Thursday, February 27, 2014

Salted Beer Caramels


As good as it sounds. I imagine this is how the butter beer in Harry Potter actually tastes. Super creamy, a nice beer taste, and the salt really puts it over. Be generous so that each bit will have a little bit of salt on it. 

2 cups brown sugar
2 sticks butter
1 cup corn syrup
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 bottle of Ale (I used Anchor Steam's Brown Ale)
Sea Salt

Line a 9x13 pan lined with parchment paper.
Melt butter and brown sugar together in medium saucepan over medium heat.
Slowly add beer, syrup then milk while stirring constantly.
Cook caramels to 240°F. Do not stop stirring once milk is added or caramels will scorch.
Once you reach 240°F, take mixture off of heat and stir in vanilla extract.
Pour mixture into pan.
Sprinkle sea salt on top of hot caramels. Let caramels set for a few hours until firm enough to cut.
Wrap in wax paper or caramel wraps. 

They will keep for a couple weeks at least. They would probably work well with something like Guinness or another kind of stout. St. Patrick's Day is coming!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Home Brew Chai Concentrate

Today is my 5th Blogiversary. Hard to believe it's been that long.

I have a pretty non-standard entry for such a celebration, but it's been brewing for a while, so no time like the present to post it.

I've been on a mission for well over a year now to perfect my own chai blend. I'm pretty addicted to the stuff, in lieu of coffee which I just can't seem to get into. Sacrilege in San Francisco, I know. Luckily I'm not alone in my love for chai and lots of shops around town offer some very wonderful options. But I can almost never just let it be that someone else makes a thing that I don't at least try to make myself.

I started out following what seems to be the ONE chai recipe floating around the internet. One of those phenomenons where it looks like everyone copied the same source, offering me no variation options. And it was all well and good, but I was not nearly satisfied. To me, the perfect chai is only a little sweet, and heavy on the spice. Not just spice-full, but I like it with a little bit of bite.

So after months of tweaking, I am finally satisfied with the chai I can't get enough of, and am no longer craving the blend I used to get at the shop down the street.

That being said, I think if you want to make your own chai, you should either start from where the rest of the internet started, or at least just use this recipe only as a guideline. This is also a bulk recipe, because I drink it daily, so I don't want to have to make it daily (another reason why the ONE recipe wouldn't cut it - heaven forbid I have to count the individual number of cloves in a recipe. No thank you). This also means I buy pounds of each of these spices at a time now.

6" ginger, give or take
6 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup cardamom pods (I used green)
1/4 cup whole cloves
1/8 cup peppercorns
1 tbs ground nutmeg
2 vanilla beans
12 cups water
1/3-1/2 cup black tea, looseleaf is fine (such as orange pekoe), or use 8-10 teabags
Sweetener to your taste, I prefer honey

Note: the "other" recipe calls for star anise and orange zest which I chose not to include. Star anise is not my favorite component of chai, and I've had some blends that just have too much of that flavor overall, which I really don't care for. The orange zest is also just not critical to my taste buds. Again, just a guideline - do what you think sounds best! I've upped the cardamom (doubled, in fact) and like to pack in a lot more ginger, which by the way, I thought was the key to making it spicy. But no, truth is that the amount of pepper you add seems to be what really puts it in the right spicy spot. I'm sure you could go over board, so be careful.

This makes about 8-10 regular size mason jars worth of concentrate, which should be mixed 1:1 with your milk of choice (soy, almond, whole, skim, whatever you want).

You'll need a large stock pot, a fine strainer, possibly a funnel or a spouted cup for pouring, and the jars to store it in when you're done. You can also properly can the mix, making it shelf stable, but I go through it so quickly I don't even bother. It should be refrigerated though. At least so I've been told. Again, I don't let it sit around long enough to really find out.

As with most things, after having followed the recipe the first time, I got lazy and started just eye balling how much of each spice I wanted. But, after having some friends over who wanted to learn to make their own chai, I realized that having some gauge of measurement would be more helpful than "one Kathy heaping handful," so you can thank them for inspiring me to figure out the rough measurements for you.

To start, clean off your ginger root and chop it roughly. Don't even bother peeling off the skin.

Then you can dump the rest of the spices (through to the vanilla beans) in the pot and add the water. Get it boiling and go ahead and leave it rolling for a good 20-30 minutes. Your house will smell amazing. The mix will reduce a bit, down by a cup or two. Just a fair warning that you're not getting 12 solid cups of chai concentrate out of this just because you put in 12 cups of water.

