Tasty Beer Treats for the Holidays

Cooking with Beer by | Dec 2007 | Issue #12

With the Holidays in full swing, there always seems to be a reason to share good food and drink. Those of you excited to taste the nuances of the latest holiday beers may be inspired by the idea of cooking tasty treats with your favorite seasonal brews. Here are some recipes that can be prepared ahead of time, ready for the impromptu gathering and pulled out for unexpected guests, or packed up for a family feast.

Tripel Eggnog
Instead of the over-sweetened and non-alcoholic commercial versions of nog, why not make your own? This simple recipe will make any Tripel shine in what could replace the rum drink we know today.

Makes: 10 8-ounce servings

3 cups Tripel-style Ale
2 vanilla beans, split in half
6 egg yolks, from large eggs
1/2 cup soft candi sugar, blond
1 pinch kosher salt
4 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk

1 tsp nutmeg, freshly ground
6 egg whites*
2 tbsp soft blond sugar

Starting two days before you plan to serve this cocktail, take a quart-size jar with a tight-sealing lid and purge with CO2. Tilt the jar at a 45 degree angle and slowly add 3 cups of Tripel (homebrewed or get a growler from a local brewery) trying to minimize the head formation and limit the oxygenation process. Add the vanilla beans to the Tripel, seal the jar and place in the refrigerator.

To finish the cocktail: In a medium-size bowl, add egg yolks, sugar and salt. Using a whisk or a handheld electric mixer, beat until the yolks turn a pale yellow in color and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, over medium-high heat, add the heavy cream and milk and bring to a boil, stirring to prevent any scalding on the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat. To prevent the egg yolks from scrambling, temper them by adding only a ½ cup of the hot cream to start to the egg yolks with the mixer running. This will gradually increase the temperature of the egg yolk mixture keeping the eggs from cooking. Continue adding the cream mixture a ½ cup at a time until all the cream has been added. Check the temperature of the base, it should be 160°F. If not, add back to the saucepan and heat to 160°F, to pasteurize. Place the saucepan on a bowl of ice water to chill.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks, adding 2 tablespoons of sugar during the process. Remove the yolk/cream mixture from the ice bath, adding in the vanilla bean-infused Tripel. Fold in the egg whites, and add in the freshly ground nutmeg. Transfer to a serving pitcher and add the vanilla beans as a garnish. Can be made 4 hours in advance. Keep refrigerated.

Imperial Fudge
This is definitely not your aunt’s fudge. I found that using an Imperial-style beer, wood-aged or not, along with the new brewing sugars by Dark Candi Inc. add a complex flavor to this old-fashioned fudge recipe. If your local homebrew shop doesn’t have these sugars, you can substitute granulated sugar and corn syrup.

Makes: 25 one-inch squares

2 cups soft candi sugar, blond
1 cup soft candi sugar, dark
1/2 cup Russian Imperial Stout*
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz. chocolate, 70% cacao, chopped fine
2 tbsp butter, unsalted (European style)
1 tbsp dark candi syrup
1 cup nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios or pecans), roasted, chopped (optional)

*An Imperial Porter, Imperial Brown or Whiskey Barrel-aged beer would also work in this recipe.

When making candy, particularly fudge, it is best to have everything measured out and ready before you start cooking.  Grease an 8-inch square pan with butter. A candy or infrared laser thermometer and wooden spoon will also be needed for this recipe.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugars, stout, cream, chocolate, butter and Dark Candi syrup. Place over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until chocolate and butter have melted and sugar has dissolved. Once mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, slow stirring to only once a minute and cook until the thermometer reads 234°F. Remove the pan from the burner and stop stirring. This should take about 15 minutes. Let fudge sit until the temperature reads 130°F. Add nuts (optional) and mix the fudge until the shiny texture turns to a matte finish. Pour into the prepared pan, being careful not to scrape the sides of the pot, as there might be sugar crystals that might not have fully melted and can cause your fudge to be grainy. Resist the temptation to try the fudge and let sit in cool dry area until fully set, at least 2 hours. Cut into 1 x 1-inch pieces, storing in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Bière Roca
Fred Eckhardt is widely known for his chocolate and beer pairing. His innovation inspired me to create this Bière Roca recipe using a Chimay Grand Reserve. I dedicate this recipe to you, Fred.

Makes: 3 pounds of candy

2 cups hazelnuts, lightly toasted
12 oz. dark chocolate, 60–70% cacao, chopped fine
1/2 cup 60L crystal malt, lightly cracked (optional)
1 lb butter, unsalted (European style)
2 cups soft candi sugar, blond or regular sugar
1/2 cup Chimay Grand Reserve or other beer*

*Most Belgian Strong Dark beers can be substituted for the Chimay. I would avoid the stout/porter family with this recipe, as the high temperatures of the candy-making process might over-caramelize and add a burnt flavor to the final product.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse hazelnuts to a medium course chop. Take a sheet or cookie pan, use a Silpat mat or lightly butter the bottom of the pan and add half of the chopped nuts in an even layer onto the pan. Then add half of the chocolate on top of the nuts and optional crystal malt.

