Hear, hear for beer

Stout gives these chocolate cupcakes depth of flavor.

By happy coincidence last weekend, while surfing the Internet for cupcake recipes that called for beer as an ingredient, I stumbled upon International Stout Day – Nov. 8, for those not in the know. How serendipitous, I thought, that it was just five days away, and how appropriate to observe this rather obscure (to me) event by whipping up some Chocolate Stout Cupcakes.

Truth be told, my inspiration came after colleague Scott Beveridge mentioned he’d baked beer cupcakes to rave reviews simply by using a boxed mix and substituting Samuel Smith Imperial Stout for the water. Best cupcakes ever, he said.

I decided to try it for myself, but used Samuel Adams Imperial Stout instead. After achieving similar results, I set out to see how stout would perform in a scratch recipe.

I adapted Food Network chef Dave Lieberman’s recipe (I swapped Samuel Smith Imperial Stout for the Guinness), and ended up with amazingly moist results. If you like beer, you’ll love these: The flavor of the beer comes shining through but isn’t too overwhelming. I skipped his frosting recipe and made my own from butter, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla, which complemented the cake quite nicely. A garnish of miniature pretzels provided a nice sweet and salty touch to this beer lovers’ dream.

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes

Makes 24 cupcakes

n Ingredients

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, plus more for dusting finished cupcakes

2 cups sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch fine salt

1 bottle stout beer (I used 11.2 ounces Samuel Smith)

1 stick butter, melted

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3 large eggs

3/4 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugar, flour, baking soda and salt.

In another medium mixing bowl, combine the stout, melted butter and vanilla. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Mix in sour cream until thoroughly combined and smooth. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet mixture.

Lightly grease 24 muffin tins. Divide the batter equally between muffin tins, filling each 3/4 full. Bake for about 12 minutes and then rotate the pans. Bake another 12 to 13 minutes until risen, nicely domed, and set in the middle but still soft and tender. Cool before turning out.

nAl Collins, owner of Al an Ruben’s Bar and Grill on Jefferson Avenue, Washington, is getting ready to celebrate his restaurant’s fifth anniversary by launching a new jazz-themed menu that features more sandwiches, some healthy selections and new pasta offerings.

Al will unveil his new menu, as well as a new Saturday brunch – featuring chicken and waffles, (yum!) – on Nov. 20. He’ll be giving away one restaurant gift card every day that week in celebration.

He’s also offering cooking classes starting Nov. 18. The hands-on sessions will be held on Monday evenings when the restaurant is closed. Stop in the restaurant for all the details and to register.

Jazz, Al says, is near and dear to his heart, and he is trying to give the music its due in his restaurant. He will continue to offer live jazz featuring local musicians on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Oh, and he’s going to start selling his homemade salad dressings and sauces, too.

Good luck on the next five years, Al!

nA tip of the hat to another local chef, Lane McFarland, co-owner of Beechie’s Place in Meadow Lands. Lane received the 2012 Restaurant Member of the Year award last week at the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association Awards Gala.

Way to go, Lane!

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