Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Beer Style Breakdown 101: India Pale Ale (IPA)

Remember that Pale Ale from a few weeks ago?
Meet his big brother, the IPA.


In the late 1700's, beer was exported to the thirsty British soldiers stationed in India.  Unfortunately for them, it would spoil during the months-long voyage overseas.  Brewers soon discovered that adding extra hops and giving it a higher alcohol level helped to naturally preserve the quality of the beer.  In the end, the troops received their delicious nectar and the India Pale Ale was born.

Since then, there have been many variations of the IPA, most notably the American IPA.  American IPAs tend to be more "aggressive":  more hops, more malt and possess distinctly American characteristics (piney, citrusy, floral-y, etc.)

Today's selection is Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA. 

Union Jack was awarded gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival in '08 and at the Australian International Beer Awards in '09.  It was also rated one of the Top 25 Beers of '09 by Draft Magazine. If that doesn't sell you, perhaps the freakin' sweet lion and bear about to rumble on the label will.

Oh yeah...this is one bold IPA.  Aromatic notes of citrus and tropical fruits, a thick, malty backbone and a biting, hoppy finish.  Absolutely delicious.  At 7.5% abv, this one can easily sneak up on you if consumed back-to-back (to back.)

We'll cover 2 more styles of IPA in the next few weeks before we move onto some seasonal offerings.  In my beer world, it's the most wonderful time of the year.

Cheers, friends.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sugared Cinema: Summer Rental (and the winners!)

Get the hell out of here now!

You get out of here fella. I'm trying to watch the Smurfs.

You're trying to watch the Smurfs?  Did you see the one where Papa Smurf took a crutch and smashed the shit out of a guy with a red hat? Did you see that one? You want to see that one?

Looking back, Summer Rental may not have been John Candy's finest work but it was certainly one of the most memorable, at least for me.  I used to rent it all the time from Erols Video.  Plus, it starred Kerri Green.  I'm still mourning the loss of her career.

How was your summer?  Eventful?  Relaxing?  Mine didn't suck by any means, it just wasn't packed with as many summer-y events as I would've liked.  When I was a kid, my family used to take an annual trip to Ocean City, MD and we'd stay at the same hotel every year, Castle in the Sand.  We'd spend all morning on the beach then in the afternoon, my parents would take me and my sisters to Trimper's to play carnival games and ride Himalaya and the (now defunct) Toboggan.

And we would never, ever leave without a stop at Candy Kitchen.  I'd usually pick out some sort of novelty item (an absurdly long lollipop shaped like a unicorn horn) but my mom would always buy a box of fudge.  It's one of my fondest summer food memories.

In memory of a great comedic actor and of vacations past, today we're going to make some candy.

Salted Cinnamon-Chocolate Fudge
Recipe by Giada De Laurentiis

Here's what you'll need:

butter, for greasing the pan
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound 60% bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or chips)
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
kosher or sea salt

Butter an 8 inch x 8 inch square baking pan.  Make sure to get the sides, too.  Line it with parchment paper and leave some to hang over the edges.

In a medium glass or stainless steel bowl, mix together the condensed milk, cinnamon and vanilla.

Stir in the chocolate and butter.

1 bag of Ghirardelli chocolate chips and 1 bar of Ghirardelli chocolate = roughly a pound.  

 No measuring, no weighing, you're welcome.

Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

By the time all of the chocolate has melted, the mixture will be thick, similar to brownie batter.  Scrape it into the baking pan and smooth out the surface with a spatula.  Sprinkle with salt and disregard my jacked cuticles. 

Pop it in the fridge for a few hours (or overnight) until firm.

When you're ready to cut into this deliciousness, run a warm knife around the edges.  Using the edges of the parchment paper, pull up the fudge and move it over to a cutting board.  Cut into squares and share with your family, friends, coworkers or no one at all.

If you're iffy about the salt, don't be.  Just trust me on this.  No, trust Giada on this.

The salt and cinnamon do wonderful things to this fudge.

Last but not least, thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway but most of all, thank you for all of your supportive (and hilarious!) comments.  It was really cool to see some of you come out of the woodwork, too.

The winners of the Cookie Craft giveaway are:

Random Integer Set Generator
  • Set 1: 4, 9
Timestamp: 2010-08-27 12:21:30 EST

Congrats EKS and Amy!  Email me at threebakingsheets@yahoo.com with your full name and address.  Peak cookie season is approaching, better get a move on!

Happy end of August, friends.  Nap in a hammock, lay in the grass, run through the first sprinkler you see.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sour cream pound cake.

I was doing my weekly roundup of the junk that had collected since the previous weekend: credit card offers, a "new patient special" coupon for a local dentist's office, two copies of the Uncommon Goods catalog (not junk, that place rules), etc etc blah.

Mail just doesn't have the same appeal as it used to.

But every month, in the midst of all those dark, dreary bills and statements, I'm gifted with a shiny new issue of Bon Appetit.

