The month of May was filled to the brim with new beers and new beer knowledge for me.
Seattle Beer Week can take full responsibility for rekindling my adoration for milk stouts (I’ve been a longtime fan of the Left Hand Milk Stout) – this year, Elysian produced a coffee milk stout commemorative beer for the week (Split Shot Espresso Milk Stout). Sweetness from lactose and the bitterness from chocolate malt and coffee marry nicely.
I attended the yearly Sour Beer Fest at Brouwer’s, and was happy to discover that I could try Cantillon’s Fou’Foune (apricot-y and gorgeous), and Iris. Iris happens to be a very interestingly hopped sour. Novelty is always good in a beer, especially when it delivers a pleasant flavor profile.
Jamie Floyd of Ninkasi gave a beer sensory analysis class at the end of the week that inspired me to learn more about flavor and how the brain creates it. In fact, I’m reading a fantastic book on the topic right now: Neurogastronomy : how the brain creates flavor and why it matters. I’m fascinated with the two ways humans use the sense of smell (inhaling vs. exhaling), and that the retronasal route (exhaling) has the biggest impact on the perception of flavor.
This dessert is a celebration of sugar and the fact that it can be used to create two opposing tastes: sweetness and bitterness. The custard is sweet from the strong malt backbone of this Scotch Ale (with a helpful boost of richness from cream and egg yolks), and the burned sugar on top sings with bitterness. Chocolate malt shortbread plays a similar melody – a sweet, rich cookie speckled with bitterness from roasty chocolate malt.
Bittersweet, as it were.
Style: Scotch Ale. Should be a solid malt-bomb with great body and strong caramel notes.
Tasting notes: This beer, also known as Peeping Peater, has definite peaty notes in it. An earthy smokiness that makes the sweetness and body a bit more bearable. The hops are lost, but that’s not the point of this beer.
Other beers that would be appropriate:
Oskar Blues Old Chub: A scotch ale in a can, you say!? What is this!? No longer just a hipster accessory around Seattle, cans are the future of our liquid bread. It’s more energy efficient to transport them than glass. And whether or not you care about energy efficiency, you probably care about the price of your beer. This beer will make a great crème brûlée.
Borderlands Noche Dulce Vanilla Porter: This beer is probably hard to get right now except on tap around the Tucson area. An old friend introduced me to this brewery on a recent trip to the southwest and it has been on my mind since then. A deep and roasty porter with an acceptable amount of body and in-your-face sweetness from the vanilla. Just enough vanilla. My hope is that this brewery explodes and starts bottling (or canning) and sending the bottles (cans) straight to my door in Seattle.
Silver City Fat Scotch: A fat beer, for sure. If that’s even an apt flavor descriptor. Mouth-coating caramel flavor and fruitiness make this a great idea for a beer-infused crème brûlée.
The pastry recipes:
Crème Brûlée with Port Townsend Scotch Ale
(makes 4 small ramekins of crème brûlée)
|2 ea||egg yolks|
|¼ C (2 oz)||granulated sugar|
|9 oz||heavy cream|
|5 oz||Port Townsend Scotch Ale|
NOTE: I usually don’t do this, because it doesn’t seem to make a huge difference, but in this recipe it does. Use degassed beer for this recipe. Pour out what you need the night before and let it lose its carbonation. Trust me, if you don’t, your custard will be very aerated and this will affect the mouthfeel and decrease your perception of the richness.
1. Preheat oven to 350°F and place your ramekins in a large high-sided pan. (You will fill the pan halfway up with hot water before sliding it into the oven, to bake the custard in a water bath.)
2. Separate your two eggs. The best way to do this is with your hands. Just make sure to wash them afterwards. And enjoy the experience of connecting with the texture of your food in its component parts in this manner. Save the whites for something else.
3. Whisk together all of the ingredients in a pitcher and portion into ramekins.
4. There will be some bubbles on top from your whisking. You want to get rid of those. Either skim them off or use my method: burst quickly with a blowtorch to pop them.
5. Pour hot water into your pan halfway up the ramekins and bake, covered for about 35 minutes. Uncover and bake for about 10 minutes more, until the custard jiggles uniformly.
6. Chill completely, overnight in the refrigerator.
7. For brûléeing, I use the 3-layer method. Sprinkle sugar on top of the custard and tap it off until there is a thin even layer. Torch until it is just melted, but not yet starting to caramelize. Add another layer of sugar and do the same thing. Finally, on the third layer, you get to caramelize it. This method yields the perfect thickness for that satisfying cracking noise as you plunge your spoon into the brûlée.
Chocolate Malt Shortbread – made with DME
(makes about 15 cookies)
|1 C (5.5 oz)||AP flour|
|¼ C (1 oz)||powdered sugar|
|1 T + 1 t (0.5 oz)||dry malt extract (DME)|
|2 T (0.75 oz)||crushed chocolate malt|
If you don’t have access to chocolate malt or DME, replace with the same amount of cocoa nibs and brown sugar, respectively.
1. Chop the butter into small cubes and crush the chocolate malt in a food processor.
2. Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until a dough forms.
3. Chill for about an hour, preheat oven to 350°F and roll out dough to about ¼-inch thickness.
4. Cut out desired shapes. I used a spring-inspired flower-shaped cutter, and then used a pastry tip and a paring knife to make it look more fancy. Place cookies on a sheet pan lined with parchment.
5. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until slightly golden brown at the edges. Cool, and enjoy with the crème brûlée.
I’m anxiously awaiting berry season around here. I have a few summery berry recipes up my sleeve.