Bees plus Booze: Making Krupnikas

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This recipe popped up on Global Table back in January 2012 and I have been positively itching to make it ever since. The problem is that in order to make lovely, lovely liqueurs, you need grain alcohol. And there are very few provinces in Canada where you can legally purchase such things. Fortunately one of my lovely friends picked some Everclear up for me when he was in Michigan and brought it across the border for me for my birthday.  And this lovely warming sipper will make a fantastic gift. Did I mention it makes your house smell lovely as you’re making it, and also that it’s ridiculously easy? LOVELY.

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First, though, you have to do your due diligence regarding what you’re going to put your finished concoction in. I searched high and low, in second-hand stores and restaurant supply stores, to find appropriate bottles for a reasonable price. Finally I found these 200mL flasks at Terra20 (sorry non-Ottawans, it’s a local store, but they do have online shopping). Now, you can put your bottles through a run in the dishwasher if you like, but I don’t trust my dishwasher fully because I have never cleaned it. I am my father’s daughter and as such he has taught me to properly sterilize things you’re going to put booze in. So first you wash them thoroughly in detergent and hot water.

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Let them drip dry.

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Then grab some Star-San if you can get it from a local home-brew place.

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Follow the instructions carefully, and wear gloves! Let your bottles air dry while you prepare your ingredients.

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I love that this recipe uses whole spices.

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In fact, it uses WHOLE turmeric, which was tricky for me to find after trolling through several health food stores. But it was super cheap. When the cashier asked me how much I wanted to order, I said, “Oh, 200g or so,” not knowing how much that would be. It was a lot. And it cost me about $4. I only need one of those weird little ginger-like knobs.

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You’ll need about 1 1/2lbs of honey (organic and local if possible, naturally). This works out to about 550mL liquid honey.

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Peel 1 orange.

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And peel half a lemon.

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Grab 3 or 4 cinnamon sticks.

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And 5 allspice berries.

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And a nutmeg. (A nutmeg? A meg nut? I dunno.)

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And 8 cloves.

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And 10 cardamom pods.

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And 1 teaspoon fennel seeds.

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And 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper.

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You will also need 1 vanilla bean, sliced and scraped. Except for some reason I totally forgot to include that in the recipe. It’s still amazing, but I bet a vanilla bean would make it even more amazing.

Grab yourself a 3″ knob of ginger, and slice that into four pieces.

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And grab a 2-3″ knob of turmeric, and slice THAT into four pieces.

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Look at that gorgeous orange. The turmeric will give a nice sort of earthy base to the booze, while at the same time keeping that lovely yellow tint you expect of something made with honey.

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Crack all the spices to let the flavour out. I used a nutcracker on the nutmeg.

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And my pestle for the rest.

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Gather your spices and plop them in a cup for now. Not shown of course is the vanilla bean I forgot.

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In a large saucepan, dump in your honey and 1L water and bring that to a simmer.

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Skim any foam off the top with a slotted spoon.

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Dump all your spices in and let that become an amazing concoction.

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Simmer that sucker, stirring occasionally, for about 35 minutes. At this point the young man who was fixing my ceiling crept up behind me and asked me what I was making that smelled so good. As he was about 16 years old I did not offer him any of it. I’m not sure if he was sad or not. But I’m sure the craftsmanship on my ceiling would have suffered.

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Remove the pot from the heat and pour in 750mL grain alcohol. Watch out, as it will fizz up and the fumes will likely make you cough a bit. While it still smells good I don’t recommend you go around huffing grain alcohol fumes. That might be bad.

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Strain out the spices and use them for something else, like a syrup or ice cream base.

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I plopped them into some applesauce I was making. It made the applesauce taste like CANDY.

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Line up your bottles ready for filling. I put them all in a dish and wedged them with a dish towel to keep them steady while I filled them.

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I filled all 8 200mL bottles exactly, just like I’d planned.

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Seal the bottles and let them cool. The mixture will be cloudy at first.

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But still gloriously cheerfully yellow.

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The cloudiness is a sediment that will settle over the next couple of days. You can drink this stuff right away and it will be unbelievably good, but the longer you let it sit the mellower and more amazing it will get. Try to wait at least two weeks.

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Even after just 24 hours most of the sediment has settled. You can stir the sediment back in if you like, or filter it out and serve it on cake or whatever.

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My true sadness is that I was hoping for a little extra krupnikas to try myself, but I didn’t get any. I am going to give all of this away. So I hope that my friends share.

