foodie 1

Friday, February 24, 2012

Homebrewing: Honey Weizen

Today’s brew is a honey weizen, or wheat beer, and was made as a Christmas gift for Amy’s parents to keep on hand at their lake house. Essentially this is a hefeweizen made with American wheat yeast. It should ferment dry and clean and not produce the banana and clove flavors typically associated with a wheat beer. The kit comes from Northern Brewer. For this first description of brewing I'll provide detailed instructions, but in the future I'll provide links to the kit instructions for reference.

6 lbs. Liquid wheat extract
1 oz. Tettnang hops
1 lb honey
The ingredients-L to R: Wheat LME, Honey, Hops

Tettnang Hop Pellets

Wyeast 1010 American Wheat 

Liquid extract is sticky and viscous, so I usually heat the containers in a pot of hot water for a while before brewing to make it easier to deal with. Be careful with boil-overs if you are using a smaller sized kettle. My kettle is barely half full with the 2.5 gallons of water, so boil-overs haven’t been an issue but my old 20-quart pot gave me ample opportunities to clean up spilled beer. Trust me in that it's not a fun exercise in scrubbing.

1.     If using liquid yeast (Wyeast), break the inner nutrient bag and incubate the package at room temperature for 3 hours or more, until the bag is swelling. Other yeast makers (White Labs) provide vials that merely need to be warmed to room temperature and mixed prior to use. If you are using dry yeast, it can simply be sprinkled on top of the final wort in your fermentation bucket.
2.     Heat 2.5 gallons of water. If steeping grains came with your kit, add them to the cheesecloth bag and submerge until the water reaches 170 F (Nothing additional came with this particular kit).
3.     When the water is near boiling, add the 6 lbs Wheat extract.
4.     Stir to mix completely.
5.     Return to a boil. If using a gas stove or burner, some people like to use diffusers to prevent scorching the wort. I tried one on the electric stove and pretty much destroyed it in one brew.
6.     Start a timer for 60 minutes when the mixture comes to a boil. The liquid is now called Wort (unfermented beer).
Boiling wort (after addition of LME). Note that this is only 2.5 gallons total.
7.     Add 1 oz Tettnang hops. Stir vigorously, as this can help prevent boil-over. If using a smaller kettle, be sure to keep a very close eye on the boil as cleanup of wort that has boiled over is a gigantic pain.
8.     At the end of the 60-minute boil, add 1 lb honey and stir.
9.     Cool the wort as rapidly as possible to <80 F. This can be done by placing the kettle in a bath of ice water, or by using an immersion chiller. If brewing in the winter, you can also put your kettle in a big snow pile. Chillers are somewhat expensive, but they get the job done quickly (about 10-15 minutes depending on how cold the water is) and easily.
10. Clean and sanitize the fermentation equipment (bucket, hydrometer, airlock, lid) while cooling the wort. This step can be also be done while you are boiling the wort.
11. Pour the cooled wort into the bucket.
12. Fill the bucket with cool water up to the 5-gallon mark.
13. Stir vigorously for 5 minutes, or place the lid on and shake vigorously for 5 minutes. The wort is oxygen deprived from boiling, and you need to reintroduce oxygen for the yeast to ferment properly. I started using an aquarium pump hooked up to a diffusion stone to aerate for 30 minutes after cooling.
14. Pour the yeast into the bucket and mix thoroughly. Be sure the wort is below 76 F or you risk either killing off lots of your yeast, or producing undesirable flavors in the final beer.
15. Measure the Original Gravity and Alcohol Potential of the wort using the hydrometer. Refer to the instructions with your kit to learn how to use the hydrometer. Write down the O.G., Alc. Pot., and brew date.
16. Place the lid and airlock on the bucket. Fill the airlock to the indicated line with tap water or neutral spirit like vodka.
