Sunday, March 29, 2009

Chocolate Stout Cake

I've been cooking with beer and wine a lot, so this cake instantly caught my attention when I first saw it on the King Arthur Flour website. I've always enjoyed the combination of beer and chocolate, nothing goes better with a stout or porter than some nice dark chocolate - the bitter and the sweet flavors are naturally complementarity.
Now this is not your run of the mill chocolate cake, in fact, you can pretty much guarantee any recipe that starts off "add 16 oz of Guinness to 2 cups of melted butter" is going to be a heavy, intense special-occasion type cake.


  • 2 cups (16 oz) stout or dark beer, such as Guinness
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 (4 1/2 oz) cups Dutch-process cocoa
  • 4 (17 oz) cups unbleached all purpose flour.
  • 4 (1 lb. 12 oz) cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 (6oz) cup sour cream
For the frosting:

  • 1 pound bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
A few notes:

A scale REALLY helps with this recipe, actually it helps with all baking, but this one especially because you can more accurately split the batter between the two cake pans.

Dutch Process cocoa can be bought online, or from Lunds or Byerly's locally, but it's expensive - like $10 for an 8oz box. You can also substitute for Dutch process using this ratio: Add 1/8th teaspoon of baking soda per 3 tablespoons of regular unsweetened cocoa. This is important because the pH. levels are different between the two, and it can affect the rise of the cake if you don't use the right one.

Melt butter over low heat, add beer and mix.

Add cocoa to mixture and whisk until smooth. Let cool.

Weigh and mix your dry ingredients.

In another bowl mix up the eggs and sour cream...

...and then add the cooled beer mixture to the egg mixture. Stir.

Add dry ingredients to wet, and stir until smooth.

Split batter between two 9" cake pans, make sure they're at least 2" deep.. cake pans with false bottoms will make your life a lot easier if you have them. Each pan should have 3 lbs (!) of batter in it. Again a scale helps here, along with an awesome rigged up weighing system.

Put in to bake for 45-50 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven. Check that it's cooked through with a toothpick in the centre of the cake, when it comes out clean, it's all done. After done, let cool for 20 minutes or so.

When done, carefully remove from cake pans and place bottom layer on parchment paper. Top will be domed, so you're going to need to cut off the dome to level off the top of the cake. If you don't do this the cake will rest unevenly, and will probably crack.

Frost the bottom layer, level off the second layer, and carefully slide on top. This can be done fairly easily by sliding it off a cutting board on to the bottom layer. The frosting will allow a bit of sliding, so you can line up the two layers.

Frost the rest as best you can. My frosting skills leave much to be desired, so I'm not going to give you any advice here.

Add sprinkles. Preferably animal shaped. I've chosen to go with the gorilla vs. sharks motif, but feel free to substitute elephants, dolphins or what have you.


I didn't take any pictures of this but it's fairly simple.
1. Heat cream until small bubbles rise up along side of sauce pan.

2. Chop chocolate, and when cream is heated pour it over chocolate in a heat proof bowl. Add vanilla and mix thoroughly. Don't overheat or boil the cream.

3. Place bowl in refrigerator, and let cool mixing every 20 minutes until the frosting is spreadable.

This cake weighs something like 7.5 lbs when fully assembled, and a little bit goes a long way. You could make this a 3 layer cake without changing the recipe by using 3x 8" cake pans instead of the 9" that I used.


Monday, March 23, 2009

How we bake a cake

An awesome update is in the works, and by in the works I mean it's in the oven.
This should give you a hint

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Is this what people did before the internet?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Vanilla Ice Cream

After months of testing in my secret underground laboratory I've finally cracked the secret to the perfect vanilla ice cream. Now what you're going to need is 2 5 liter graduated cylinders, a street urchin apprentice that you keep in the basement and feed scraps, and the leaves of the rare Silverthorn plant, picked at the peak of ripeness under a full moon. A sweet beard, and performing a complex interpretive dance also helps, but is not strictly necessary.

Artist's interpretation of me making ice cream.

Now, as an alternative you can just follow the recipe for Vanilla Bean Ice Cream in the instruction book that comes with your Cuisinart ice cream maker.
Necessary ingredients:
1 1/2 Cups Whole Milk (or 2%)
1 1/2 Cups Heavy Cream
1 Whole Vanilla Bean
2 Large Eggs
3 Large Egg Yolks
3/4 Cups sugar

Figure 1.
For those of you who's lives do not revolve around cooking, these are vanilla beans. They're the 2nd most expensive spice in the world (after saffron), and are what stuff like vanilla extract comes from. You can actually get them pretty cheaply from Kitchen Window. They are key in this recipe, accept no substitutes. To properly use a vanilla bean, split it down the center and then scrape out the vanilla seeds on each half of the bean with a knife. The seeds are what will give the ice cream the deep, rich flavor that you can't get with any other ingredient. I tried to take pictures of this step, but the seeds are too small, and my kitchen is too dark for my camera.. look it up!
Vanilla pod not shown.. but it's in there.

Your first step is to scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream, and then drop the 2 halves of the bean into the cream. Steep the vanilla bean in the cream and milk at medium heat in a medium saucepan for about 30 minutes, never bringing it past a light simmer. Watch this carefully, stirring often and scraping the sides of the pan with a spatula. At the end of the 30 minutes, remove the 2 halves of the bean, leaving only the heavily vanilla flavored cream.

