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Lucy Saunders
4230 N. Oakland #178
Shorewood WI
53211 USA
@ site name

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MMMmmmm, beer, sweet beer...

Go to the truffle to make homebrewed bonbons for Valentine's Day

Here's the inspiration for this extreme experiment:

"Anderson Valley Brewing Co. releases Barney Flat Oatmeal Stout Chocolates. Always with an eye toward beer and food pairing now Anderson Valley Brewing Company has developed their own line of chocolate candies. The chocolate candies are made with a soft Oatmeal Stout center. They come in either dark and milk chocolate and there a mocha-stout version that has a roasted coffee bean in the center.

"Chocolate and Stout are a taste combination made for each other" said brewery owner Ken Allen. The release of the Anderson Valley Chocolates will be in early Feb. 2004 (just in time to for your sweetheart - with the sweet tooth). The chocolates are available in quarter and half pound boxes at the brewery gift shop or on line at www.avbc.com."

"Liquid cake" is one thing, but beer in candy? I love the taste of barleywine, stout, and fruit ales with chocolate, and when I bake with chocolate, I always try to add beer to the batter.

Hundreds of bakers who read the "Cake Mix Doctor" cookbooks have tried the addition of stout to chocolate bundt cake mix, always raving about the moist and tender texture that results from substituting stout for water.

But it is a bit trickier to make confections and candies with beer. That's because the acidity of beer's hops and sheer volume of water both change the texture of chocolate ganache (most chocolate candies are filled with creamy centers called ganache). Pastry chefs always keep water away from melted chocolate, because even a drop of water will make the liquid cacao bean turn grainy and "seize up" into a stiff and unappealing mass.

So, how can you add the taste of beer to a chocolate confection? NYC pastry chef Eric Girerd is an accomplished chocolatier; his love of making unusual chocolates borders on wizardry. His line, which sells for close to $50 per pound, consists of ganache centers flavored with spices, herbs, tisanes, and even wasabi. At the request of Richard Scholz of BierKraft in Brooklyn, Girerd developed a line of beautiful chocolates, sold exclusively at BierKraft, and flavored with brews such as Abita Brewing's TurboDog or Ramstein Wheat Ale.

"I taste the beers and try to find one where the acidity is balanced so that it will not overpower the taste of the chocolate," says Girerd. Then he blends the beer with melted butter and warmed heavy cream to make an emulsion, and uses that emulsion to flavor the ganache. "The high butterfat makes it possible to add the beer-buttercream without making the chocolate seize," says Girerd.

Once blended, the ganache is chilled for several days to ripen and grow firm. The refrigerated air slowly removes excess moisture from the ganache, which makes a perfectly smooth filling for confections. Girerd is working to make his own proprietary blend of chocolate beans to use in making fine bittersweet chocolate.

"It is so difficult to find wonderful tasting, pure chocolate," laments Girerd. "Just a few very large companies dominate the world market for chocolate, so it is harder and harder for the small artisanal chocolatier," he says. (That lament should sound awfully familiar to craft brewers...)

Retailers such as BierKraft often help small purveyors of specialty foods and confections get started. Sweet Spot on Seventh is actually "a retirement hobby started about 30 years too early," laughs Daniel Marks, an avid candy maker. For years, he has made toffees and nut brittles for his friends and family, and just last year, began supplying BierKraft with a mixed nut brittle made with Smuttynose Brown Ale.

The brittles are tasty brown nuggets of caramelized sugar, butter and beer, cooked into a crunchy dark brown cluster around a blend of pecans, almonds and peanuts. They are best eaten fresh, because "unless it is enrobed in chocolate, brittle gets softer and spreads into a chewier nougat," as Marks describes the effects of humidity on cooked sugar confections. He sampled many different beers to make the brittle, but found the Smuttynose to be a better complement with the taste of the nuts.


Here are some chocolate recipes to serve with your favorite strong ale:

Barleywine Bonbons

1 can (14 ounces) condensed milk
2/3 cup barleywine (room temperature)
1/4 cup 22 percent plain cocoa
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, very finely chopped, divided
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Covering: Melted white couverture or dark chocolate couverture (about 2 pounds) Chopped macadamia nuts (or other nut)

Mix condensed milk, cocoa and barleywine until smooth. You should have 2 cups of liquid. Pour through a strainer into a heavy saucepan and heat to just a simmer. Chop 8 ounces of the chocolate very fine and place in heavy nonreactive bowl. Set aside remaining 4 ounces chopped chocolate for later use. When the barleywine mixture just bubbles and is hot, pour steaming blend into the 8 ounces chopped chocolate and stir slowly with a spatula, until the chocolate melts. Melt the unsalted butter in the same saucepan, and then when it is almost bubbling, remove from heat and stir in the remaining 4 ounces chopped chocolate. Stir until chocolate melts and then slowly stir the melted butter mixture into the barleywine base. Stir slowly, so air pockets and bubbles do not form. When smooth and glossy, pour the ganache into a 9x9x2 glass pan, and let cool. When cooled, cover and chill 1 to 2 days.

Form centers by cutting ganache into squares and place on parchment-lined pan. To make bonbons, choose an assortment of coverings. Roll or dip each piece of ganache in the desired covering, and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill uncovered 6 hours, then pack into candy cups and place in a sealed container. Keeps refrigerated for up to 3 weeks. Yields about 3 dozen bonbons.

Barleywine Banana Split
2 bananas
cup barleywine
Brown sugar
cup chopped almonds
Ice creams of your choice
Chocolate sauce or melted ganache (above)
Slice the bananas and mix with barleywine. Set aside to marinate, about 30 minutes. Place bananas and barleywine in an ovenproof dish and sprinkle with 1 to 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar and toasted almonds. Place under broiler until nuts are toasted and sugar is bubbly. Remove from oven and let cool 4 minutes, or until bananas are warm. Top with scoops of your favorite ice cream, and chocolate sauce, or several tablespoons of the melted barleywine ganache. Serve immediately. Yields 2 servings

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