17. Keep the fermenter in a cool, dark place for 1-2 weeks (60-75 F). I place it in a bathtub to help in case of blowouts. Fermentation should start within 24 hours (indicated by bubbling through the airlock).
18. After bubbling subsides, measure the gravity and alcohol potential of the beer. This can take 1 week up to a month for a very strong beer. Typically yeasts will ferment 70-80% of the available sugars, so your final gravity reading should be 20-30% of your original reading. For example, if your initial reading was 1.040, then your final should be in the range of 1.008-1.012. Record the Final Gravity (F.G.) and Alcohol Potential. To determine your final ABV, subtract the final Alcohol Potential from the original Alcohol Potential. For example, if you first reading on brew day was 7% and your final reading is 2%, you have a 5% ABV beer.
19. At this point, the beer can be bottled if desired. The preferred method after primary fermentation is to transfer the beer to a carboy to rest for 2 weeks to several months of secondary fermentation where the beer settles and clarifies. When transferring to a carboy, try to leave as much of the sediment at the bottom of the primary fermentation vessel as possible.
20. After secondary fermentation (2 weeks in this case), clean and sterilize 2 cases of pry-off bottles. I use a weak bleach solution and let them sit for 30 minutes in the bleach, but there are a number of no-rinse sanitizers available for bottle cleaning. Just be sure your bottles are clean.
21. Dissolve 2/3 C of corn sugar in 16 oz clean water. Boil this solution for 15 minutes.
22. Boil ~60 bottle caps in tap water for 15 minutes. This is more than you will need.
23. Sanitize a bottling bucket, two pieces of tubing, a siphon, and the bottling wand.
24. Transfer the beer from the secondary fermenter to the bottling bucket. Refer to your kit on how to use the siphon to transfer the beer. Be sure the spigot in the bottling bucket is closed. Try to leave as much of the sediment on the bottom of the carboy as possible. Mix in the cooled sugar solution. This will provide enough food for the yeast to reactivate and carbonate the beer in the bottle.
25. Attach the bottling wand to the other piece of tubing, and then connect the free end to the spigot on the bottling bucket. It's important to keep the wand and tubing as clean as possible prior to bottling so you don't spoil the delicious beer you have made.
26. Open the spigot and fill each bottle, leaving an ~1 inch air pocket at the top of each bottle. Again, refer to the instructions with your kit as to how to use the bottling wand.
27. Cap the bottles using the sterilized bottle caps.
28. Leave the bottles in a cool, dark place for 1-2 weeks. During this period the yeast will reactivate and carbonate the beer. Sometimes carbonation will take longer depending on how long the beer has sat in secondary fermentation. If the beer has sat in secondary for more than 4-5 months, you probably need to add fresh yeast to get the carbonation going.
29. Occasionally bottles can and do explode. If this happens, it’s best to let the explosions just go on for 1-2 weeks, then go in to clean up the mess. The alternative is potentially having a bottle explode in your hand.
30.  Enjoy the beer! A thin layer of sediment will form at the bottom of your bottle. Leave this behind (unless you have a weizen, Belgian beer, etc where you do want yeast in the final beer).

While fermenting, this beer did give off a noticeable sulfurous aroma. I thought there was an infection with some other bacteria/yeast, but after reading literature online, it seems that this aroma is very characteristic of the yeast included with the kit. The sulfur settles down after a long primary fermentation, and disappeared after secondary fermentation and bottle conditioning. Some fermentation also seemed to start up when I moved the beer into a secondary fermentor and died down shortly thereafter.

