Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Sappy Love Song - Maple Beers

I'll have a pint of maple-bacon, please.

Canadians are known for three major culinary constituents: doughnuts, maple syrup, and beer.  Several craft producers have succeeded in combining the latter two, while one has even united all three in one glorious beverage.

There are several craft brewers that have produced maple beers, incorporating the flavour in both light and dark varieties.  Kitsilano Maple Cream Ale is a light beer with a touch of sweetness, but little maple flavour.  The Sap Vampire from Amber’s Brewing Company has a more pronounced sweetness which some may find overpowering in a lager.

A clever name is crucial
Personally, I prefer the maple flavour in darker beers.  Brown ales and stouts are brewed with roasted malt varieties such as chocolate, amber, and crystal.  These varieties will often impart notes of caramel and toasted bread, which complement the maple flavours added to the brew.

British Columbia has two craft breweries that produce dark beers flavoured with maple.  The Cannery Brewing Company out of Penticton brews a rich Maple Porter, excellent as an after-dinner drink with dessert (baked apples with walnuts and brown sugar perhaps).  Also try the Sap Sucker Maple Porter from Fernie Brewing Company.

Brooklyn Brewery brewed a special beer called Mary’s Maple Porter for their Brewmaster’s reserve collection.  The porter is named after Mary Wiles, a new employee of the company whose family farm, the Cedarvale Vale Maple Syrup Company, produces maple syrup in upstate New York.  Unfortunately, the variety was offered only from February to April 2012.

Bacon, beer, and doughnuts.
Together at last.
If a maple beer wasn’t avant-garde enough, Rogue has taken it one step further.  The Oregon-based brewery partnered with the Voodoo Doughnut company to create a beer inspired by their most popular doughnut, the Maple Bacon Bar.  The brew incorporates five different malts, three of which are smoked with Hickory, Cherrywood, and Beechwood chips respectively.  The brown ale is then flavored with Applewood smoked bacon and natural maple flavouring.  The bottle itself is as over-the-top as the beer itself, proudly bearing the Voodoo Doughnut’s signature hue: Pepto Bismol Pink.

This beer was popular, to say the least.  Twice it was sold out at my favorite beer haunt before I finally obtained a vessel of the glorious liquid.  Get some before it’s gone forever!

Two things I must warn you about this recipe:

1) Caramel corn makes a huge mess.  Bacon makes it worse.  Grease on the stove, caramel on the floor, kernels stuck in your hair...you get the picture.

2) This is possibly the most addictive substance known to man.  Be careful who you share it with – the withdrawal symptoms can get ugly.

Maple StoutCaramel Corn

A new addictive substance has been discovered.
Alert the health authorities!

with Crumbled Bacon

 1 package bacon (x g) , 16 strips
1 ½ cups of unpopped kernel corn
1 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup maple syrup
½ cup maple stout
2 tbsp bourbon
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
Sea salt to taste

  1. Fry bacon and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to  250°F.
  3. Pop popcorn with hot air machine, ¼ cup kernels at a time.
  4. Crumble bacon over finished popcorn.
  5. In a large pot, bring butter, brown sugar, and maple syrup to a boil, stirring constantly.
  6. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat and add maple stout, bourbon, vanilla, salt and baking soda.  Stir to combine.
  8. Pour caramel mixture over bacon and popcorn mixture and toss to coat evenly.  Make sure bacon is evenly distributed.
  9. Spread mixture over three baking sheets covered in parchment.
  10. Sprinkle each tray generously with sea salt.
  11. Bake for 1 hour, stirring the mixture every 15 minutes.
  12. Remove from oven.  Cool for 1 hour.

Note: You can also pop the kernels using the hot oil method, but this is messier and more time-consuming.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Ciao Bella, Part II

Italian culture values tradition over anything else.  Birra Moretti is one of the most popular Italian beers, originating from the Friuli region.  The brewery was established in 1859 in the town of Udine by Luigi Moretti prior to the Italian unification.  Currently the business is owned by Heineken, and is exported to over 40 countries worldwide.

Who is the man with the moustache on the label?

Birra Moretti had been popular in the Friuli for over 80 years before their iconic logo was introduced. In 1942, Commander Lao Menazzi Moretti saw a man sitting outside an Inn, the Boschetti di Tricesimo.  The character represented the qualities he wanted his family’s beer to possess: tradition and authenticity.

Commander Moretti politely requested the man’s photograph, and asked what he could give him in return.  The man replied, “Cal mi dedi di bevi, mi baste”.  Translation: “Get me a drink.  That is enough for me.”

The photograph was first seen in a promotional poster, and was later shown on the label of the beer itself.

