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Tipple Tuesdays – Winter Brews and Chocolate Hazelnut Truffle Cake

Happy New Year everybody! It’s that time of year again…time to start anew. Time to put away the last of last year’s clutter and start with a clean slate. Around here, the first day of the year is reserved solely for recovery. Both for the house and for ourselves. Although this year, with the crazy stomach flu we’ve had, we didn’t get up to too much craziness on NYE.

The beginning of the year also marks a turn of the seasons, yes we are just (technically) heading into  winter, but we are also seeing every day get longer. Before we know it, spring will be here again! But before I get carried away, let’e talk Winter Brews. As the seasons change, these popular brews will soon be unavailable again for another long year. Okay, so maybe it’s not the last chance but the stocks of the great winter brews will be dwindling quickly. So why not indulge in yet another big boisterous brew during the waning holiday season?

Just a little glimpse of our Christmas fun…

First, we should go over a bit of an educational moment here. Winter brews, called “Winter warmers” by some, are generally very malty in flavour, dark in colour and higher in alcohol content. These are not hard and fast rules of course, but as are many things in life, it is up for interpretation. Regional styles vary by huge amounts. For example, here in North America we enjoy adding spices and sometimes vanilla to our winter brews.

A simple Google search will bring up dozens of “Winter” brews. Locally we have the luxury of having over a dozen local breweries and brewpubs in a 100 km radius to provide us with over a dozen different local varieties. My favourites?

In no particular order:

I am in no way giving justice to the local brew scene with this small list. However, the local scene is just a small part of Guilty Kitchen’s readership.

So without further adieu, my winter brew list from North America:

Okay, so I haven’t tried a lot of out of town winter brews. Here is where I look to you dear reader to help us out! Name a winter brew you like! I will see if we can find some locally. I am willing to try anything once…

The one thing I haven’t mentioned yet, for fear of sounding snobby, is the fact that there are a large number of winter brews that are just plain bad. This can be pretty annoying once you bring a bottle home with a higher than normal price tag and have the privilege of choking it down for the rest of the evening doing that *mnnnnayy mnnnaaayy* face after every sip. We will prevail my fellow beer snobs! The cream will rise to the top and we won’t have to see this abomination again next year… I hope.

So get down to your local pub, tavern, liquor store or Safeway and buy that Winter brew you have been eyeing for weeks before it’s gone! I mean hell, you have to try vast amounts before you will find the ones you love, right?

What to pair with winter beers:

As for pairing your spicy and warming brew with something to nosh on? We like chocolate best. Not just any kind though. These rich and hearty brews are usually boldly flavoured and deserve an equally bold partner in the “nom” department. Pair winter beers with deep and intense dark chocolate desserts. We paired ours with a flourless chocolate hazelnut cake from Donna Hay. I’m not one to ever post other people’s recipes on my site. I pride myself in my “all original recipes” motto, but Donna Hays did everything right with this recipe. I made one little addition that I thought made the flavour even more intense (for us severe dark chocolate lovers) and I paired mine with a chantilly cream. You really can’t go wrong. Here I will give you the adapted recipe.

One year ago: Roasted Sunchokes

Two years ago:  White Fish en Papillote

Chocolate Hazelnut Truffle Cake

Recipe adapted from Donna Hay

Yield: 16 servings
Prep Time: 12 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes
350g dark chocolate (I used Rogers and TCHO), chopped
185g unsalted butted, chopped
1 tsp espresso powder or instant coffee
6 eggs
220g brown sugar
1/4 cup hazelnut liquor
100g finely ground hazelnuts (Grind them in a food processor in pulses)
kosher salt for sprinkling
dark cocoa and icing sugar for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 340°F. Grease a 9″ springform pan, line the bottom of it with parchment paper and then grease that as well.
2. Place the butter, chocolate and coffee into a saucepan over low heat, stirring until just melted (about 6-7 minutes).
3. While the chocolate and butter is melting, mix up the rest of the ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, liquor and hazelnuts together until smooth.
4. Pour the melted chocolate into the egg mixture and whisk until combined. (Use a spatula and completely clean out the saucepan. No wasting chocolate!)
5. Pour the mixture (scraping with a spatula) into the greased tin. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes.
6. Remove the cake from the oven, peel off the aluminum foil and cool the cake on a cooling rack in the tin for 30 minutes. Transfer to refrigerator to cool completely. Serve cold with chantilly cream (recipe follows), or just dust with a little kosher salt, cocoa and icing sugar.  Will keep in refrigerator for up to two weeks or wrapped tightly, in the freezer for up to three months.

Chantilly Cream

Yield: 2 cups whipped cream
Prep Time: 5 minutes

1 cup whipping cream
1 vanilla bean pod or 1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp sugar

1. Pour very well chilled cream into a cold bowl. Or if you have a stand mixer, into that bowl. Using hand beaters, a whisk or the whisk attachment turned to 8 (but start gradually from 2), begin beating your cream.
2. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod into the cream and add the sugar as well.
3. Continue to whisk until stiff peaks are formed. Scoop onto cake and serve.

Similarly delicious recipes from other fabulous food blogs:

Dark Chocolate Truffles from My Man’s Belly
Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting from Sweet Pea’s Kitchen
Dark Chocolate and Bacon Cupcakes from No Fear Entertaining
Winter Delight Dark Chocolate and Peppermint Cake from Camille Styles
Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Butter from The Healthy Foodie

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