Category Archives: Process

Crack that Grist

Crack that Grist

Not all malt is created equal…

I’ve been starting to get a more custom feel for my Monster Mill (MM-2).

A factory default gap will do just fine, but here are some things to consider when setting your own gap.

First of all, I’m still waiting for a feeler gauge to measure the size of my crack. You heard me! It’s in the mail.

You obviously don’t want to turn the malt into a flour, or it will not lauter well. But if you don’t crack it fine enough, it will not convert well. You want the white starchy endosperm to be well exposed, but with still a large enough husk to act as a filter.

Even after I found a good gap size for my base barley malt (85% efficiency!) I realized that the gap should still be adjusted for different malts.

First, consider highly roasted barley malts. You don’t generally even need to mash them, you could just steep them. Because their innards don’t need as much exposure, and since they have bitter husks, and also because the kilning process has left them brittle, you should go easier on them in the mill – they are more likely to be pulverized into a powder.

But where it makes the real difference is with other types of malt. Rye and wheat both have smaller kernels than barley – and they’re all shaped rather differently. Wheat is somewhat squat and round, while rye is quite narrow.

If you run wheat and rye through the same setting for barley, you’re going to end up with malt that has not been cracked as well. Lower efficiency. Lower extraction and flavor.

So please, separate your malts and get a feeler gauge so you can go back and forth between optimal settings.

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Hop and Circumstance: Hop Ice Cream (Crème Glacée à l’Essence d’Houblon)

Even as homebrewers and adventurous cooks find many culinary applications for brewing elements such as malts, extract, finished beer, and even yeast, hops remain particularly troublesome considering their characteristic bitterness (my hop-crusted trout turned out not so great). After all, while malt is often used in chocolates and candies, and yeast is used in baking, hops are confined rather exclusively to the realm of beer. Perhaps there’s an unspoken inverse-Reinheitsgebot that prohibits hops from leaving the brewery. God forbid.

While in Desserts and Plating class, my instructor offered me a challenge. Being a homebrewer himself, he dared me to make a West Coast IPA/Pliny the Elder ice cream. This was not a challenge I would back down from. But where to start? I began by analyzing the components.

1)      The Ice Cream Base

2)      The Flavoring

3)      Garniture

I decided, for this trial at least, I would make a custom crème anglaise base and then simply dry-hop it for two days with Cascade and Centennial cones. I may have used too many, as the dry hops sucked up much of the base. I plan to try this again with fresh hops this harvest season.

French Ice Cream Base

What is crème anglaise? ‘English Cream’ is a dessert sauce made of sweetened heavy cream and milk, tempered with eggs. It is delicious as is, but when freeze-churned it becomes known as French style ice cream. American style ice cream is made without eggs for a lighter product. Varying amounts of fat (cream, milk, egg, etc) in either style of ice cream affects texture and flavor. There is a whole science to ice cream, what with all the proteins, fats, sugars, and temperature changes. Adjusting the ratio of ingredients, much like with dough, can change the overall product dramatically.

Let’s talk about sugar. There’s nothing wrong with using white, granulated sugar, but you can use demerara or turbinado, just as you might in brewing. Some may suggest using Dry Malt Extract (DME), but I have some reservations. First of all, DME is somewhat expensive. Secondly, it can be a pain to work with. In a non-humid environment, it is easily scaled (one reason it is good for brewing, in contrast to Liquid Malt Extract), but once it is introduced to moisture it becomes gummy and must be blended over heat. Good luck getting DME into those egg yolks (see procedure below). My last reservation is of overall effect: I once made an apple tartin made with 50/50 white sugar and DME. In a class full of a dozen other tartins, there was no noticeable difference in flavor. So if you want to try DME, use 100%, but I think you’ll get more effect from character malts. Of course there’s the gumminess issue with 100% DME – if you’re making American style, it’s more of a possibility. And while I did use all white, granulated sugar, I steeped hops in it for two weeks before hand to make a hop-scented sugar, the same way chefs make vanilla sugar. It might be for naught, considering any hop scent is probably cooked out.

Bitter ice cream? Considering the hops aren’t boiled, bitterness shouldn’t be an issue. The alpha acids require boiling to be isomerized into a liquid – homebrewers work with this concept in timed intervals when making beer, known as a hopping schedule. However, my trial-churn turned out rather bitter, but I think I know why. Like I said, my hops were dry and sucked up much of the base. When straining them out I had to press them with a spoon to get enough base for churning. I likely disturbed the lupulin glands, or something of that nature. I will try fresh cones (which of course are less potent), but they are only harvested at certain times in the year. Barring wet hops, I would recommend rehydrating dry cones in cream or milk so that it doesn’t take your entire base.