This recipe is a twist on the classic Tiramisu.  The name literally translates to “it lifts me up”.  Using beer in place of the espresso may have the reverse effect.  Be sure to use a rich, full-bodied stout with chocolate or coffee flavours.  Try Aphrodisiaque from Dieu du Ciel, Young’s Chocolate Stout, or Rogue Mocha Porter.


3 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1 (8-oz) container mascarpone cheese (about 1 cup)
½ cup chilled heavy cream
1 cup stout beer
2 tablespoons Kahlua
16 savoiardi (Italian ladyfingers, 6 oz)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

  1. Beat together egg yolks and ½ cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Beat in mascarpone until just combined.
  2. Beat whites with a pinch of salt in another bowl with clean beaters until they hold soft peaks. Gradually add remaining ¼ cup sugar while beating.  Continue to beat whites until they just hold stiff peaks.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat cream in until it reaches the soft peak stage.
  4. Gently fold cream into mascarpone mixture, followed by egg whites.
  5. Stir together stout and Kahlua in a shallow bowl.
  6. Dip each ladyfinger in stout mixture, soaking for 4 seconds on each side. Transfer to an 8-inch glass baking dish or decorative bowl (2-quart capacity).  Arrange in bottom of dish, trimming as needed to fit.
  7. Spread half of mascarpone mixture evenly over ladyfingers.
  8. Make another layer of stout-soaked ladyfingers in same manner.
  9. Top with remaining mascarpone mixture.
  10. Cover dessert and chill for at least 6 hours.
  11. Just before serving, sprinkle with sifted cocoa powder.

 Recipe adapted from Epicurious. Gourmet magazine, March 2003. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Tiramisu-107833
 Photo from La Cucina Italia www.lacucinaitaliana.it

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

This is Why I'm Hot

I'm hot 'cause I'm fly.  You ain't 'cause you not!
The sensation of “heat” in food is caused by a group of compounds called capsaicinoids, the most representative being (XV) Capsaicin.  Capsaicin molecules stimulate pain receptors on your tongue, which transmits burning sensation to the brain.

The concentration of capsaicin in the chili pepper family (Capsicum sp.) varies, and the heat intensity is subjectively measured in Scoville heat units (SHU).  A red bell pepper has a very low Scoville rating, while Habanero peppers can be between 200,000 to 300,000 SHU.  Pure capsaicin has a rating of 16,000,000 SHU.

Capsaicin is soluble in alcohol, which ideally would justify pairing beer with spicy food.  However, even a strong beer is over 90% water, which will do little to quell the pain.  Carbonated drinks such as beer and soda will further irritate the pain receptors as well.  Hard liquor (ie. tequila) will probably do the trick, but you would have to drink a lot of it to have any effect.  Caution: your brain will be numb long before your tongue.

(XV) Capsaicin
Capsaicins are lipid-soluble molecules, and have a very high affinity for dairy fats.  Milk and sour cream are bound to casein, a lipophilic protein that binds with capsaicin and allows it to be washed from the tongue.  The monounsaturated fatty acids found in avocado will also provide a welcome relief from the burning sensation.

This recipe makes a LOT of nachos, so make sure you have some friends around.  Tequila and Mezcal are both distilled liquors produced from the maguey (agave) plant.  Tequila is produced from only the blue agave plant in the Jalisco province.  In contrast, Mezcal can be produced anywhere in the country from multiple agave varieties.

Three-cheese Coro-nachos

with Mezcal Guacamole and Pico de Gallo

2 bags corn chips (500 g), preferably multicolored (Yellow, blue, red...)
1 cup shredded Pepperjack cheese
1 cup shredded Applewood smoked cheddar

½ lb lean ground beef
½ cup white onion, finely diced
Habanero peppers - NOT the hottest.
Try the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion and then talk.
If you can form intelligible words.
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp salt

3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1 bottle Corona
2 ½ cups shredded cheddar

3-4 Jalapeno peppers, sliced into rounds
¼ cup canned black olives, sliced and drained

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Arrange a mixture of 2 varieties of corn chips on two large baking sheets.
  3. Evenly distribute shredded Pepperjack and smoked cheddar cheeses over both pans of corn chips.  Top with black olives and jalapeno peppers.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted.  Remove from oven for nacho assembly.

  1. Heat a medium non-stick skillet over medium high heat.
  2. Add oil, garlic, onion and peppers to the pan and saute 2 minutes, then add meat and crumble with wooden spoon.
  3. Season meat with salt, chili powder, cumin and cayenne pepper.
  4. Continue to cook until well done, then reduce heat to low.

