Irish Stout-Inspired Desserts

Cooking with Beer by | Mar 2014 | Issue #86

Photo by Sean Z. Paxton

There’s not much to choose from when it comes to Irish desserts. There are some cakes that are similar to a fruitcake; there’s shortbread cookies, and some crisps, cobblers, and ice cream flavors that are traditional Irish fare. But I wanted this article to inspire the reader to try some different dessert concepts. Here are three base recipes—Chocolate Irish Stout Cake, Bailey’s Irish Cream Pastry Cream, and a Smoked Salted Caramel Sauce with Irish Whiskey—that can be used interchangeably to create a multitude of dessert options.

Chocolate Irish Stout Cake
I love adding Stout to a chocolate cake. The extra flavors from the dark brew mimic and enhance the natural flavors found in chocolate, while expanding the roast, coffee and chocolate nuances. This recipe uses some oat and pearl barley flour that liken this cake to an Irish-style baked good.

Makes: 8–12 slices

1 1/2 cups Irish Stout, such as North Coast Old #38 or Victory Donnybrook
1 cup unsalted butter, preferably Irish or European with a higher fat content
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups sugar, preferably organic
8 oz dark chocolate
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup oat flour*
1/2 cup pearl barley flour*
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
3 each extra large eggs, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla paste or extract, bourbon base

* If oat and pearl barley flour are not available, add rolled oats and pearl barley into a clean coffee grinder and pulse until a fine flour is formed.

In a medium-size saucepan, add the Irish Stout, Irish butter, cocoa powder, sugar, and chocolate. Place over medium-low heat, and stir with a whisk until the mixture is smooth and all the ingredients are incorporated, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Preheat the oven on the convection setting, 350°F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans with butter or shortening, or spray with a non-stick coating. Next, cut two pieces of parchment paper into rounds, the same size as the cake pans. Place the parchment rounds into the prepared cake pans and grease the top of the parchment. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift or whisk together the all-purpose flour, oat flour, pearl barley flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, crack the eggs and whisk until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the buttermilk and vanilla, whisking again for 30 seconds to incorporate. Pour this egg/buttermilk mixture on top of the flour mixture, and then add the chocolate/Stout mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold the three to create a cake batter, being careful not to over-mix, about 30 seconds.

Evenly divide the cake batter into the two prepared cake pans, and place into the center of the oven. Bake the cakes for about 30–35 minutes, or until the internal cake temperature is 190°F or a toothpick comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool for about 15 minutes, then slide a knife between the cake and pan and invert onto a cake rack to cool completely. Carefully peel off the parchment round and discard.

Variations: Instead of making a cake, grease a muffin tin and fill each round 2/3 with the Chocolate Irish Stout Cake batter. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 18–20 minutes, until the internal temperature is 190°F. Or, to add extra depth to the dried fruit flavors found in some Stouts, add a half-cup of Irish Stout-soaked currants or raisins (see below) to the cake batter, and fold in when all the ingredients are combined.

Smoked Salted Caramel Sauce with Irish Whiskey

Makes: about 1 1/2 cups

1 cup white sugar
1 tbsp corn syrup, light
2 tbsp water or beer*
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp Irish whiskey, such as Jameson or Bushmills
1/2 tsp smoked salt or flaked salt

* Different beers can create different types of caramel. Consider the IBU count, as caramel has an inherent bitterness, which more IBUs will augment. Try a Stout for a Stout caramel, Red Ale for a more malt-forward caramel, or a Rauchbier for a smoked caramel sauce.

In a wide, heavy-bottomed pot, add the sugar, corn syrup, and water or beer, and place over medium heat. Slowly heat the sugar until it starts to melt and the mixture begins to boil. Bring the sugar to 355–360°F or a dark mahogany color, about 8 minutes.

Carefully add the cream and butter. This mixture will bubble up and steam, and the sugar will harden and clump. This is OK—bring the caramel back to a boil, and the sugar will dissolve again. Whisk the caramel until it’s smooth and silky.

Add the Irish whiskey and smoked salt, whisking to combine. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature before using. The caramel can be transferred to a sealable container and stored for up to a week in the refrigerator. When ready to use, remove from the ice box and warm slightly.

Uses: Add 2–3 tablespoons of the caramel to 1 cup of whipping cream to make a caramel whipped cream. Or warm the caramel and pour over ice cream, drizzle over a cake layer or garnish a dessert with a lattice pattern over the top or on the plate.

Bailey’s Irish Cream Pastry Cream
A pastry cream is similar to a very thick pudding and is a perfect filling for cakes. If you want to use this as a mousse, fold in whipped cream to soften the texture, and it can be used in a trifle or as a frosting for cupcakes.

