Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day: A Celebration of Guinness

I'm really not much for holidays, especially those that involve gift giving. Don't get me wrong. I love giving gifts. I just don't like when I feel forced to. Maybe it's the stubborn side of my personality. I'm sure Louis could expand on the commentary here, but we'll just leave it at that.

I do however LOVE the ritual holiday celebration around food. Thanksgiving is in fact, my favorite holiday. It is purely about creating a meal to share with family and friends. And that just about sums up the most important things in life for me.

So when St. Patrick's Day comes around, it's just another excuse to make something that I would not normally make. Boiled beef and cabbage doesn't sound particularly appetizing. But when you have a beautiful pasture raised corned beef brisket and let it simmer for hours until the meat pulls apart, it can be the start of a lovely meal.

And when you end the meal with a Guinness chocolate cake and Guinness ice cream, it is even better. This chocolate cake is very moist, almost fudgy. But the star of the evening was the Guinness ice cream. It is somewhat redolent of coffee. Keri said it reminded her of black walnut which I also noticed once she said it. It's hard to pin down the exact flavor profile, but it is delicious and the flavor deepened when tasted with the chocolate cake. Even if you don't celebrate St. Patrick's Day, this ice cream is reason enough to look forward to it each year. Guinness Ice Cream
(adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques)

1/2 vanilla bean
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup Guinness stout
2 1/2 tablespoons molasses
3 extra large egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Use a paring knife to scrape the seeds and pulp into a medium saucepan. Add the vanilla pod, milk, and cream, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn off the heat, cover, and allow the flavors to infuse for 30 minutes.

While the cream is infusing, whisk the beer and molasses together in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and then turn off the heat.

Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla extract together in a bowl. Whisk a few tablespoons of the warm cream mixture into the yolks to temper them. Slowly, add another 1/4 cup or so of the warm cream, whisking continuously. At this point you can add the rest of the cream mixture in a slow, steady steam, whisking continuously. Pour the mixture back into the pot, and return to the stove.

Stir the beer mixture into the cream and cook the custard over medium heat, 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan. The custard will thicken and when it's done, will coat the back of the spatula. Strain the mixture, and chill at least 2 hours in the refrigerator. When the custard is very cold, process it in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Guinness Chocolate Cake
(adapted from Feast by Nigella Lawson)
I found this recipe on various blogs and websites. There were some discrepancies between the recipes concerning the amounts of some ingredients. This is what I ended up doing. A kitchen scale is necessary here.

1 cup Guinness
10 tablespoons butter
75 grams cocoa
400 grams superfine sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Preheat oven to 350F and grease and line a 9 inch springform pan.

Pour the Guinness into a large saucepan and add the sliced butter. Heat until the butter is melted and remove from the heat. Whisk in the cocoa and sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add the sour cream mixture to the Guinness mixture in the saucepan and whisk to incorporate. Add the flour and baking soda to the mixture in the saucepan and whisk until smooth.

Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Mine took the full 1 hour. You can check to see if the cake is done by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is done.

Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

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