.
  4. Turn dough onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.
  5. Transfer dough to a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 425°. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide and shape into ten balls.
  7. Roll each into a long rope, approximately 20-24″ long. Curve ends of each rope to form a circle; twist ends once and lay over opposite side of circle, pinching ends to seal into a pretzel shape.
  8. Fill a large pot with 10 cups water. Stir in baking soda and heat to a boil.
  9. Drop pretzels, one or two at a time, into boiling water. Cook 30 seconds.
  10. Remove each pretzel with a slotted spoon and drain well on towels, removing as much moisture as possible.
  11. Place at least two inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.
  12. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolk and water. Brush egg mixture over pretzels and sprinkle with coarse salt.
  13. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to a wire rack to cool.
  14. Freeze option: Freeze cooled pretzels in resealable plastic freezer bags. To use, thaw at room temperature or, if desired, microwave each pretzel on high 20-30 seconds or until heated through. Yield: 8 pretzels.
  15. Divide and shape dough into eight balls; roll each into a 14-in. rope. Starting at one end of each rope, loosely wrap dough around itself to form a coil. Boil, top and bake as directed. Yield: 8 pretzels. To Make Pretzel Bites: Divide and shape into eight balls; roll each into a 12-in. rope. Cut each rope into 1-in. pieces. Boil and top as directed;
  16. Bake at 400° for 6-8 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 10 large pretzels. Serve with mustard for dipping.

References

http://www.oktoberfest.de/en/

Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oktoberfest

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home. http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/soft-beer-pretzels

Scone with the Wind

Pyramid-Apricot-Ale-22-oz-Label
Image sourced from Beerpulse.com

Apricot-flavored ales are not a new thing. While not the first fruit beers to exist, they are perhaps the first to become popular in a Canadian market. Most are just fruity enough to be refreshing, but not so cloyingly sweet as to be labeled a “girly-beer”. Edmonton folk may be unlikely to try another kind, loyal to their Alley Kat’s signature Aprikat. Which is understandable to a former Edmontonian, yet unfortunate as there are others deserving equal attention.

Case in point, the Apricot Ale from Pyramid Brewery in Seattle, brewed with nugget hops and a 1:1 ratio of barley and wheat. Did I mention this one won a gold medal in the Fruit, Vegetable Beer category at the Great American Beer Festival®?

IMG_0223

APRICOTOPUS-500-WEB

More recently, I stumbled upon Sweet Heat by Burnside Brewing Company. This one happens to be an apricot ale with apricots and peppers. Name something from Portland that isn’t weird. This one I found especially sour, with an intensely spicy (and slightly painful) finish that coats back of the tongue. I liked it. Others were less fond.

Others include the Apricot Wheat from St. Ambroise out of Montreal and Apricotopus from Parallel 49. The name itself makes this beer deserving of a try.

Bake the following scones with one of the latter brews. Maybe even pour some in the batter. And pronounce them correctly – the title of this article may assist you with that particular task.

IMG_0230

Apricot Ale Scones

2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup chopped dried apricots (about 4 1/2 ounces)

1 tablespoon grated orange peel

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup apricot or wheat beer

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add apricots and 1 tablespoon orange peel and stir to mix.
  3. Slowly pour in whipping cream and beer. Stir just until dough forms.
  4. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Knead gently just until dough holds together.
  5. With your hands coated in flour, form dough into 10-inch-diameter, 1/2-inch-thick round. Cut into 12 wedges. Transfer wedges to large baking sheet, spacing evenly.
  6. Brush scones with melted butter and sprinkle with remaining sugar.
  7. Bake scones until light golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool slightly.
  8. Serve scones warm or at room temperature. With an apricot beer. Or tea if it’s still before 10:00AM.

Makes 12 scones

Recipe adapted from Epicurious.com