A match made in heaven?

I love coffee and I love beer.  Hence, a post I read today at the Kitchn blog caught my attention as it was all about java-infused beers, i.e. beers with coffee in them.

All of the five examples of commercially available coffee beers listed were stouts or porters, so presumably this is the type of beer that has been found to work best with coffee.  Unfortunately, it being an American food blog, the chance of me being able to find any of these beers over here is pretty slim.  I will have to keep my eyes open to see if there are any similar beers available on the UK market, or I will have to try brewing one of my own (it’s about time to get some more brewing underway in any case).   Apparently the coffee can be added to the beer wort while it is still hot, in the first stages of brewing, or can be cold-brewed into it later on.  I would probably go for the latter approach, so that I could try it first with a small batch rather than risk destroying too much beer if it doesn’t work.

Thinking about brewing coffee beer reminds me of my first naive attempt to make chocolate stout.  Unlike coffee beer, which does actually contain coffee, chocolate stout traditionally refers to a stout brewed with chocolate malt, which is just very dark roasted malt, and doesn’t have any chocolate in it.  As a student, I did some brewing with one of my housemates and we decided to have a go at a chocolate stout but didn’t realise what the name referred to; our approach to making it was to add some cocoa powder to the brew.  Although not a traditional chocolate stout, it was nevertheless a very tasty brew – probably one of the best we made together.  I have brewed a few other stouts and porters since then, but have not yet got round to doing another chocolate one (either with chocolate malt or real chocolate).

Perhaps if my experiments with brewing a coffee stout are successful I could combine the two ideas and make a mocha beer?



Hot Chocolate Ginger

As I mentioned the other day, I’m quite partial to chocolate-coated ginger so I decided to have a go at making some with the crystallised ginger I picked up recently.

Deliberately flouting the first rule of cooking (well, one of the rules anyway: always use the best ingredients you can afford), I picked up a bar of the cheapest dark chocolate I could find – Morrisons economy label; I was shocked to note that it’s gone up 50% since I last got a bar a few months ago and now costs a whopping 30p instead of 20p, but it’s still far cheaper than any of the competition and is respectably good chocolate for the price and certainly good enough for my experimentation.

Being unsure as to how best to melt chocolate and too impatient to google it, I just put about half the bar in to my smallest saucepan at a very low heat, stirring it with a wooden spoon to try and prevent it burning.  This was only partially successful and I ended up adding a small amount of milk to try and make it a bit smoother.  I then dropped in bits of ginger, one or two at a time, and gave them a good stir round to get them well-coated before taking them out and dropping them on a plate.  The added milk seems to have made the chocolate set quite soft, but the finished pieces are very tasty.

To use up the remaining chocolate and go some way towards cleaning the pan, I added a fairly generous amount of milk, a little bit of sugar, some ground cinnamon and a pinch of salt while it was still on the heat, then let it simmer for a bit and decanted it into a cup to enjoy as  a drink of hot chocolate.  This was a bit richer than the usual stuff I make up from powder and, although probably not the way I’d want to make it every time, has potential for being an excellent way to make it up as a special treat (I was inspired by a recipe I’d looked at for DIY hot chocolate that suggested adding cream too; that one started with heating the milk (and sugar?) then adding the chocolate and other ingredients but was otherwise much the same as my method) and it does seem to be a good way of using up any remaining chocolate after dipping operations.

I think, though I haven’t yet done any research or experimentation to check this, that using a double saucepan or bain-marie (as far as I know that’s just another name for the same thing) is the preferred method for melting chocolate, as it provides a much gentler heat.  I’ve got nearly half a bar of chocolate and a fair bit of ginger left over, so if I can find suitable pots to use, I might give that a try to see if it works better.

Crystallised Ginger and Gathia Mix

I forgot to take my lunch with me when I went in to work this morning.  Fortunately, I did have my wallet with me as I hoped to be able to pick up some herbs and spices that I wanted when I dropped down into town for a meeting, so I was able to buy some things to eat at lunchtime (just as well, too, as the herb buying was a bit of a non-starter – lemongrass doesn’t seem to be sold by many shops round here and cinnamon sticks appear to be undergoing a surge of popularity, judging by the fact that all the shops seemed to be sold out of them).

One of the things I got was a packet of Gathia mix, which looked similar to Bombay mix but was quite a bit cheaper (it was on special offer).  Although I suspect I’ve eaten it before, I wasn’t aware of having done so.  According to Wikipedia it’s similar to Bombay mix but generally a bit spicier and containing fewer bulk ingredients (as opposed to spices); it’s also called Gujarati mix, which presumably indicates where it’s from.  In any case, it’s very tasty.  I haven’t had Bombay mix type things for a while and forgotten quite how much I like them.

The other exciting thing was a bag of crystallised ginger.  That too is very tasty, although probably not all that healthy given how much sugar is in it.  I seem to recall that chocolate-coated crystallised ginger is particularly nice, so I might see if I can pick up a bar of dark chocolate to melt and dip some of the remaining ginger in it.