Featured Ingredient: Beer
When quaffed too liberally, there are a lot of harmful side-effects to beer. But when enjoyed in moderation, the latest batch of research papers suggests beer has some healthful properties.
Light consumption of alcohol, including beer, can reduce the risk of heart disease in men by a third or more, according to a recent Spanish study. A University of California study suggests that beer is a significant source of dietary silicon, a key ingredient for increasing bone mineral density. Interestingly, marinating beef in red wine or beer may reduce the levels of potentially cancer-promoting compounds that form during cooking, according to a study from Portugal.
Cooking with wine may be common practice, buy many cooks and bakers overlook the flavor-enhancing potential of beer in all its guises.
This is my Foodie Fights entry for this week’s battle. Foodie Fights is a type of online Iron Chef where food bloggers are provided with two ingredients and then must to do their best to make them shine together. I’ve competed twice before over at Well Fed Man, failing to reach the top of the podium so hopefully the trusty muffin tin can propel me to victory.
The two ingredients this week are beer and apples. Immediately, I thought of stout beer, chocolate and applesauce. A good way to cut down on most of the oil or butter needed in a baked good recipe is with applesauce – though I like to keep in a bit of the fat for texture. There’s really no point going out of your way to buy applesauce for baking if you have a few whole apples around as it’s very easy to make your own mash. I decided to toss in chopped dried apples for some textural variety and added sweetness. But you could get away without these and still have a perfectly great dessert.
Dark style beers, preferably stouts, are best with chocolate recipes as their rich flavors compliment the chocolate. These cakes definitely don’t have a strong beer flavor. More in the way of subtle beer undertones.
I almost always use whole wheat pastry flour over nutritionally inferior all-purpose flour when baking stuff like muffins, cakes, brownies and cookies. Milled from soft wheat, whole wheat pastry flour will produce a tender product that is not too heavy, an objection some people have to regular whole-wheat flour. Lower in protein than regular whole-wheat flour, whole-wheat pastry flour has less gluten-forming potential, making it a better choice for tender baked goods.
I tossed in some nutty tasting ground flax for an added boost of omega-3 fats and fiber but this could be omitted if it's not handy.
Instead of using saturated fat laden dairy cream, you can make a really delicious chocolate ganache topping with cashews which have a healthier fat profile and buttery flavor.
The ingredient list here might look long, but this is a really easy dessert to pull together.
If this looks scarfworthy, consider voting for me over at Foodie Fights
Chocolate Stout Cakes with Dried Apples, Spiced Applesauce and Cashew Ganache
½ cup unsalted cashews
2 medium apples, peeled and diced
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cardamom
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup flax meal
1/3 cocoa powder
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp cayenne or chili powder (optional but highly recommended)
1 cup dark beer, preferably stout
¼ cup oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup diced dried apples (optional)
4 oz chopped dark chocolate or a little more than ½ cup dark chocolate chips
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
Raspberries or berry of choice
Place cashews in a bowl, cover with water and soak for at least 2 hours. In a small saucepan, simmer apples, cinnamon and cardamom over low heat until apples are very tender, 15-20 minutes. Mash apples with a potato masher or fork.
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, combine flour, flax, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cayenne if using. In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs. Stir in beer, oil, vanilla and applesauce. Gently pour wet ingredients over flour mixture and stir just until all the flour is incorporated. Stir in dried apples.
Divide batter among 12 muffin greased or paper lined muffin cups and cook for 20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.
While muffins are cooking, place cashews in a blender and add just enough water to cover them. Process until smooth.
In a small saucepan, combine cashew cream, chocolate and maple syrup. Cook over low heat until chocolate is melted, stirring often.
Serve cakes topped with cashew ganache and raspberries.