The only downside to subscribing to a food magazine is that the list of recipes you want to make doubles in length after skimming a single issue.  By the time you figure out which ones take precedence, the next issue arrives in your mailbox.

I've decided to make a conscious effort to test at least one new recipe from each issue, starting with this insanely good sour cream pound cake.  Buttery, dense and waaaay better than that Sara Lee chick's.  Nice girl but those double negative jingles had to go.

Sour Cream Pound Cake

Here's what you'll need:

3/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup sugar
10 Tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise*
1 large egg
1 large egg white
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream

*I didn't have a vanilla bean on hand so I used the new best and logical substitution:  2 teaspoons of amaretto.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.  Butter and flour a metal loaf pan (mine was 8 x 4 inches.)

In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients:  flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine sugar, butter and (if using) the seeds of the vanilla bean.

 Beat until light and fluffy.

 Add in the egg, egg white, vanilla and amaretto.

Beat for 2 minutes until the mixture has thickened.

Add the sour cream and give it another whirl.

Add in the flour mixture and beat just until it's combined.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan.  Spread it out evenly.

Bake until it passes the toothpick test.  The recipe instructions said to bake the cake for 56-58 minutes but mine took 45 minutes.  So keep an eye on that sucker.

Let it sit on a rack for 15 minutes then remove from the pan to cool completely.

You can whip up a glaze to drizzle over it but I prefer it plain and uncluttered like my mail sorting table.

Nobody doesn't like this pound cake.  Wait, I mean everybody does like this pound cake.  You know what I mean.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bad news. Good news.

I never understood why anyone would want to start with the good news.  Rip off that Band-Aid, man!

Well, I didn't make the Cake Boss cut.  Yep, got the email yesterday before I left work.  I guess it just wasn't the right time for me.  It could have been worse - the casting agent could have gone the Berger route and given me the news on a Post-It note.

Naturally, I was a bit bummed when I got home.  Instead of putting together a proper Sugared Cinema post for you kind folks, I threw myself a (very brief) pity party.  I'm so lame.  But it had to be done, the way they do in movies.

In a typical drama, the camera would pan a dated motel room of a scorned man, the glow from the TV illuminating an empty bottle of Tennessee whiskey and partially smoked cigarette butts snuffed out in a plastic ashtray.

In my movie?  Cakester wrappers.  EVERYWHERE.

Anyway, all of those optimistic cliches really do have some truth to them - this particular opportunity just wasn't meant to be.  Ahh well.  On to the next adventure!

As a huge thank you to everyone who cheered me on during the audition process, I'm giving away (2) copies of one my favorite books.  Because, as we all know, sharing sparks creativity (I think?)

This book is my go-to for all things cookie-related.  Recipes, step-by-step techniques, dough and icing storage...pretty much anything you can think of.

The tutorials are easy to follow and the designs are just too darn cute.

The dino-cookie.  My favorite.  Rawr.


I went there.

For a chance to add this fabulously cute book to your kitchen library, leave a comment below.  A funny rejection story, a riddle, a limerick, your plans for the weekend...whatever you like.  I'll select (2) winners at random next week.  Contest ends next Thursday, August 26 @ 11:59pm EST.

And if you're a dude, don't let words like "fabulously" and "cute" keep you from entering.  If you're not the cookie decorating type, I'm sure your girlfriend/wife/mom/sister/masseuse would be stoked to get a copy.

Have a great weekend, everyone.  Bake or sip something awesome.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Psst. Banana ice cream. No dairy. No machine. Pass it on.

Great Inventions in "Why didn't I think of that?" History:

Ped Egg
Insulated Travel mugs.
 Those purse hanger hook thingys.
Fingerless gloves.


I recently took to Invention #4 to give props to bananas.  They're just so easy to love.  "Damn, I was gonna eat that but now it's too ripe" turns into "Yay, I get to make delicious such-and-such with this ripened banana!"

Wendi at Bon Appetit Hon suggested I check out a recipe on Use Real Butter for dairyless, machine-less banana ice cream.  My life hasn't been the same since.  I wish I was exaggerating.

Here's what you'll need:

3-4 ripened bananas
Optional add-ins:  peanut butter, cocoa powder, chocolate chunks, honey

Cut up the bananas.

1/4"-1/2" slices.

Let them hang out in the freezer for an hour.

Pour the bananas into a food processor...

...and blend until smooth.

I snuck a bite here.  I couldn't believe what I was tasting.  It was light, creamy and banana-y, like soft serve.

At this point, you can add in any additional flavors you want.  I really didn't want to mess with perfection but I added a few spoonfuls of peanut butter.  Mike eats the stuff by the jar and I wanted him to have a little sweet treat waiting for him when he got home from work.

I can be a good wife.  Occasionally.

If you have enough restraint to save some for later, pour the "ice cream" into a container and pop it back in the freezer until you're ready to demolish it.