Makes: 2 1/2 cups of pastry cream, 3 1/2 cups pastry mousse

2 1/2 cups whole milk, preferably organic
2 each vanilla bean, preferably Tahitian
6 each extra large egg yolks, room temperature
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup organic sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Irish Cream, such as Bailey’s
2 tbsp Irish Whiskey, such as Jameson or Bushmills

In a medium-size saucepan, add the milk and vanilla bean. To prepare the vanilla bean, slice in half lengthwise, and use the edge of a knife to scrape the seeds out of the pod and into the milk; place over low heat. Let the contents come to a simmer, about 6 minutes.

As the milk warms, in a stainless-steel bowl, add the egg yolks (saving the whites for another use), both sugars and salt. Whisk until the yolks are pale yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Note that if this is done too far in advance, the yolks will “cook” and become grainy. Sift in the cornstarch and flour on top of the eggs, and whisk to form a smooth paste.

In a medium-size heatproof bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together. (Do not let the mixture sit too long or pieces of egg will start forming.) Sift the flour and cornstarch together and then add to the egg mixture, mixing until you get a smooth paste.

Once the milk infusion just starts to bubble around the edges of the pan, remove the vanilla bean pod. Using a ladle, slowly pour a few ounces of the warm milk onto the egg paste, whisking to temper the eggs and preventing them from curdling. Add another ladle-full of the milk to the egg mixture, and whisk again. (Rinse off the pod and let dry. Once it’s dry, you can add it to a jar of sugar to make vanilla sugar.)

Pour the tempered egg mixture into the pan, whisking to incorporate. Increase the heat to medium while whisking continually, bringing the pastry cream to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling, the pastry cream will begin to thicken over the next minute. Continue to whisk as it thickens, then add in the Irish Cream and Irish whiskey. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl fitted with a sieve, and strain to refine the smooth sauce further. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap to prevent a film from forming on the surface. Let cool to room temperature before using.

The pastry cream can be made in advance and will hold for up to three days refrigerated. Remember to whisk before using to smooth out the mixture if prepared in advance.

Variations: To make a mousse out of the pastry cream, fold in 1 1/3 cup of whipped heavy cream. Or, to make a Chocolate Stout pastry cream, add 2 ounces of dark chocolate shavings to the hot milk, whisking to incorporate, and replace the 1/2 cup of Irish Cream with Stout (Irish, Oatmeal, or Imperial).

Irish Layer Cake

Makes: 8–12 slices

1 recipe Chocolate Irish Stout Cake (in 2 cake pans)
1 recipe Bailey’s Irish Cream Pastry Cream
1 recipe Smoked Salted Caramel Sauce with Irish Whiskey

Before assembly, make sure that the cake has cooled to room temperature. Trim the tops off both cakes to create a flat surface, and then cut each in half horizontally. Place a top half upside down onto a cake plate or platter. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the Smoked Salted Caramel Sauce with Irish Whiskey evenly over the cake layer.

Divide the pastry cream into four equal parts. Place 1 portion of the pastry cream on top of the caramel, and spread evenly with an offset spatula to a half-inch of the edge of the cake. Top the pastry cream with another layer of the cake and repeat with the caramel, pastry cream and cake layer three more times.

To garnish the cake, make a pattern with the remaining caramel sauce over the top layer of pastry cream. Garnish with some toasted oats (flaked oats baked in a 350°F for 8–10 minutes and cooled) or cacao nibs.

Photo by Sean Z. Paxton

Photo by Sean Z. Paxton

Irish Trifle
Trifles are a fun and easy dessert that anyone can make.

Serves: 6–10

1 recipe Chocolate Irish Stout Cake (in 2 cake pans)
1 recipe Smoked Salted Caramel Sauce with Irish Whiskey
1 recipe Bailey’s Irish Cream Pastry Cream mousse
1 recipe Irish Stout-Soaked Currants (see below)

Crumble the cake into bite-size pieces, into a large bowl. Depending on how many you plan on serving, have ready 6–10 pint or half-pint glasses. Place 1/4 cup of the cake crumbles in each glass.

Drizzle some of the caramel sauce over the cake, and then spoon a few scoops of the Bailey’s Irish Cream Pastry Cream on top. Sprinkle a few of the Stout-soaked currants and a half-teaspoon of any leftover Stout.

Repeat with all the glasses, creating 3 layers in each glass. Wrap with plastic wrap if not serving right away. These can be made 24 hours in advance (refrigerated) and get better with time, as the flavors fuse together.

Irish Stout-Soaked Currants
These currants can be used in an Irish Soda Bread, in a trifle, or mixed into the Chocolate Irish Stout Cake recipe for more complexity and texture.

Makes: 1/2 cup

1/2 cup dried currants
1/2 cup Irish Stout, such as North Coast Old #38 or Victory Donnybrook

In a pint-size jar, add the currants and cover with the Stout. Seal and refrigerate overnight (at least 8 hours) to rehydrate.