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Krystopf’s Chocolate Chiffon Birthday Cake

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Because we were running around on my birthday, the Pie and I broke with our tradition of making each other birthday cakes from scratch and bought one from a local bakery.  It was lemon chiffon, and we liked it so much we immediately vowed that it would be on our list of things to learn.  It was Krystopf’s birthday on Saturday (my biggest brother is 37, how scary is that?), and he requested something chocolatey for his cake.  So instead of lemon chiffon, we’re making the Joy of Baking’s chocolate chiffon cake.  While the cake has multiple steps, they’re all pretty easy.  It’s also a good cake to make the day before and store in the fridge overnight.

Start by separating 6 eggs (add an extra white to the whites pile so you have 6 egg yolks and 7 egg whites) and let those come to room temperature.

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Now go ahead and preheat your oven to 325°F and grab your favourite tube pan.  Resist the urge to put any grease of any form into it.

Next, seize your sifter and, in a large bowl, sift together 2 cups cake flour with 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.

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In a smaller bowl, whisk together 6 egg yolks, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 3/4 cup room temperature coffee, and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla.

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Make a well in your flour mixture and add the egg stuff to it.

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Mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until you get this lovely glossiness.

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Now we can start beating up those 7 egg whites.  Add in 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar and use an electric mixer to whip them to soft peaks.

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While still beating, slowly add in 3/4 cup granulated sugar and keep whipping those up until you get nice stiff peaks that stand on their own.

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Gently fold the meringue into the rest of the cake batter in three separate additions.

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I found it a bit tricky to get it all properly mixed, so mine is a little marbled.

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Pour the batter into your tube pan and smooth it down.  If you think there are large air bubbles in there, cut through it a few times with a knife to break them.

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Bake the cake for 55-60 minutes, and then immediately invert your tube pan to allow the cake to cool completely without collapsing under its own weight (this is why you don’t grease the pan).

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Use a bottle to prop it up if your pan doesn’t have feet.

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Now that the cake is cool we can work on the glaze and filling.  Chuck a bowl and the wire whisk from your electric mixer into the freezer for about 30 minutes.

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Chop up 6oz semisweet chocolate and heave that into a heatproof bowl (or double boiler) with 1/4 cup butter and 2 tablespoons light corn syrup.

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Heat that over a pot of barely simmering water until it’s all melted and lovely, and then set it aside to cool slightly.

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While it’s cooling down, you can decant your cake.  Use a sharp knife around the edges and tip it upside down onto a plate.

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Use the knife again to remove the bottom part.

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Then cut the whole thing in half horizontally.

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Haul your frozen whisk and bowl out of the freezer and throw 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons cocoa, and 1 teaspoon instant coffee into the bowl.

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Pour out 1 cup cold whipping cream and add a few drops of that to the mix in the bowl.  Give it a good stirring, then beat in the rest of the whipping cream until it’s a frothy mocha masterpiece.

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Take about 3/4 cup of the mocha cream and spread it on the cut side of the bottom half of the cake.

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Put the top half back on and then drizzle the glaze over the top so it runs down the sides.  Spread it smooth with a spatula.

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Pipe the remaining mocha filling on top.

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I let the cake chill for a bit to set the glaze.

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Oh man it was good!

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Tofu Feature Month: Dark Chocolate Mousse

Tofu Chocolate Mousse

Who says that tofu only belongs on the savoury side of life?

This chocolate dessert is quick and easier than doing it the hard way.

The original recipe I had called for carob powder, but I didn’t have any, so I chopped up dark chocolate and melted it instead.  I figured it would make a smoother treat that way.

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In a blender, combine 1 package soft silken tofu, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 melted dark chocolate, and 1/2 cup soy milk.  Add between 2 and 6 tablespoons of sugar (I did 2, the recipe I had called for 6, and that seemed like a lot).  Blend that until it’s smooth.  It might take some stirring to dislodge pockets of cocoa powder.

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Pour into parfait cups or layer in a tall glass.  I tried to layer with marshmallows, but of course they floated when I tried to pour more chocolate on top. Yes, I am an idiot.

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And the fresh raspberries I put on top sank.

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Chill until firm(er) and serve.

To be honest, I was not a fan of this dessert.  Firstly, it was most decidedly not a mousse — that frothy, floating concoction that I know and love.  This was more like a heavy pudding.  And the smoothness of the tofu did nothing to hide the chalky feeling of undissolved cocoa powder sliding down my gullet.  It tasted fine, but the texture was all wrong.  In this case, I would stick with real dairy and straight chocolate.

Tofu Chocolate Mousse