In a heavy sauce pan, preferably copper core or triple-ply constructed, melt butter completely over medium heat and then add sugar and beer*. Stir continuously until the mixture comes to a boil. Once at a boil, slow the stirring to a minimum until the mixture turns a rich brown caramel color or is 300°F on a candy thermometer. The whole process will take about 30 minutes. Taking care not to burn yourself, pour candy onto the chocolate and hazelnuts, spreading evenly. Then top with remaining chocolate, nuts then malt. Press the nuts and chocolate lightly into the candy. Let cool to room temperature, then break into bite-size chunks. Store in an airtight container.

Hophead Peanut Brittle
This brittle is inspired by the flavors found at your favorite watering spot, a pint of hoppy, citrusy India Pale Ale and bowl of salted peanuts on the bar top. This recipe makes a candy that any hophead will surely love as a gift.

Makes: 2 pounds of candy

1/2 cup butter, unsalted (European style)
1 lb soft candi sugar, blond (2 cups)
1/2 cup hoppy IPA, preferably something citrusy
1 tsp salt
1 cup peanuts, lightly toasted, unsalted

Lightly grease a baking sheet with butter or use a Silpat mat and set aside.

In a large saucepan, combine butter, sugar, IPA and salt, stirring over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil and cook to a hard crack stage, 300–310°F (325° for a darker color). Remove from heat and stir in peanuts to combine. Pour candy onto prepared cookie sheet, spreading evenly. Let cool to room temperature, then crack into bite-size pieces. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

If you want a simple dessert for a crowd, with a wow factor of 10, this could be the winning ticket. Based off the pick-me-up dessert of Italian decent, the addition of Stout, especially one with strong chocolate or coffee flavors, takes this dessert to a new level. For those of you that may not have access to mascarpone cheese in your local dairy case, I have included a recipe to make your own. Allow an extra day in the preparation if making the cheese.

Serves: 12–16

Mascarpone Ingredients:
4 cups cream
3/4–1 tsp tartaric acid*

Beeramisu Ingredients:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup powdered sugar
1 recipe mascarpone cheese (above) or 16 oz. store bought
10 oz. Double Chocolate, Espresso or Imperial Stout
1/2 cup espresso or strong-brewed coffee
60 ladyfinger cookies, available in specialty stores
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup 120L crystal malt
1/4 cup dark chocolate, grated fine for garnish

*Available at most homebrew/wine stores

Directions on making mascarpone cheese:
Place a large stainless steel bowl over a pot of simmering water, adding cream to the bowl. Heat the cream to 185°F. Add most of the tartaric acid and stir for 5 minutes. The cream will thicken and become slightly grainy. If not, add the rest of the acid and repeat. Once thick, remove to a container and refrigerate overnight. This is a wonderful cheese, similar to cream cheese, but more nutty in flavor.

Directions to finish the Beeramisu:
In the bowl of mixer, add whipping cream and powdered sugar, mixing until you have soft peaks. Fold in the mascarpone cheese, being careful not to deflate the whipping cream. Set aside.

Pour beer and espresso into a shallow dish, large enough to hold both.

To assemble, take half-pint glasses or tasting glasses (for individual servings) or a trifle dish (for a buffet) and dip each lady finger in the beer mixture for about 15 seconds, letting the cookie slightly absorb the liquid. Resist the temptation to leave the cookie in any longer or they will become soggy and fall apart.

Create a layer of lady fingers at the bottom of your serving dish. Break cookies in half if needed to create a single layer. After all the glasses have one layer of cookies, take a good scoop of the mascarpone mixture and cover the ladyfingers, then lightly dust with cocoa powder and a few grains of crystal malt. Repeat this process until all the glasses are full or the dish is filled. The top layer, finish with mascarpone mixture, topping with shaved or grated chocolate and a few grains of crystal malt.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to help set the dessert before serving.

Chocolate Dipped Macaroons
Alan Sprints, brewmaster from Hair of the Dog Brewery, suggests pairing these Macaroons with a barrel-aged beer with coconut flavors derived from the wood, or a roasty porter.

Makes: 36 cookies

4 egg whites
1/2 cup soft candi sugar, blond
14 oz. unsweetened coconut
3 tbsp all purpose flour
3 tbsp 60L crystal malt, ground to a fine powder
3 tbsp dry malt extract (DME)
1 tbsp pistachio, toasted, ground fine
1/4 tsp kosher salt
10 oz. dark chocolate, 62% cacao, chopped fine (optional)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet(s) with butter or use a Silpat mat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, add egg whites and sugar, whipping to a soft peak. In another bowl, mix together coconut, flour, malt, DME, pistachio and salt. Fold in the whipped egg whites until combined.

Using a tablespoon, make 36 scoops of the cookie dough, spacing them 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet(s). Bake for 20 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer the macaroons to a cooling rack, cooling completely.

To coat the macaroons in chocolate (optional), add the chocolate to a metal bowl and place over a pot of simmering water. Once the chocolate has melted, dip half of each macaroon in the chocolate, placing them on a cooling rack to set. Let rest for 30 minutes, then store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.