This is a great way to sneak more fruit into your kids' (or spouse's) diets, if you're lactose-intolerant or if you simply have a few ripe bananas on hand and don't feel like going the bread/muffin route.

Try it out and let me know what you think.

Aww.  That's cute.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sugared Cinema: Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002)

Would you like a shmoke und a pancake? 

A what? 

A shmoke und a pancake.  You know, a flapjack und a shigarette?  No?  Shigar und a waffle?  No?  Pipe und a crepe?  No?  Bong und a blintz?  No?  Well, then there ish no pleashing you.

Goldmember is one of the few three-quels (if you can even call it that) that, in my opinion, was just as good as the first two.  I'm sure a fourth installment would've been mildly successful at the box office but the producer or movie investor guy or whoever made that call was smart to quit while ahead.  Too bad the folks over at The Fast and the Furious didn't get the memo...

Anyway, it was FFYN (Fend For Yourself Night) at the Berry household.  I look forward to these nights.  I cherish these nights.  99% of the time, FFYN results in me drinking beer and eating cereal for dinner and I don't feel like a jerk for subjecting Mike to such a reckless meal choice.

I decided to step up my dinner gameplan and make something that involved more than a bowl, a spoon and shredded wheat. 

Recipe by Dave Lieberman

Here's what you'll need:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon melted butter, plus more for pan
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt.  Slowly whisk in the milk.

Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each one.

Add the sugar, melted butter and vanilla.  Give it one more good whisking.

Cover the bowl and let it chill in the fridge for an hour while you do dishes, feed the 4-legged children, play Sudoku, dislodge bits of fuzz from the vacuum filter with a toothpick, etc.

Heat an 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add a little bit of butter to coat the surface.

Ladle 1/3 cup of batter into the pan and rotate it so that it coats the pan.  The layer will be very thin, almost transparent...that's what we want!

Unfortunately, my pan pictures turned out hideous.  Really, they are BAD.


The horror cannot be unseen.

Anyway, let it sit and cook for 1 minute, until the edges start to look a little dry.  Flip the crepe and let it cook for another minute or so.  Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining batter.

When your crepes are done, doll 'em up!  Jam, agave syrup, powdered sugar, Nutella...whatever your sweet tooth desires.

I went with bananas, peanut butter, a drizzle of honey, powdered sugar and cinnamon.  

I wasn't playing around.

I love (what I call) the "Ice Cream Sundae" versatility of crepes.  They're so ridiculously easy to prepare and, the best part, you can customize them however you want with different fillings, toppings and general awesomeness.

Get in my belly.

The weekend's here, people.  Make it a happy one.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Beer Style Breakdown 101: American Pale Ale

 Oh beautiful
for hoppy beers
for amber malts and grains...

Ahh yes.  The good, 'ol American pale ale.

When Mike and I first started dating in 2004, we used to drink at this one local brewpub.  I didn't know the first thing about beer back then, therefore my selection relied solely on the descriptions given for each one.  "Pale Ale" sounded safe.  My assumption was, "Well, it's pale which equates to light in flavor which means it probably tastes like all of those other 'macro' beers I've had."  Familiar = comforting.

So I ordered the Pale Ale.  I took a sip...and was so confused.

It was bitter.  It was a rich, amber color and not the usual watery yellow.  But the most surprising thing of all?  It had flavor.  Actual flavor.  Flavors I couldn't pinpoint then but that were undoubtedly there.

As I continued to learn more about different styles, I knew one thing was for sure:  if I wanted something with bite, something hoppy, I just needed to look for the words "Pale Ale" printed on the label.  

For today's demonstration, we'll be pouring my favorite pale ale, Lagunitas New Dogtown.

Style:  American Pale Ale
Country of Origin:  US, based on traditional British pale ales

Pale ales are gold to rich amber in color, have great clarity and a noticeable bitterness to them.  While British pale ales tend to be more malty (think caramel) and velvety, the American versions are usually more crisp and possess either citrusy or piney notes - both being common traits of American hops.

You'll hear "citrus" and "pine" used a lot in reference to pale ale varieties.  Really try to keep that in mind next time you drink a hoppy ale.  It'll create a much stronger connection between the beer and your tastebuds.  Obvious, I know, but often overlooked.

A pale ale is the perfect starter if you want to experiment with hoppier beers (Sierra Nevada's is one of the most common and is available at your local grocery store.)  You may have seen India Pale Ales (IPAs) or Double/Imperial IPAs on the shelves of your local wine/beer store.  These are beefed-up versions of a standard pale ale:  more hops, more malt and almost always a higher percentage of alcohol.  We'll chat about the styles another week - both are worthy of their own post.  I know Mike (as well as some of our hardcore beer friends) would agree.

So go forth, hop heads and hop novices alike!  Find one that harmonizes with your palate and, most importantly, don't be afraid to let it punch you in the mouth.

Happy sipping.