Cheese Sauce:
  1. Melt butter in a small saucepan.
  2. Whisk flour into butter to form a roux.  Cook for 2 minutes until golden in color.
  3. Gradually pour beer into the roux and whisk to combine.
  4. Continue to cook, whisking occasionally until sauce begins to thicken, about 5-10 minutes.
  5. When sauce has thickened, add shredded cheese and whisk to combine.  Remove cheese sauce from heat.

Use Tostito "Scoops" to hold
all the cheesy/beer-y goodness

Nacho Assembly:
  1. To serve, and top with half of the cheese sauce.  Arrange half of the cooked beef over the first layer of chips.
  2. Arrange remaining chips over the first layer of nachos.  Top with remaining cheese sauce and beef.
  3. Serve with salsa fresca, tequila guacamole, and sour cream.

Serves less people than you would expect.
No leftovers allowed.

Guisano de Maguey - worm of the Agave
Eat it.  I did.

 Mezcal Guacamole

3 ripe Hass avocadoes
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp tequila (about one shot)
½ cup diced fresh tomato
½ tsp salt

  1. Scooped avocado pulp into a large bowl.  Add lime juice and tequila. Toss to coat.
  2. Mash avocado pulp with a fork or potato-masher.  Add salt and continue to mash.
  3. Fold in diced tomato.
  4. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving.
  5. Garnish with the worm – if you dare.

Pico de Gallo.  Translation: Rooster's Beak?

Pico de Gallo

4 ripe tomatoes
1 small white onion
1 cup fresh cilantro, loosely packed
½ lime
½ tsp salt
Ground black pepper to taste
1 jalapeno pepper (optional for a mild salsa)

  1. Dice tomatoes and place in large mixing bowl.
  2. Finely dice white onion and add to bowl.
  3. Remove stems of cilantro and finely mince.  Stir into tomatoes and onions.
  4. Grate lime peel and juice the lime, adding the grated zest and juice to the mixture prepared.
  5. Season with salt and black pepper and stir ingredients until well combined.
  6. Refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

Damodaran, S. (2008). Fennema's Food Chemistry, Fourth Edition.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Please Sir, Can I Have S'more?

Beer, fire, and a sugar rush ritual
Nothing says “summer” like a backyard campfire, singing along to the low strum of a guitar, and cracking open a can of beer.

Canned beer has always had a bad reputation.  The term “lawnmower beer” comes to mind: cheap swill to be drunk quickly while doing menial tasks.  However, there are an increasing number of canned beers on the market from craft breweries.  Why?

Cans are probably the best storage option for beer.  The aluminum packaging resists oxidation, chill quicker, and stay cold longer.  Cans are lightweight and resist breakage, making them more suitable for outdoor activities.  It’s a lot easier to pick up a few stray cans than to extract shards of glass from between blades of grass.

Better beer in cans
Red Racer is a craft brewery that only offers beer in cans.  Their logo of a scantily clad redhead on a bicycle mirrors the pin-up models on Old Milwaukee cans.  The India Pale Ale has been met with particular acclaim, and was voted the Best Beer in British Columbia award for three consecutive years.

Okanagan springs offers several beers in cans, including their original lager, pale ale, and the 1516 Bavarian lager.  They also make an excellent Porter, used as an ingredient in the marshmallows below.

I can’t take all the credit for this week’s recipe.  In fact, I can barely claim any.

I had been nurturing the thought of bacon s’mores made with maple beer marshmallows for a few weeks.  However, I didn’t count on someone stealing my idea.

Alex is amazing.
Why am I the one with a blog?
The town of Gibbons is famous for two things: a prehistoric theme park with life-size dinosaur statues; and Boonstock, a three-day music festival over the Canada Day weekend.  Last year some inebriated concert patrons stole into the theme park and tore the arm off of a helpless dinosaur. One of my best friends Alex was doing a security shift at the dinosaur park to ensure history did not repeat itself. What better way to spend a night shift than making toasting homemade marshmallows – maple porter marshmallows.  With candied bacon.  Naturally, I asked if she could save me a few.  She took it one step further.

I came home late after the Canada Day celebrations to a brown paper bag hanging on the doorknob.  Not only had she made two types of marshmallows, she had made a batch of chocolate-dipped graham crackers from scratch.  Both the marshmallows and crackers were cut in the shape of maple leaves, to celebrate the birth of our country.  Also in the bag was a piece of candied bacon to complete the s’more.  And the empty Porter bottle for reference.

