Baking with Beer

I like holiday-themed dishes, even when they are not intended as such. One July 4th I made a Tiramisu and used food colouring to make red, white and blue whipped cream rosettes for the top. I decorated thumbprint cookies with green sugar for St. Patrick’s Day. Anything red and heart-shaped works for Valentine’s Day. In fact, check out this item I saw in a grocery store on February 14th:

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And, no, I didn’t buy it!

Around St. Patrick’s Day it is not uncommon to see recipes listing Guinness Stout as an ingredient. I must say, I don’t get the attraction of Guinness as a drink, but it does impart a rich flavour to various dishes, like stews. And baking with chocolate.

As far as I am concerned, there is very little that can make a dish with chocolate, butter and sugar NOT taste good. (Okay, the chocolate mashed potato mousse that my mom made once. But that’s the ONLY one I know of!) And sometimes adding too much else to a recipe is just “gilding the lily”. However, there is something about the depth (what do I know about beer, right?) of the flavour of the Guinness Stout that can enhance or complement a darker chocolate.

I have made chocolate cake with Guinness before, complete with green frosting. But I just came across a recipe for Guinness Brownies (turns out to be from Bon Appétit, altho that was not my source) that are, as someone I know says, to live for! They are very rich, with a soft, cakey exterior and a wonderful fudgey consistency in the middle. The Guinness is reduced and added to both the brownie batter and the glaze on top, so you get a nice hit of it but it’s not overpowering.

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Thank goodness I have somewhere to take these, otherwise I’d have to put them waaaay in the back of the freezer! So good!

Note: I forgot to mention that I did grease the tin foil after I lined the pan. I  read on the BA website that some people did not and had trouble with the brownies sticking to the pan. Next time I will use parchment paper, but I had run out of it.

Tuna Tartare.

I am a big fan of sushi, especially with tuna and salmon. The problem has often been being able to buy sushi-grade fish to make my own. But recently the stars aligned and not only did I find a fantastic set of recipes using raw tuna, but also a local market is featuring sashimi tuna on special! Here is a link to the recipes, created by Susur Lee, a very well-respected chef in Toronto, Ontario, and featured in a column by Lucy Waverman of the Globe&Mail (also Canadian).

The tuna I bought was more tuna steak than the loin that was requested in the recipes. But it worked just fine, especially for the tuna tartare which is diced anyway. It ends up a bit like tuna ceviche as the raw tuna “cooks” briefly in the added liquid ingredients. The seared tuna turned out a bit different from the photo in the article; first, the shape was different. Second, I seared each side for 30 seconds but that barely cooked the outside, which was not an issue for taste or texture; I just think it looks prettier with a wider cooked edge! And it is the wrong season for pea shoots (which I love) so I used mung bean sprouts instead. Not as colourful but still crunchy.

Here is a photo from the newspaper:

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Here is my version. I think there was something about the lighting, because my sauce was not orange. The chips were, as I did not find Taro chips and used yam chips instead.

Still yummy! And I think that the Tartare would be a great appetizer, served with just some taro or other veggie chips alongside to “scoop”.

Tempura.

Here’s a little known fact: Tempura is originally Portuguese! You can check it out here. I learned this initially from a Curtis Stone video in which he demonstrates preparing fish with tempura batter. After reviewing a number of similar recipes, I came up with one that is simple and delicious, giving a thin, light and crispy coating for your favourite seafood. I haven’t tried it with veggies yet, but that’s next.

Rather than write it all out here, I suggest that you watch Curtis Stone’s video first. However, I changed his ingredients a little bit. He uses plain flour and plain ice water. For one pound of cod, I used a cup each of Self-Rising flour and mineral water poured over crushed ice. (Pelligrino if you must know. It was on special.) Otherwise, I followed his directions exactly.

I decided to go with self-rising flour and mineral water because of the extra “lift” you get with the baking powder in the flour and the bubbles in the water. But clearly Stone’s recipe works fine also. If you can’t find self-rising flour already made, you can add 1-1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of all-purpose flour and use that.

A final comment: the batter should be VERY thin, as one recipe put it, like melted ice cream. I thought that my batter was too thin and added a bit more flour, but I could have left it the way it was. Still, with a few sautéed potato slices and homemade cole slaw, it was delicious. Of course fresh cod is BEST pan fried! But this is a nice change once in a while.

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We did have leftovers, so this was my lunch today. I reheated the fish in a 350F oven for about 10 minutes; the batter recrisped nicely and the fish was not overcooked. Enjoy!