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Ginger Beer

Hubs is partial to ginger beer be it a glass of tastebud tingling Luscombe Hot Ginger Beer of a pint of Crabbies.When he saw the River Cottage Every Day episode where they made ginger beer he knew he had to make it. Now given some of our past adventures in brewing haven’t exactly been successful, um Nettle Beer that had an acquired taste and looked like dishwater, I tried not to get too excited about this latest foray.

When studying A’level biology as part of the Food Science module along with making sauerkraut we also made ginger beer. Looking back it was quite odd that us 17 year olds were encouraged to make alcohol all in the name of science. Back then my ginger beer went very well, possibly too well as it exploded all over the garage. The tale of when I covered the garage in ginger beer is often recalled around the family dinner table. This time the bottle was sitting behind my desk and I wasn’t going to let this bottle explode. 2 days into brewing the bottle began to make the tell-tale squealing sound that a plastic bottle makes when it is about to shoot its gingery contents across the room. That day I had to release the gas from the bottle no less that 3 times to keep the pressure at a safe limit.

After chilling the beer to stop the yeast and filtering it I have to say it’s made a decent drinkable beer. We have attempted to measure the alcohol content of the beer using a hydrometer. Made an error with the first measurements making us think we had made a 4% beer, but in reality it’s around the 3% mark.  It’s certainly worth giving this recipe a try, just remember to keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t explode. If you made it today it would be ready for Christmas.

Ginger Beer
from River Cottage Every Day

¼ tsp brewer’s yeast (you can get it in Wilkinsons)

225g caster sugar

1½-2 tbsp finely grated fresh root ginger

Juice of 1 lemon

1 good tbsp honey

screw-top, 2-litre plastic bottles, which you have cleaned thoroughly using sterilising tablets

1) Add the yeast to the bottle. With a funnel, pour in the sugar.

2) Mix the grated ginger with the lemon juice and honey.

3) Pour the ginger mixture through the funnel into the bottle. Now fill the bottle about ¾ full with water, put the cap on and shake the bottle until all the sugar is dissolved.

4) Top up the bottle with water, leaving a 2.5cm gap at the top, to allow for production of gas. Cap the bottle tightly, then place it somewhere warm. Leave it for about 48 hours. Once the bottle feels very hard and has no give in it, your beer should be ready.

5) Place the bottle in the fridge for several hours to stop the yeast working. Once the beer is thoroughly chilled, pass it through a fine sieve and serve.


Fruit Beer Bread

This bread has been in the pipeline for a while ever since discovering that beer makes a rather marvelous ingredient in bread. Not only does it give it taste, it also gives it a lovely soft texture. Now I feeling more confident with the whole science of bread I’m feeling better about experimenting with it and more or less most of time the experiementation works!

I was expecting the beer to give the bread a slight pinky hue, but this didn’t appear to happen, it did however brown quicker than conventional loaves due to the sugar content in the beer.For the fellow food geeks out there I think this is an example of the Maillard reaction that can also be seen in the caramalisation of the outer surface in pretzels.Ok, geekyness over.

Because of the sugar in the beer there is no need for additional sugar in the dough as the dough turns out sweet enough without it. You can certainly taste the fruit beer in the bread. It is lovely simply toasted with a small amount of butter, plus it would also make a fabulous twist on bread & butter pudding. Tomorrow for breakfast we are using the last few slices to make French Toast.

The recipe is based on White Tin Loaf recipe with a few tweeks. Oh an ignore the photo, I’m not happy with it. It’s a fine photo until I upload it then it goes all blurry?!? Like  quite a bit of my bread baking I have submitted it to Yeastspotting.

Fruit Beer Loaf
Makes 1 tin loaf

350g fruit beer (I like Sam Smith’s Raspberry Beer)
1 tsp fast action yeast (or 2 tsp fresh yeast crumbled)
500g strong white bread flour
1 tbsp sweet almond oil (or a flavourless oil)
handful of mixed dried fruit
generous pinch of salt

1) Mix all the ingredients together until well combined then knead for 10 until dough is soft and springy. Form into a tight round place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover bowl in clingfilm and leave to rise until nearly doubled in size.

2) Oil then lightly dust a 2lb loaf tin with flour. Knock back the dough then form the dough into a tight fat sausage shape and place in the tin. To help the bread to rise well try to tuck the ends of the dough under when you put it into the tin. This encourages the dough to go up rather than out. Leave to prove for around 30 min or until dough has begun to risen near the top of the tin.

3) Preaheat oven as hot as it will go. Place a baking tray of boiling water at the bottom of the oven (this helps a good crust to form on the bread). Slash the top of the dough then bake for 10 min. See how the crust is browning then turn down to 200C if the crust is pale/180C if crust is noticeably browning/170C if crust is browning quickly and cook for a 40-50 minutes. The bread is ready when the bottom sounds hollow when it is tapped. Cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Snowball Truffles

I’ve had this recipe hidden in my recipe file for years after I made them for Christmas pressies a few years back and the recipe resurfaced a few weeks back for a maths evening I did in school where maths was taught through different means including cookery. I had forgotten how easy these truffles are to make and they certainly went down very well with both pupils and parents alike. It’s such a simple recipe. Minimum 2 ingredients and can be easily altered depending on your tastes. For speed it can be done in the microwave making it perfect to make with children…of course minus the alcohol!

When it come to melting chocolate I’ve discovered that if using dark chocolate use either supermarket basics brand or a decent brand of chocolate (like Green & Blacks) as these melt the best; though with dark you will notice a significant difference in taste between cheap dark chocolate and the more expensive brands. With milk chocolate stick to cooking chocolate as Galaxy, Dairy Milk and the like have a tendency to seize when you don’t want them to and for white chocolate I really like G&B as it isn’t too sweet, but I have also used Milkybar with success.

I’ve been making these truffles quite a few times over the last week and given the snow we have at the moment I thought it was quite apt to have a go at making Snowball Truffles by playing around with variations including dark chocolate rum truffle dipped in white chocolate, rum & coconut truffle and white chocolate & raspberry liqueur truffles. My favourite being the white chocolate dipped ones. The sweet white chocolate really brings out the rum in the dark truffle. As it’s Christmas it also means one thing – edible glitter and lots of it. Just remember you can never have too much glitter…or maybe that’s the magpie in me.

Be warned these are very rich so don’t feel bad about being stingy when it comes to the size of the truffles.

Snowball Truffles
Makes 30 (approx)

200g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
4 tbsp condensed milk
flavourings e.g. 2 tsp orange extract or 2 tbsp rum
Cocoa/icing sugar/desiccated coconut for rolling truffles in

1) In a microwave proof bowl mix together chocolate, condensed milk and flavouring.

2) Heat the ingredients. At 10 second intervals stir the chocolate. When the chocolate has melted remove the bowl from the microwave.

3) Continue to stir until the ingredients turn into a fudge-like consistency. It does begin to look like the chocolate has seized but don’t worry, it is meant to do this. Allow it to cool for a few minute.

4) Take tsp of the mixture and roll into balls. Roll in coating then place on baking parchment to set and harden.  If wish to dip the truffles in chocolate allow the truffles to first cool then dip in melted chocolate and leave to set on parchment.

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