Monday, October 17, 2011

Beer Pairing Night: Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Salted Caramel and Bailey's Buttercream Frosting

My friends Jaime and Dennis love brewing beer and eating food. Kevin and I love cooking and drinking beer, so we decided the only adult thing to do would be to find a way to somehow combine the two. This past Saturday, we had four of the five arms from the Five Arms Brewery come over for one of the most profound experiences of all of our lives: a beer pairing.

For our part, we prepared a beer infused meal consisting of Kevin's Guinness Stew Pie and my Chocolate Stout Cupcakes. Meanwhile, Jaime and Dennis provided stouts to pair the courses with and some additional beers from Saint Arnold's, where Dennis serves as the world's most interesting brewer.

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes
Adapted From Food Network
Servings: 24 cupcakes

The batter consistency had me a little worried
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (and more for dusting)
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 bottle of stout beer (I used Left Hand Milk Stout)
1 stick butter, melted
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
Salted Caramel (see later)
Bailey's Buttercream Frosting (see later)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Whisk the cocoa powder, sugar, flour, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl.
  3. Mix the beer, butter and vanilla extract together in a separate bowl at low speed using the paddle attachment of a mixer.
  4. Add in the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated.
  5. Stir in the sour cream until smooth. 
  6. Slowly add in the dry mixture (think your typical 3 separate additions). Make sure not to overmix.
  7. Bake for 24 minutes or until the toothpick test comes back clean. Rotate once halfway through.
  8. Let cool on a wire rack.
  9. Once cool, top with salted caramel glaze and buttercream frosting.
The perfect chocolate cupcake. I knew beer made everything better just like with my dancing (my apologies to the Harmon/Lark and Balthrop/Niemann weddings)
I was pretty worried about how these would turn out since the batter was so runny. They actually ended up having amazing texture with just the right amount of bounce and moisture for a cake. The beer is not overpowering and provides a great little note on the backend. The chocolatey nature of the stout makes it an easy choice for cupcake making supremacy (somehow narrowly beating out the smooth flavors of Natty Ice).

Salted Caramel
Previously Seen in Cupcake Saturday Part Deux
Time: 10 minutes + cooling

1 cup sugar
1 tbsp corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tsp sea salt, crushed

Progression of the caramel. 
  1. Stir the sugar, water and corn syrup together in a medium sized sauce pan (make sure there's plenty of extra room because scolding hot sugar is not something you want touching you).
  2. Bring to a boil and swirl occasionally (do not stir).
  3. When the mixture gets a hint of amber color remove from heat (see picture). It's very easy to burn the caramel. It will rapidly progress once it hits this color (even after you remove it from the stove).
  4. Very carefully add the cream in a slow but steady stream and stir with a long wooden spoon. The mixture will steam and grow, so you might want to wear a cooking mitt on your hand that is adding the cream. I also recommend making this a two person job because pouring steadily while stirring is as difficult as trying to rub your belly and pat your head at the same time.
  5. Stir in the butter and salt then let cool to room temperature. You should cover it with a paper towel, since anything that lands in it will get stuck.
There's only one possible explanation: the caramel was so tasty, the cupcakes tried to eat it.
For some reason, this batch of caramel wasn't nearly as viscous as the last time I made it. As a result, the cupcakes seemed to absorb some of it, and its flavor wasn't as prominent as it should have been. Still it was a nice little addition to help make these already intriguing cupcakes even more over the top.

2 sticks of butter, softened
1 3/4 lbs powdered sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp Bailey's Irish Cream

  1. Mix the ingredients together using the whisk attachment at medium speed. Add the powdered sugar slowly as you will get a very thick frosting. Use the heavy cream to thin it. (Wow using heavy cream to thin something. I've reached a new level of disgusting.)
The frosting was so thick that it broke Alexis' amazing frosting gun. Sadly I must now buy her a new one (and one for myself, of course).
Since beer cupcakes just weren't alcoholic enough, I decided I had to add Bailey's liqueur to the mix. I basically halved the amount of powdered sugar and added some heavy cream because the frosting was ridiculously thick and about to break the motor on my stand mixer. In the end, it was a nice, sweet frosting with a subtle hint of Bailey's that really helped elevate the chocolate cake and caramel.

Now that the cupcakes were complete, it was time to pair them with the perfect beer. Our resident beer experts recommended the Saint Arnold's Pumpkinator seasonal brew, which is one of the finest pumpkin beers you can get a hold of. It's full of cinnamon and other delicious spices that really blend well with the chocolate cupcake. The combination was amazing, and it really seemed like each component helped enhance the flavor of the other. This was definitely the best pairing and most excellent adventure since Bill and Ted. When you have a beer pairing, everyone is a winner (except for the first man to fall asleep).

Brewer and Beer Pairing Night attendee, Dennis, waxes philosophical on the Pumpkinator

Jaime prepares to render a verdict on the cupcakes. 
Additional Beer Night Funtivities

Kevin's Guinness Beef Stew Pie. The recipe can be found here.
Not to be outdone by my baking, Kevin treated us to an outstanding main course of Guinness Beef Stew Pie. The meat and veggies were delectably tender, while the "pie" crust added a perfect buttery finish that had everyone going back for seconds. We paired it with its namesake to give us a double Guinness experience that tested our ability to leave room for dessert. A special thanks also goes to the lone, brave girl of the night, Alexis, who started things off with stuffed mushroom caps (sadly not pictured) that required me to use all my restraint to make sure they were still around when Dennis and Jaime got here.

Once our bellies were sufficiently stuffed, we sat down and quoted the entirety of Anchorman.
I don't know how to put this but Beer Pairing Night was kind of a big deal. Even Ron Burgandy made an appearance (He looks kind of like he was at a beer pairing too).
Now that our first beer pairing was a success, the next logical step is to host one for 200 of our closest friends at $100 a head. Feel free to reserve your spot in the comments.

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