I don't think I can ever go back to "normal" s'mores
The construction of the ultimate s’more may be common sense to most, but some unfortunate city folk may have never experienced this sacred campfire ritual.  To construct the ultimate s’more, toast marshmallows over an open fire.  When lightly browned, make a sandwich of the marshmallow, a square of chocolate, and a piece of candied bacon between two graham crackers.

If you have a slightly less awesome best friend (which is extremely probable) or you don’t feel like making the graham crackers, use normal ones with Lindt sea salt dark chocolate.  The marshmallows are excellent with or without the candied bacon pieces.

Candied bacon is no longer an optional s'more component.

Maple Bacon Porter Marshmallows

¼ cup packed light brown sugar
Next level marshmallows - even shaped like maple leaves!
 ¼ tsp cinnamon, divided (1/8 for bacon, 1/8 for marshmallows)
6 slices maple flavoured bacon (optional)
Unflavored cooking spray
4 ½ tsp unflavored powdered gelatin
½ cup Okanagan Springs Porter (flat)
⅔ cup white sugar
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup light corn syrup
¼ cup Okanagan Springs Porter (flat)
¼ tsp fine grain sea salt
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
⅓ cup corn starch
  1. Start by making the candied bacon. Preheat your oven to 350°F and place a rack in the center of the oven. Combine light brown sugar and 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon on a plate, using your hands to mix. Rub each slice of bacon with cinnamon sugar until evenly coated. Lay strips of bacon on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until deeply caramelized. Let cool then finely chop. Measure out 1/2 cup (1 1/2 oz.) for the marshmallows and set aside. Save remainder for snacking.
  2. Lightly coat a 8 by 8 inch baking pan with cooking spray. Use a paper towel to wipe away any excess spray.
  3. Combine gelatin and beer in a small bowl, whisking to combine. Let stand for at least 5 minutes.
  4. In a medium saucepan, combine white sugar, maple syrup, corn syrup, beer and sea salt, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Continue to boil until the mixture reaches 240°F. If the mixture starts to bubble up too much, lower the heat. Once the mixture reaches 240°F, take it off the heat.
  5. Microwave the gelatin on high for 30 seconds. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on low for a moment then slowly pour in the hot syrup mixture.
  6. Increase the speed to medium (number six on my mixer) and beat for 5 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-high (number eight) and beat for 3 minutes. Add 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon then beat on the highest speed possible (number ten) for 1 minute.
  7. Using a silicon spatula, quickly fold in the candied bacon bits. Pour the marshmallow into the prepared pan and smooth out the top. In a small bowl, combine confectioner’s sugar and corn starch, whisking to combine.
  8. Sift a few spoonfuls of the sugar-starch mixture evenly over the marshmallow. Set aside the rest of the sugar-starch mixture to use once the marshmallows are cut.
  9. Let the marshmallow set for at least 6 hours in a cool, dry place. Run a sharp knife along the edges of the pan to release the marshmallow. Invert onto a cutting board.
  10. Use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes from the slab and set over the bowl containing the sugar-starch mixture. Sprinkle with the pieces with the mixture then use your hands to toss. Repeated until marshmallows are evenly coated.

Graham Crackers

Happy Canada Day!

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
¼ cup evaporated cane juice
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp molasses
2 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
2 tbs walnut or canola oil
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup barley flour (whole wheat flour can be used instead)

  1. Tape down a large square of parchment paper onto your counter using a sturdy tape (I used packing tape around all four sides) and line a cookie pan with parchment paper, set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine whole wheat flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Whisk and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together honey, molasses, applesauce, oil, milk, and vanilla. Pour this over the dry ingredients and stir.
  4. Sprinkle some of the barley flour onto the mixture and mix in using your fingers. Do this until the mixture can form a kneadable ball.
  5. Dust the parchment paper square with the barley flour and knead the dough, adding more flour when needed. Once you form a ball, let the dough sit for 10 minutes.
  6. Heat the oven to 350 or 375°F. Roll the dough using a rolling pin to about 1/8" thick, sprinkling with flour if needed.
  7. Slice crackers using a pizza cutter and use a spatula to lift each square onto the prepared pan about 2 inches apart.
  8. Poke holes into the crackers using a fork, then bake for 14-16 minutes at 350 °F, or 10-12 minutes at 375°F.
Makes 22 large crackers or 34 medium

Note: Baking time depends on size of crackers. Keep watch and remove crackers from oven when the edges have browned.

Marshmallows adapted from Kitchen Konfidence http://www.kitchenkonfidence.com/2012/02/maple-bacon-smores/
Graham crackers adapted from Chockohlawtay http://chockohlawtay.blogspot.ca/2012/06/graham-crackers.html
 Caldera Brewing Company, Ashland Oregon http://www.calderabrewing.com