I gave all of this beer to my in-laws as a Christmas gift, since they typically go for styles like this while I go for much stronger and bigger beers for my own consumption. As a result, I don't have a picture of the final beer, but from what they poured, it was pale, golden and straw-like in color. The beer was fairly light on the palate, but definitely an improvement over their normal Bud Light or Coors Light. A bit of honey came through, but the beer was pretty dry in the end. Overall, I would say it would be a good lawnmower/summer beer. Again, it's not my particular style, but I can see how it would appeal to a diverse crowd and feedback from their friends was pretty good. Next time I'll try to include more pictures of the steps in the brewing process, or perhaps we'll post about a brewery trip.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cheesy Couscous with Roasted Brussel Sprouts

I found this recipe while cutting out recipes from my ever-growing collection of magazines. I know I've discussed my obsession with Cook's Illustrated magazines before, but I also subscribe to 6 other food magazines! Every month when the new ones roll in, I take the last month's edition and go through it tearing out pages/recipes that I want to save. I cut the recipes out and then file them by type of recipe to await their time to be made. This recipe didn't even make it into the file, it jumped right from 'cut-out' pile to this week's menu.

This recipe is from EveryDay with Rachael Ray, which is the first food magazine I ever subscribed to.  I've been a subscriber since it started, over 6 years ago.  I used to love her 30 Minute Meals on Food Network, and have three or four of her cookbooks, so getting her magazine when it started was a natural extension   I've enjoyed it over the years, and made many, many recipes from it with great results.  My favorite burger recipe is hers, as is our favorite mac and cheese and it's the first place I turn when looking for quick and easy weeknight dinners.  But, after awhile I found the recipes to be getting repetitive and not fresh or new.  I toyed with the idea of stopping the subscription, and have considered just letting it run out the past few years; but, I always end up finding some great deal online to get it at 5 dollars a year, which I just can't pass up.  

I do like the magazine, since it has her signature 30 minute recipes, plus lots of longer ones as well.  Also, while I loved her show at the beginning, as it went on I found her more and more annoying with abbreviations (EVOO!) and non-adult talk (Yum-O!).  At the same time, she was getting more and more popular, and I tend to lose interest in things as soon as everyone else gets turned on to them, perhaps it's my inner hipster.  So, the benefit of the magazine is that you get her recipes without the annoying phrases and voice!  Yay!

This recipe jumped out at me mostly because of the use of Israeli or pearl couscous.  We recently found a giant bag at Costco and, of course, purchased on the spot.  We love couscous, both the traditional smaller size and the larger Israeli version.  This recipe was perfect for a weeknight -- quick and easy -- and really, really good.  It will definitely be finding a frequent spot on our weekly menus, served up as a main dish like this, and a simplified version as a side dish as well.  I made some changed -- used roasted brussel sprouts, since we had those on hand, instead of broccoli.  I switched in olive oil instead of the butter, since I thought it would hold up better to the high heat of roasting the veggies.  I also decreased the bacon (yes!  I actually decreased the amount of bacon in a recipe!), cheese and overall amount of butter/oil to help with the overall calorie content.  I think it is immensely customizable to your tastes, which is how I feel about most of Rachael's recipes, and one of the reasons I keep taking advantage of the great deals to continue to be a subscriber!

Cheesy Couscous with Roasted Brussel Sprouts
adapted from EveryDay with Rachael Ray, January 2012
4 servings, 30 minutes

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound brussel sprouts

Salt and pepper
6 strips bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/3 cups Israeli (or pearl) couscous
1 cup frozen corn
4 scallions, chopped
2 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups (about 4 oz.) grated gouda

1 tablespoon butter

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Trim brussel sprouts and  halve or quarter, depending on size.  Place sprouts on a sheet pan, and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Spread on a single layer and place in the oven to roast.  Stir after 10-15 minutes.  
  • Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until crisp, about 10 minutes; transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Keep using the skillet, discarding all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat.
  • In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the couscous until just al dente, 5 to 6 minutes; drain.
  • Add the corn and scallions to the reserved skillet and cook over medium-high heat until warmed through, about 2 minutes.  Add the couscous and chicken stock and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, about 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Stir in the butter, cheese and reserved bacon. Serve with the roasted sprouts.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Homemade Corn Tortillas: Secret Recipe Club

Secret Recipe Club is back!  They/we took a break for the month of January but now we're back at it again for February.  This month I got the blog Adventures in All Things Food, which I found ironic at the time since my blog was name Adventures in Marriage and I was in the middle of the creative part of the name change process, which led to the 'new' What's Brewing in the Kitchen.  Anyway, I was excited to get this blog since Andrea seemed to have a good deal of DIY-style recipes posted and I'm always interested in learning how to make some basic items on my own.  