Turn off the heat and add the tea and let it steep about 5-10 minutes depending on how strong you like it. I defer on the lighter tea side myself.

Drain the mix over a fine meshed strainer into a large pot or bowl (if it has a handle and spout, great, you will be saving yourself a step). I used to try very hard to squeeze all the water out of the spice dregs, but realized it was returning more sediment than liquid, so now just let the strainer rest over the bowl for a few minutes to let gravity do its part.

You can choose to add your sweetener at this point. I prefer to just sweeten each cup as I drink it, so I have not figured out a proper measurement of honey or sugar to advise you on this step. Good luck.

After sweetening, or not, you should probably let it cool off a bit before jarring (unless you're canning, of course). When ready, you'll want to start pouring it into your containers, either directly or in batches with a ladle or liquid measuring cup. Just do whatever works for you and your set up.

There you have it. A sweet, spicy, warm cup of chai to get your morning started right. Cheers to the next 5 years!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Browned Butter Rice Krispy Treats with Nutella


Happy Nutella Day!

My contribution this year is going with the browned butter theme I established in my first post this year.

These were ridiculous. I am typically pretty good about not over-indulging in the goodies I make (caramel popcorn being the glaring exception), but I knew these had to leave the house almost as immediately as I finished them.

So, you obviously don't have to make your own marshmallows, but I have a ridiculous amount of gelatin leftover from holiday baking that I take every opportunity to use up, so prefer to make my own (and so long as you have a stand mixer, it's actually really easy). Also, I followed my dear Smitten Kitchen for the rest of the recipe. She never does me wrong. Another side note, I actually doubled the recipe. Making 2x the  marshmallow in one batch is fine, but I don't recommend trying to brown 2x the butter and mix in 2x the rice crispies into one pan. I just did it twice (so unlike me! I am notorious for preferring to make "one trip"

For the Marshmallow
In the bowl of a stand mixer:
1 ½ envelopes gelatin
¼ c cold water

In a Medium size pot:
1 c sugar
¼ c water
¼ corn syrup
dash salt

to add in later:
½ tsp vanilla

For the Krispies
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for the pan
10 oz of prepared marshmallow (it actually will make closer to 11.5 oz... I just used it all) or a bag of them
1/4 tsp kosher salt
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal (about half a 12 oz box) (I used brown rice crispies. Probably some delusion that I'd be adding a smidgen of healthiness to the recipe. I couldn't taste the difference, so go for it if you are as equally delusional as me.)

For marshmallow: In the bowl of a stand mixer (set with whisk attachment), pour in ¼ cup cold water and sprinkle with gelatin and let sit for at least 5 minutes while you prepare the syrup. Meanwhile, in a medium sized sauce pan, heat sugar, ¼ cup water, salt and corn syrup on medium heat stirring until dissolved. Once it starts boiling, stop stirring and bring it to 240˚. Turn stand mixer on low and carefully pour hot syrup down the side of the bowl. Once all syrup is in the bowl, turn speed all the way up and let it go for for 5-8 minutes until fluffy. Whisk in vanilla until incorporated. Set aside.

For krispies, first butter an 8 inch square cake pan or pyrex (for ease of removal, I actually line my pan with buttered aluminum foil or wax paper).

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Keep a close eye on it and stir frequently. The butter will probably try to boil or sizzle, so don't let it do that. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. First it will foam up and be hard to see what's going on underneath the foaming. Then the foam will subside and you'll start to see little "bits" floating in the butter. That's the good stuff. Keep your eye on those bits and when they start getting to a caramel color and the aroma is nutty, remove from heat. Don't get impatient for it to start browning; the period between the time the butter begins to take on color and the point where it burns is often less than a minute (good advice from Deb).

Once off the heat, stir in the marshmallow goop (this will be VERY sticky and hard to work with, and you will not be able to scrape every bit out from the bowl of the stand mixer. I'm sorry, but you'll just have to tackle that after you're done making the treats). The residual heat from the melted butter should be enough to melt the mallow mixture, but if it is not, turn the heat back on low until the marshmallows are smooth.

Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the salt and cereal together. Quickly spread into prepared pan. Smooth out with a silicon spatula (I found that worked best).

I put it in the fridge and let it set for about an hour then went to town adding a schmear of Nutella across the top of it then let it cool again before cutting into squares.