beer ginger red currant butter

beer ginger red currant butter

I'm looking forward to our long weekend and a visit to the farm this weekend. When we're at the farm, I look forward to catching up with everyone, relaxing, eating home cooked Southern food and trying my hands at something new at the farm. My goal this is year is to milk the goats once again when they are ready. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed for our quick getaway this weekend, since we have a snow storm prediction that's calling for a few inches of snow.

red currants

I didn't think I'd find red currants again but I was fortunate enough to run into them last weekend. Last year I made a simple jam for my whole wheat chocolate layer cake. This time, I made a smooth butter that's infused with a whole bunch of flavors I would never think of pairing, until now! I'm amazed at how delicious the pale ale balances the tartness of the currants, this is one recipe that I will definitely scale up if I ever run into a huge stash of red currants (which I sincerely hope I will).

red currants for beer ginger butter red currants for butter

I almost forgot about the ginger! The fresh ginger infuses a lovely flavoring in this sweet medley. I like this butter to be less sweet and more tart but if you want to reduce the tartness, I recommend increasing the sugar to around 1/2 cup. I recommend using a deep saucepan as the beer will tend to foam and rise as the liquid heats up, this reduces spillage and a potential kitchen stovetop mess.
What's a better way to wake up in the morning and eat your beer on a slice of your toast!

quick beer ginger red currant butter

beer ginger red currant butter

yields: approximately 250ml

ingredients

12 ounces red currants
1/4 cup brown sugar (you can also increase the amount of  sugar to 1/2 cup to make it sweeter and less tart)
1 teaspoon ginger root, freshly grated
12 fluid ounces (355ml) beer (I used a pale Belgian ale)

1. Rinse the currants under running cold tap water. Carefully remove the fragile currants from their stems and place them in a deep bottomed saucepan. 
2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the saucepan and heat on a medium high flame with constant stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Reduce the flame to a medium low and stir the contents occasionally. Cook the butter for about 1 hour. During cooking the currants will burst and release their pulp and juices.
3. Place a sieve over a clean bowl. Pass the contents of the saucepan through a sieve and using a large spoon, press the fruit in the sieve to release as much of the fruit pulp and juices as possible. Stir the butter that collects in the bowl. It will have a thick consistency. Transfer and store in an airtight container until ready. Though the butter is ready to serve immediately once cooled, I find the flavors to be much more developed and tastier the next day. 

chocolate almond and buckwheat tart

Chocolate almond buckwheat tart

If there is one ingredient you'd love to bake with, what would it be? I have several but I think if given a choice, it would be chocolate and cocoa. In my books, I don't think anything can beat that warm sweet scent in the kitchen that I find so addictively comforting. Granted, I invariably end up making a mess every time I work with cocoa or chocolate, my white kitchen table ends up looking like a war zone with dark brown splattered streaks and spots all over the place. I mentally prepare myself going in armed with the knowledge that I will end up making a huge mess. In the end it never really matters. Because of that final moment, when nothing else matters and my eyes eagerly wait for that hot dark brown dessert to pop out of the oven. I'll admit I've burned my mouth a few times when I've been impatient enough to try and taste it hot. This is not recommended one bit, speaking from personal experience!

Baking with eggs

Last weekend, I spent my time baking. I missed using my tart pan, I haven't used it in a long time and I felt it beckon me from the corner where it has stayed hidden for the past few months. A few minutes later, I had the pan in one hand and the other was busy shuffling through the pantry shelf, which is what we also refer to as my "Museum Collection and Assortment of Flours" (it's a whole shelf with several types of flours) which for some reason lacked any regular all-purpose flour. Thankfully, I still had a bit of buckwheat flour left to make my crust. I love buckwheat a lot for its characteristic nutty taste and gorgeous gray color. I made a very simple crust, buckwheat and ground almond meal with a little bit of butter to hold everything together. The resultant pastry reminded me of a graham cracker crust with a buttery and delicious nutty flavor. 

Sugar measuring

When it comes to preparing tarts and pies, I love my faithful trustworthy porcelain pie beads. But if you don't own any and can't find a store that sells them near you, use dried beans. I've had my beads for a few years now and they making blind baking a cinch. Adding the parchment sheet on top of the pastry surface helps to easily lift the beads off as soon as the tart comes out of the oven and there's a less chance of getting burned! 

Blind baking

Now for the fun part, the chocolate filling! Since it is autumn, I snuck in a little of bit cinnamon, not too much, just a little dab for a little bit of added warmth to the chocolate flavors. When this tart came out, it was every bit delicious, a thin fine crust outside with a moist gooey chocolatey inside. That against the buckwheat and almond crust made it simply enjoyable. And yes, I did my burn my mouth again while trying to taste this way too soon!