I chose the DIY Corn Tortillas and they turned out fabulous!  The texture (crisp, but still tender) and flavor (toasty and corny) were far, far better than store-bought.  I will definitely be returning to this recipe in the future!  We made our tortillas on the smaller side; we used 1 ounce balls of dough which gave us about a 4 inch diameter tortilla.  Small, but workable.  I didn't complain since it meant I ate 5-6 tacos instead of 2-3 of the larger size!  

If you are interested in making tortillas on your own, I highly recommend this recipe.  The only additional equipment you need is a tortilla press.  We found ours for about 20 dollars at a local international grocery store.  We didn't mind making the investment since we know we will use it in the future.

Corn Tortillas
makes approximately 20 4-inch tortillas

2 cups masa (corn masa flour, or maiz meal)
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt 

  • Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Dough will be thick, and on the dry side, definitely not sticky.  
  • Using a kitchen scale, measure 1 ounce portions of dough and form into balls.  They will be approximately one inch in diameter.  

  • Keep the balls on a sheet pan under a wet towel.  They will get dry if left uncovered.  
  • Cover your tortilla press with plastic wrap and put a ball of dough inside.  Place it closer to the hinged side, not in the center as it will not spread evenly when smooshed.  

  • Place the newly formed tortilla in a skillet brushed with shortening or vegetable oil.  Cook on medium heat for 1-2 minutes per side, until the nice blister marks appear.  
  • As the tortillas finish cooking, make a pile on a plate and cover them with a towel to keep warm.  

Visit the Secret Recipe Club to check out everyone else's reveals!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Vanilla Bean Filling: BAKED Sunday Mornings

Along with the new (and fun!) changes to the blog I'm also trying to get back into a few of the groups I've participated in in the past.  BAKED Sunday Mornings is a group that is working on baking it's way through the incredible cookbook, Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.  They are owners of the BAKED Bakery in Brooklyn, and this is their second cookbook dedicated to exploring some of the classic American baked goods.

Whoopie pies certainly fall into this category.  They have two competing origin tales, one from Maine and one from Pennsylvania Dutch country.  Matt and Renato offer up two possible filings for these pies, a basic vanilla and a peanut butter.  I had just made a chocolate peanut butter dessert last weekend so decided on the vanilla.  I made one tiny switch to the recipe though, using the scrapings of one vanilla bean in place of the vanilla extract in the filling.  It lent the nice, black, telltale flecks to the filling and a great vanilla flavor.  I might up it to two vanilla beans next time though and suggest you do the same if you are interested in making the change to the filling.  

I love how easy these are to put together.  Make cookies, make frosting, smoosh together, done.  Way easier than a cupcake, that's for sure, and almost nearly as impressive.  The chocolate cookies had great flavor, the addition of the coffee really highlights the chocolate.  It was the first time I've made a Swiss meringue buttercream.  It was easy and delicious.  But, with a pound of butter it's got to be delicious - right?  At least I can't imagine any recipe that calls for a pound of butter tasting bad.

Head on over to BAKED Sunday Mornings for the recipe and to see what the other bakers thought of the recipe!

Friday, February 10, 2012

So you want to make your own beer?