A note on the cream: The half cream, half whole milk is entirely variable. Obviously the more cream you use, the richer the ice cream will be. I've tend to use whatever I have on hand, and usually end up using a mix of heavy cream and skim milk. I've also used entirely half and half. This is a good way to cut fat, but beware, the less fat in the milk/cream mixture the harder it will freeze. An ice cream made out of nothing but skim milk would be a white colored brick of ice once re-hardened.. not too appetizing. Experimentation is the key here.

In the meantime, mix your 3 yolks, and 2 full eggs in with 3/4 of a cup of sugar until it is smooth and creamy.. a couple of minutes. I realize my picture doesn't show enough eggs, because I originally misread the recipe, and only added 3 eggs total.. it still turned out great. The amount of eggs can actually be changed around quite a bit, from all yolks, all the way down to no egg at all (but that's another recipe). After some experimentation I've settled on using 3-5 egg yolks only, the whites of the eggs tend to froth up into a foam that doesn't incorporate easily back into the ice cream, so I cut them altogether.

Now comes the tricky part. Well it's not all that tricky, but this is the step that makes or breaks the ice cream (literally). What you've got to do now is combine your hot cream mixture, with your egg and sugar mixture. The trick here is.. if you pour very hot cream over egg yolks, you know what you're going to get.... and let me tell you right now you do NOT want little chunks of scrambled egg floating in your ice cream. That would be your literal "breaking" of your custard (which is what this really is), when the egg curdles, and then separates from the cram.. leaving egg floating in your cream.

So the only way to combine these two liquids, without that happening is combining them slowly, and with a lot of stirring. Slowly pour 1 1/2 cups of your cream mixture into the bowl with your egg mixture, whisking all the while (I use my electric mixer, much easier).. If you think it's getting too hot too fast, slow down and mix for a while. Once the egg mixture is brought up to a reasonable heat, transfer the entire mixture back to the sauce pot with the remaining cream.. again, not too quickly, and with lots of stirring.

The next step can be equally treacherous, you've got to bring the whole mixture back up to heat so the custard can thicken, but not so hot as the egg with curdle. Turn on the heat, medium low, and stir as it reheats. An instant digital thermometer is a GREAT help here (like $10.. you should have one). The minimum you're looking for is about 150 degrees, because you need to make sure you kill any nasty stuff that is in those raw egg yolks. Around 170-180 degrees you should notice a pretty significant thickening in the custard. This is cooking alchemy at work, ad though there is probably an ideal temperature to bring your custard up to, the old custard moniker "until it coats the back of a spoon" is usually good enough. Absolutely do NOT bring it up past 185 unless you want scrambled eggs in your ice cream... Watch this very closely, and always error on the cool side, as opposed to the hot side (as long as you're above 150).
If any food-types feel like flipping through a Harold McGee book to find out the actual temperatures for thickening custard I would be appreciative.

TLDR VERSION: Don't bring this to a boil unless you like egg ice cream.

Cool your Mixture until it's just above freezing, a bowl in the fridge / freezer with plastic wrap directly on top of the custard (touching it) is the best method.. this will make the churning process easier.
Transfer Ice cream to ice cream maker, turn on, and stare transfixed into your machine for the next 25-30 minutes as ice cream is created in front of your very eyes!

This stuff doesn't even need a topping it's so good. Mind blowingly, crazy flavor explosion good. Seriously.

Don't let this recipe scare you, despite this post's epic length, and abundant warnings this is actually a very easy recipe. Easy enough that I think I'll bring back my old defunct ratings system.

Difficulty 6/10 - Potential problems with the eggs curdling, other than that.. easy.

Taste aka deliciousness - 10 / 10 As good as a banger in the mouth, or here in the colonies, a sausage in the mouth.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Beer Bread

Do you like beer? Do you like bread? Do I have a recipe for you. This is the easiest, and some of the best bread I've made yet.. and it's infinitely customizable.

  • 3 cups all purpose unbleached flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 (12 ounce) can beer
  • 1/4 cup melted butter


    1. Preheat Oven to 375
    2. Mix dry ingredients with beer in seperate bowl.
    3. Pour mixture into a greased (or non-stick sprayed) loaf pan. (don't skip this or you'll never get your bread out)
    4. Even mixture out in pan and pour melted butter over top of dough.
    5. Bake for 50min to 1hr, or until the top and sides become brown and crusty. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
That's it! No kneading, no proofing, not even any yeast - the yeast in the beer is used as the levener, the baking powder gives it an extra kick.


Butter: I used 2 tablespoons instead of 1/4 of a cup, and it was still delicous. I wouldn't recommend completely cutting it out, but you definately don't need to use the full amount.

Beer: Different beers will give the bread different flavors, I recommend using something with a strong flavor to give the bread a nice tangy flavor. I've tried Summit EPA, and Pauliner Amber - both were excellent, but the amber came through more in the finished bread.

Whole Wheat Beer Bread: 2 Cups Whole wheat flour, 1 cup All Purpose.Cut down the sugar if you don't want it quite so sweet.

Beer Cheese bread: Add 1 to 1.5 cups of shredded cheese to dough mix.

Now I pose you a question.
Which food goes well with beer?

The correct answer is Nachos.

So I present to you my jalapeno-cheese-beer bread photo essay. Delicious.