Chocolate tart slice

chocolate buckwheat almond tart

yields: 6-8 servings

buckwheat almond tart crust

ingredients

yields: enough to cover one 9 inch ruffled tart pan

1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup ground almond meal
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Line the bottom of a 9 inch ruffled tart pan with parchment paper and spray the sides lightly with a neutral oil.
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the dry ingredients to mix uniformly. Add the melted butter and mix with your hands to form a dough. If the mixture is too sticky allow it too cool a little, this will help it firm. Transfer the dough to the pan and with your fingers/ or using the bottom flat surface of a measuring cup press the dough up the bottom and sides of the pan to form a layer of even thickness. Cover the crust with clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 mins. 
3. Remove the cling film and prick the surface of the crust a few times with the prongs of a fork. Cover the top surface of the pastry with parchment paper and place some pie beads or dried beans. This will prevent uneven rising during the baking process. Bake the pastry for 20 minutes in the center rack of the oven (this is also called blind baking). The edges will be slightly golden brown at this point. Carefully remove the pie beads along with the parchment sheet paper on the top surface.
4. Pour the warm chocolate tart filling (recipe below) into the tart shell, even the surface with a flat offset spatula or a flat butter knife and bake the tart for another 15-20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean from the center of the tart filling. Transfer the tart from the oven and allow to cool for 15-20 minutes in the pan on a wire rack before removing and transferring it to a clean serving plate. The tart will have a delicate crust on top but a moist gooey texture inside. Slice the tart with a sharp serrated bread knife and serve warm or cold.

chocolate tart filling

yields: enough for filling for one 9 inch tart

ingredients

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips 
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1 tablespoon madagascar bourbon vanilla extract

1. Melt the chocolate, cream, and butter together in a thick bottomed saucepan over a boiling water bath. This should take about 2-3 minutes. Mix constantly till smooth to get a shiny silky smooth sauce. Keep warm. 
2. In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, whisk the eggs, sugar, and vanilla at high speed for 5 minutes until you get a pale yellow lemony color and a ribbon can be formed with the eggs, the eggs will have tripled in volume. 
3. Fold the chocolate mix into the whisked eggs carefully with a circular motion. There will be some deflation but avoid losing too much of the trapped air.  
4. Please refer to step 4 above, listed under the tart crust instructions to finish off the tart.  

chocolate butter cookies

Chocolate Butter Cookies

This is that special time of the year when I carb load for a few days, no not for a race or marathon or any other sort of event that requires athletic prowess it's a simple way for me to celebrate my birthday. Each year, I make myself a different sweet treat/s, something that I've wanted to try/make all year round but avoided as a preventative measure to protect my waistline (The relationship between aging and waistline length is a direct proportion, at least for me). Ageing is an unwanted artifact of birthdays, as you cross a certain threshold (at least in my case), you have to learn some self-control. Taste and eat a little and occasionally indulge your tastebuds. Come birthday week and I will indulge every wicked dessert fantasy that has crossed my mind and make up for all those times I have been good. 

cooling cookies and forget me nots_1

One would assume that I might want a cake on my birthday, while I won't say no, this year I have a different opinion. Heck, I've made myself birthday cakes in the past but once in a while, I will crave for something other than a cake such as a pudding or a caramel flan. It all really depends on what my obsession was centered around. Images of freshly baked butter cookies have been circulating around my brain cells for a long time, just like those delicious Danish ones with that perfect nutty butter fragrance that melts in your mouth.

Strawberry flower and a lonely cookie

This recipe is based on the version I found in The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook. Browning a little bit of the butter, followed by a brief cooling period gives these cookies that extra heightened buttery nutty flavor that I absolutely love! To work with the dough, the refrigerator is your buddy. The dough is easy to work with when chilled and rolling it out between sheets of wax paper makes it even easier.

You can use any type of cookie cutter to shape your cookies, I used one of my Linzer cookie cutters. As my friend John says, they look like chocolate sprockets. Of course, depending on the size of the cookie you end up cutting, you will end up with either more or less cookies than I did. My cookie cutter measures around 2 inches and I got around 50-58 cookies. 

eating a cookie


chocolate butter cookies 
(adapted from The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook)

yields: approximately 52-58, 2 inch cookies

ingredients

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon Madagascar bourbon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1. Melt 4 tablespoon of the butter in a medium saucepan over high heat. Stir continuously until the milk solids turn orange brown. Remove the browned butter from the flame and stir in the cocoa to form a smooth silky paste. Keep aside to cool for 20 minutes.
2. Attach the paddle to a stand mixer, add the remaining butter, sugar, salt, and the cocoa-butter mixture. Mix completely on high speed, the mixture should appear light and fluffy. Add the yolks and vanilla and mix for about 40 seconds. Scrape the bowl down with a silicone spatula. 
3. Adjust the speed of the mixer to the low setting and add half of the flour mixture. Blend until completely incorporated. Scrape the bowl down with the spatula. Add the rest of the flour to the batter and repeat. Once the dough is formed into a ball, divide it into three flat discs. Transfer and wrap, each disc on to a large sheet of wax paper and refrigerate for 1 hour. Cut two large sheets of wax paper and sandwich a disc of the refrigerated dough between the sheets at the center. Roll out the disc into a rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Refrigerate the flattened dough for another 15-20 minutes. 
4. Preheat the oven to 375F and place the wire rack in the center. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, peel the top sheet of wax paper and cut out desired cookie shapes. Place the cut cookies onto a baking sheet or tray lined with parchment paper. Bake the cookies on the centered wire rack in the oven for 10 minutes (if the edges start to get dark, remove them immediately as the cookies are burning), rotating the baking sheet halfway during baking. Bake only one batch of cookies at a time. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container for up to a week. Any extra bits of dough can be pressed together and re-rolled and cut to make more cookies. Repeat with the rest of the refrigerated discs to make the rest of the cookies or refrigerate the dough for up to 3 days.