Someone set us up the bomb…

So, at this point you’ve got a rich, delicious ice cream with a bright grassy, herbal, citrusy flavor. Some added grapefruit zest could accent it well, which begs the question: should garniture be included? The time to do it is right when it comes out of the machine, unless you’re at a Cold Stone Creamery. I doubt I will ever see the day they make hop ice cream. But what kind of garniture goes with hop flavor? Consider the anatomy of beer: a terribly sweet liquid that is balanced out with bitter hops. So let’s consider it in reverse and use a terribly sweet garnish. It would be a lost opportunity to go with something as simple as chocolate or nuts – stick with the beer motif and consider a swirl of malt extract, much like a caramel or fudge swirl in commercial ice creams. I would recommend thinning out the extract with milk or cream, otherwise its high sugar content will force it to become too hard when frozen. In my trial I ended up topping the small scoop with raw wildflower honey. While not thematically congruent, it was delicious.

***

After Two Days

RECIPE: Hop Ice Cream

Yield: about 2 quarts

10 oz egg yolks
15 oz sugar
40 oz milk
20 oz heavy cream
2.5 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ oz dry Cascade cones, hydrated in milk
½ oz dry Centennial cones, hydrated in milk
pinch, salt

a)  Crack and separate eggs.

b)  Scale liquids.

Procedure

1)  Gently whisk about half the sugar into the egg yolks until smooth.

2)  Combine the other half of the sugar with the milk and whisk together. Scald the milk over high heat until just about to boil. Kill the heat.

3)  Temper some of the milk into the yolks until fluid. Combine this mixture back into the rest of the milk.

4)  Cook over medium heat while stirring, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If the custard gets too lumpy, you can buzz it with a blender.

5) Add the vanilla and salt to the cold cream, which should be in a large bowl.

6)  Strain the custard.

7)  Pour the strained custard into the cold cream while stirring to shock it.

8)  Have the hops in a large container that will go in your fridge. While the base is still warm, pour over the hops. Cover with plastic (push down on to the surface of the base), and chill for two days before straining and churning.

Tips/Variations:

  • Play around with your sugar choices, as described above.
  • Garnish with ribbons of malt syrup loosened with milk or cream.
  • Try with fresh hops when available.
  • Hydrate dry hops in milk to avoid pressing the base out of them (or experiment with the  bitterness).
  • I wouldn’t recommend using pellet hops.
  • Drop the eggs for a lighter, American style ice cream. Take this opportunity to use a high proportion of DME.
  • Steep crystal malt in the cream first at 150° – 160° F for about 25 minutes, then chill it. Continue with recipe.

    Cake and Ice Cream

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Wort Case Scenario: Tips

As I have been progressing through my classes, I have been keeping a look-out for various ways to integrate beer with classic techniques. I strongly subscribe to the point of view that beer and beer by-products are prepared items, which should be considered for use as a tool for flavor, much like wine or tomato puree. Of course its use must still be discretionary, as it has various unique properties that will present themselves through trial and error. Having made the beer yourself will of course give you more intimate knowledge of its flavor profile and some understanding of its chemical makeup. Here are some things to keep in mind when cooking with beer and wort.

  • Do you want to eat sediment? Be conscious of whether or not the finished beer you’re cooking with is bottle conditioned. But it is a good way to get your vitamins!
  • Bitter beer face! You may like the bitterness of an IPA in your glass, but as you reduce its volume in cooking, its bitterness level soars since it becomes concentrated. Either use the sweetest beers you can find, or consider the use of unhopped, unfermented sweet wort. If you don’t brew, ask you friendly neighborhood homebrewer or brewpub.
  • Saccharific! If you do use wort, keep in mind that it contains all the sugar that would  be fermented into alcohol (lots of maltose). It’s a different kind of sweetness than what you may be used to, and the flavor is altogether quite different than finished beer, so be sure to taste. Approximately three quarters of wort’s weight is fermentable sugar. This high percentage of sugar makes wort great for syrup – just reduce it until it becomes thick. After all, that’s what malt extract is. Finished beer will also have unfermented sugars (‘body’), but obviously in much less concentration.
  • Wort gone wild! Since wort is made up of so much fermentable sugar, it is ideal for fermentation. This is good and bad. Why it’s bad is very simple: if you collected your wort from the mash dregs (before the boil), the liquid is not even pasteurized and it will spoil/ferment very easily from wild yeast. Store in your fridge immediately or freeze. On the other hand if your wort came from the boil kettle dregs, it will have a longer shelf life, but it has been bittered by hops – so that’s a concern. Of course this fermentation can be used for good: bread baking, fermented batters, etc. Of course, unless you’re cultivating sourdough or your own strains of brewing yeast , I would stick to packaged yeasts.

I will explore these various facets of cooking with beer/wort through future posts – stay tuned for more recipes, tips, and pictures.

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