Zach here. I'm going to start contributing to the blog, mostly from the brewing side. This will include tips on brewing, descriptions of homebrews that I have made, and also recaps of trips Amy and I have taken to breweries around the U.S. We might review special/unique beers we have in our cellar from time to time as well.
Today I'll be giving a short primer on how to homebrew. Making beer at home is a pretty easy exercise, and is akin to baking in that for the most part you follow a recipe. However, like cooking there is a good amount of improvisation that can go into your final brew. For instance, you can add fruit, spices, oak, other alcohols (whiskey, tequila, brandy, wine), etc to your heart’s content. The major impediment to making beer at home is having the right equipment to get the job done. Once you have a setup, you can make beer for as little as 25 cents a bottle.
Basic beer kits are available at local homebrew supply stores or through a number of Internet retailers, and generally range from $35-60. I like using Northern Brewer  for the majority of my kits and certain supplies, but for quick supplies and other items I typically visit my local homebrew store (The Flying Barrel). A basic equipment kit for brewing ranges from $80-150 (or less if you can snag someone's used equipment on craigslist) and includes:

A 7.5 gallon bucket with lid and hole for an airlock
A large kettle (5-10 gallons, with larger being preferable)
A hydrometer (instrument for measuring sugar content and eventual alcohol content)
Good water (I buy 2.5 gallon jugs of spring water)
Thermometers (stick-on and standard alcohol-based)
A cool, dry, dark room
A 6 gallon glass or plastic carboy (plastic is much easier to move around)
Tubing for transferring beer
A siphon
A bottling wand
A bottling bucket with spigot
Basic brewing setup (L to R): Bottling bucket, grommeted lid, tubing, autosiphon, hydrometer, brush, bottling wand, brewing bucket. Not shown are a large kettle and a wort chiller, which don't come with kits.
Cleaning chemicals
2 cases of clean, empty bottles
A bottle capper (not shown above)
Labels (if desired)- here's what Amy made for me

The majority of these items come in a basic brewing kit. Bottles can be purchased, or alternatively it’s more fun to do some “market research” and sample a variety of craft brews. Coors/Miller/Bud twist-off bottles do not work for homebrew, as you cannot recap the bottles. Larger format bottles (22 oz or 750 ml) work well for gift giving.
Prior to brewing, the first and most important consideration is sanitation. Remember that basically your entire house, body, etc is teeming with bacteria. Yeast do a great job of turning sugar into alcohol, but all of those bacteria would love nothing more than to set up shop in the nice warm, sugary wort (unfermented beer) you have just made and ruin your beer before the yeasts do their job. A number of commercial sanitizers are available, and these are nice in that they do a good job without the need for rinsing. Bleach works too, but it can be tricky to wash enough to remove any bleach residue/flavor. Just be sure to keep things as clean as possible in your brewing.
The key to making beer is sugar, in this case sugar extracted from malted grain (usually barley, but it can be wheat, rye, corn, etc). The easiest and quickest way to make beer is extract brewing. In extract brewing you buy a liquid extract from companies that have already extracted and concentrated the sugars from malted grain. Advanced brewers will extract their own sugars from whole grain, but this requires more material (both raw materials and equipment), time and effort. Extract comes in either spray dried (dried malt extract or DME, a powdery, sticky formulation) or liquid (liquid malt extract or LME that is thick, viscous and similar to molasses) forms, and range from light malts up to very dark roasted malt. Kits will typically also include some flavoring and coloring grains that one steeps in hot water prior to the addition of the extracts.
Belgian Dubbel Kit Ingredients (Clockwise from top left): DME, steeping grains, LME (two jugs), steeping bag, hop pellets (two packages), Belgian candi sugar
The other essential ingredient in beer making is the hops. Hops are the flowers of a plant that helps to preserve and flavor the beer. Beers range from very lightly hopped (like a hefeweizen or kolsch) to substantially hopped (like an IPA or Imperial Stout). Hops come in either whole-leaf form or more typically as compressed pellets that resemble rabbit food. Hops are added both for bittering (early in the boil) and as flavoring agents (later in the boil). Depending on the beer the total amount of hops added to a beer can range from 1 ounce up to 5 or more ounces for a 5-gallon brew. Hop flavors typically will recede after longer aging periods as the individual flavoring chemicals are broken down. Hops are also what gives rise to skunky beer when the hop-related oils are exposed to light and/or temperature fluctuations, giving rise to sulfur-containing compounds that make the beer skunky.
Of course, with hops, additives and sugar you still don't have beer. Here's where yeast (Saccharomyces cereviseae) comes into the picture. Yeasts convert the sugar into ethanol and also produce various chemical byproducts as a result of their normal metabolism. Some of these byproducts are very desirable while others are considered flaws. Yeasts have a huge impact on final flavor, such as a Bavarian hefeweizen where the clove and banana flavors are due solely to the yeasts. Belgian beers are great examples of yeasts providing a huge contribution to the final flavor of the beer, for instance in a Saison. Typical kits will suggest or provide the appropriate yeasts, but it can be fun to play around with non-traditional yeasts during brewing. Just remember that you can't take your baker's yeast and throw it into a batch of beer. While baking and brewing yeasts are similar, you cannot use one in place of the other.
Once you get the hang of extract brewing, you can proceed on to all-grain brewing with the addition of extra equipment. Even with extract, it’s possible to create a wide variety of beer styles and modifications using your imagination. I have taken porter kits and added fresh vanilla beans, modified a Russian Imperial Stout with the addition of 4 lbs of frozen cherries, and added smoked malt to a Oktoberfest beer. With experimentation and patience, anything is possible. It's very satisfying to hear the fizz of the beer when it's ready and to enjoy the malty goodness of what you have created in as little as 6 weeks.
In the future, I'll start to describe the beers I have in my stocks, with the brewing instructions and discussions of how they turned out. Hope you enjoy! 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Shrimp and Grits

