I have nothing against cakes, tarts, pies, or delightful frozen treats. But sometimes, okay maybe more often than not, I simply want to drink my dessert. And I’m not talking about milkshakes or hot chocolate, although I do love those things too. I’m talking about beer: rich, creamy, chocolate, milk stout brewed with cocoa powder and bourbon soaked cocoa nibs to be exact.
For some people this might sound a little crazy, but certain beers are perfectly acceptable as a form of dessert, in the same way that many people enjoy dessert wines. I am truly fascinated by the diversity among different beer styles. There is a huge range in color, flavor, and style, and so much to explore beyond the thin, yellow, fizzy stuff that dominates the shelves of many grocery and liquor stores.
While I’m still relatively new to brewing, I like to experiment with different styles and ingredients. The “milk” part of this recipe comes from lactose sugar that’s not fermentable by brewers yeast. This gives the beer some added sweetness and thick mouth-feel, creating the perfect combination for chocolate, and a perfect beer to have with, or for dessert.
Just as there are different styles of beer, there are also different ways to brew beer at home. I brew using a method called “Brew in a Bag” developed in Australia. I chose this method for three reasons. I am sort of a purist and like to do things from scratch as much as possible. BIAB is an “all-grain” brewing method which allows me to use grain (malted barley) instead of malt extract. While there is nothing wrong with extract, and people make great beer using it, I like the added control and flexibility that using grain gives me.
The second reason BIAB is appealing to me is that it requires far less equipment than other all-grain brewing methods. This is important since I am short on storage space. Lastly, my condo community doesn’t allow any sort of gas burners (indoors or out), so I am limited by what my electric stove top can boil. BIAB happens to be perfect for small batch (2.5 gallon) all-grain brewing. For more information about BIAB, check out this forum.
The inspiration behind this beer is a seasonal brew called Moo-Hoo made by Terrapin Beer, Co in Athens, GA. They use cooca nibs from the amazing (and local to Nashville) Olive and Sinclair Chocolate Company. I found a “clone” recipe posted in a homebrew forum and made a few adjustments. The original recipe is linked to below.
Style: Sweet stout
Type: All-grain, Brew in a Bag
Size: 2.5 gal
Original Gravity: 1.063
Final Gravity: 1.024
Alcohol by Volume: 5.2%
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I’m not usually a lemon kind of girl. Dessert, to me, is chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate. Fruit tarts, lemon bars, and fruity crumbles on restaurant menus will always be skipped over in favor of the rich chocolate cakes and caramel custards. Maybe I’m missing out, but I’m never disappointed.
To be honest I was quite tempted to turn this into a chocolate lemon tart. An unusual combination, maybe, but it sounded intriguing and certainly more my style than plain old lemon.
However, I felt that my last precious Meyer lemons of the season deserved a more fitting send-off, a tribute that highlighted their vibrant yellow color and tart-sweet flavor, instead of being drowned in chocolate.
I’ll admit, this tart satisfies even the most devout chocolate-lover. It’s delightfully tart and lusciously creamy. I added a bit of a twist with the macadamia nut shortbread crust, which adds a buttery richness that compliments the vibrant lemon filling perfectly. Not to mention it circumvents the need for a temperamental pastry crust.
Granted, I probably won’t make a habit out of replacing my beloved chocolate desserts with lighter, fruitier ones, but in this case, it was a nice change of pace.
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It’s easy to stay in your comfort zone, as is true of many areas of life, including in the kitchen. It’s easy to think that trying new and difficult things is setting yourself up for failure. It’s easy to stick with what you know and increase your chances of success.
But sometimes the easy way is not the most rewarding.
I’ve decided I need to force myself out of my bubble, make myself tackle things that have intimidated me for years.
Scary, complex, temperamental recipes: I’m going to face them head on.
And I’m going to document it all right here, failures and all.
First up: CROISSANTS. I think I’ll follow the thorough instructions from Cooks Illustrated, which you can view here.
- Finding the right butter. European style. Hello $$$. Better start saving my pennies now.
- Finding the time. CI says good croissants take about 10 hours from start to finish.
- Finding the muscles. I guess making croissants could basically be called an arm workout, right? I’ll take that over the gym any day.
- Finding the chocolate. Because you know I won’t be satisfied with just plain croissants. Or, ooh! Almond!
Who’s with me?
If you’re up for the challenge, whip up some croissants of your own by March 20th. Send me a photo if you want to. I’ll document my experience and also share the images/links to those who’ve taken the challenge as well. If it goes well we’ll make it a monthly thing.
Let’s do this!
Tell me, what else is on your culinary bucket list that you’ve been too timid to tackle?
Chocolate and banana make one amazing combination. And these truffles are no exception, with a silky smooth, creamy center that has just enough banana flavor to be absolutely dreamy but not overpowering. You could even roast or caramelize the bananas first if you wanted more of a bananas-foster-like flavor. And with some rum or brandy? Why, that’d be just dandy.
I wanted them to look a bit different than your run-of-the-mill roll-in-a-ball truffle. The centers are rounds cut from a solid piece of ganache, spread and chilled in in a cake pan that allows you to easily remove the entire piece and then cut out shapes with a cookie cutter. I did circles (which, looking at them now they somewhat resemble banana slices), but you could certainly do something more novel.
Or go the traditional route and simply roll the centers into balls.
Granted, they didn’t turn out quite as “perfect” as I had imagined after being dipped. I really need one of those fancy chocolate conveyor belt/waterfall contraptions to pull that off, I think. Luckily these truffles taste just as good no matter how lumpy and bumpy and lopsided and streaky they may be.
Making truffles is a messy job, but somebody’s gotta do it.
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