I'm weird.  It took me a ridiculous amount of time to give seafood (other than canned tuna fish and fish sticks) a 'real' chance.  I think it was our Table 21 adventure at VOLT that really changed my mind.  At his restaurant Bryan Voltaggio serves up 21 courses of amazing food, each one about 3-4 bites.  I went into our dinner there in August of 2008 determined to try everything, and finish everything, even if I didn't love it.  It's only 3 bites, how bad can it be?  I had skate, sea bass, blue crab, foie gras, raw tuna and even lamb that night.  And, while I am still not a fan of lamb, I have changed my mind about seafood.  I now love scallops, most white fishes, tuna tartare and shrimp.  

This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy shrimp lately -- I mean, what dish isn't improved by adding bacon and cheese to the sauce??  The flavors combine to make a great dish with just enough heat.  It's comforting and cheesey and bacony and delicious.  It's easy to make on a weeknight and is quite satisfying.  If you aren't completely sold on shrimp, or seafood, I do encourage you to give this dish a try -- maybe it will help change your mind.

Shrimp and Grits
slightly adapted from
Serves 4

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined large shrimp
2 bacon slices, chopped
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
2/3 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped green onions, divided
5 cups water
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking grits
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

  • Combine lemon juice, hot sauce and shrimp; set aside.
  • Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. 
  • Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic to drippings in pan; cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. 
  • Stir in shrimp mixture, broth, and 1/4 cup green onions; cook 5 minutes or until shrimp are done, stirring frequently.
  • Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan; gradually add grits, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; simmer, covered, for 5 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir in butter and salt. Serve shrimp mixture over grits; sprinkle with cheese and remaining green onions.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Time for a change!

If you are reading this on our blog (and not through a reader) you will notice a new name up at the top of the screen.  We've decided to change up the name of our blog -- What's Brewing in the Kitchen!  We wanted to highlight a hobby Zach has picked up in the past few years, homebrewing.  I got him a basic homebrewing kit for his birthday two years ago and since then he has made over twelve batches of delicious, delicious beer.  He's been having fun experimenting with great flavor combinations, taking a basic extract kit and adding different spices, fruits, even other alcohols (bourbon stout anyone?) to put his own twist on them.  What's an extract kit? you ask, well, Zach will be joining in the posting fun to describe the brewing process and give some insight into his beer creations.  Look for his posts about twice a month, some beer-focused Fridays to get you ready for your weekends.  I'm excited to bring another topic to our blog and to have a posting partner!