Monthly Archives: November 2012

Garnish Grandiloquence: Mixology Monday

Alright, this latest edition of Mixology Monday is all about garnish.  Here is a bit of what host Joseph Tkach of Measure and Stir fame has to say about it:

I’m always shocked by the way that an orange peel or a lemon peel can transform the experience of drinking a mixed drink from something mundane to something magical. In a similar vein, eating the olive in a martini will totally transform the imbiber’s perception of the drink. So this Mixology Monday, let’s really make a study of art of the garnish, by mixing up drinks where the garnish plays a central role in the experience of the drink… This type of garnish is traditionally in the realm of tiki, but you could mix anything, so long as the garnish is the star of the show.

When I read this month’s theme, I was reminded of a dinner party we had a couple of summer’s ago.  It was a great ode to the the bounty of summer.   On the first course, I paired some soft-ripened cheese (Seal Bay Triple Cream, mmmmm), fresh fig, walnut, and a drizzle of orange blossom honey with a summer edition martini.

(Above two photos circa 2010 courtesy of Michael Thrash)

The only thing that changed about this classic cocktail was the garnish.  However, the way the it changed the feel and ambiance of the drink was dramatic enough that we are still talking about how it set the stage for the following courses.  I think that the garnish really became the central player and the fact that it was in a really well known cocktail, and essentially recreated the drink experience, makes it a perfect fit for the Garnish Grandiloquence.

So even though it didn’t evoke the essence of fall, it did remind us again of summer and inspired us to add some flowers to our Thanksgiving dinner.

Martini d’Eté

2 oz Gin (We like Hendricks)

1/4 oz Dry Vermouth (We prefer Dolin Dry Vermouth, but for this rendition we used Vya Dry which is nice as well)

1 dash (or 1/4 tsp) Orange Bitters (We used some homemade orange bitters, but really enjoy Scrappy’s Orange Bitters in Martinis)

Peel of Lemon


Stir in a mixing glass with ice until nice and chilled.

Strain into a martini glass.  Next squeeze a peel of lemon over the drink to spritz the citrus oils onto the surface of the drink and then rub the peel along the rim of the glass.

Discard the peel.  Garnish with an edible flower.

The flowers are easily the focus of this drink and really add something special to the martini.



National Learn to Homebrew Day

Most of you probably do not know this, but last Saturday was National Learn to Homebrew Day.  It’s true.  Since 1999, it has been a day set aside by the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) for the express purpose of teaching and encouraging others to take up the noble hobby of homebrewing beer.  I’ve been a homebrewer for about almost 6 years now and for at least the last couple of years have wanted to brew an instructional batch of beer for some friends who were interested, but everytime the day rolled around, I wasn’t really able to participate…until this year that is.

In honor of the (then) upcoming election, we were feeling presidential and decided to brew one of the White House’s own homebrew recipes.  We set up an evite for the Saturday brewfest where we asked the attendees to vote on which beer they wanted to brew: a Honey Pale Ale or a Honey Porter.

The final vote was Honey Porter 5 and Honey Pale 1.  Porter it is.

I made a few modifications to the White House’s recipe.  I converted it to an all grain mash rather than using extract with steeping grains and increased the batch size from 5 gallons to 5.5 gallons.  The 60 and 30 minute hops are not specified in the recipe so I decided to use up to stray hops that I had in my freezer and ended up using two different hops.

I integrated the recipe into BeerSmith (a brewing software), the black malt I ended up selecting was a darker roasted malt than the one at the homebrew shop; so, on the fly, I added a bit of dark roasted (550 SRM) Debittered Black Malt, mostly to boost the color rather than add flavor.   Another last minute adjustment, my homebrew shop does not carry Caramel/Crystal 20 (the 20 refers to the level of roast – higher the number, darker the malt) so I used Caramel 30 instead.

Also, worth noting, there is a beehive on the South Lawn of the White House that produces the honey for their homebrewed beer.  How cool is that, right.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have access to this particular honey, so I used a honey locally sourced here in Northern Colorado.

Here is our final recipe:

White House Honey Porter

5.25 lbs  Pale Malt (2 Row)

1.1 lbs  Caramel / Crystal 30

.83 lbs  Munich Malt (20 SRM)

.5 lbs  Black Malt (350 SRM)

.28 lbs  Chocolate Malt (350 SRM)

.15 lbs  Debittered Black Malt (550 SRM)

.25 oz  Warrior Hops (Boil 60 Mins)

.50 oz  Nothern Brewer Hops (Boil 30 Mins)

1 tsp  Irish Moss (Boil 15 Mins)

.60 oz  Hallertauer Hops (Boil 5 Mins)

1.1 lbs  Honey (Flameout – after the burner is turned off)

Nottingham Yeast (1 pkg – Rehydrated)

Original Gravity = 1.043 SG

First, we must clean everything.  Brewing beer is 3 parts washing /sanitizing dishes, 2 parts standing around drinking beer, and 1 part brewing.

We mashed the grains in 10 quarts of 152 degree water for 60 minutes.  This processes is converting starches in the grains into fermentable sugars via an enzymatic reaction.

Next we strain out the liquid into our boil kettle.  Then we batch sparged in three steps:   we heated water to 170 F in and poured it onto the grains, stirred, and allowed it to sit for a minute before straining out the liquid again into the boil kettle.  We repeated this twice more until we had accumulated roughly 7 gallons of liquid in our boil kettle.

That pot-full-of-liquid (which is known as the wort aka unfermented barely juice) is brought up to a boil.  We used a propane burner.  We’ll boil this one for 60 minutes.  Once a boil is reached, we start adding the hops, etc.

After the boil, we turned off the heat and stirred in the honey and then put the whole pot into a tub full of ice water.  There are indeed better, more efficient ways of quickly chilling down the wort such as using an immersion chiller, but I have yet to purchase one of those.  

While it’s cooling we rehydrated the yeast, by bringing some  water to a boil, pouring 4oz into a sanitized measuring cup and waiting until the temperature of the water reached 90 F, then we sprinkled on the dried yeast.  Fifteen minutes later, we gave it a clockwise stir to fully dissolve the yeast and break up some of the yeast foam.  We let the yeast cool to 70 F.

When the wort and the yeast are at about the same temperature and the both have cooled below 75 F, you are ready to proceed.  We pull the kettle out of the ice bath and pour it through a sanitized strainer into a sanitized fermenter bucket.  Knock out the solids that are in the strainer, re-sanitize if you need to.  It is quite important from here on out that we are not introducing any unwanted bacteria into our beer.  Pour the wort through the strainer back into the kettle.  Then pour the wort back into the fermenter.  We did this about 5 or six times.  The goal is to get oxygen into wort so that the yeast have a welcoming environment in which to work their magic.

Once that’s finished we put a lid on it and affix an airlock.  It’s just that simple.

Bonus pics:

To Kari, Matt, Chris, Jay, Damien, Heather, Chris, Beth, and Nathan: Thanks for all your help.  I hope you all had a fun time.  Until next year, Cheers!

Bread Again aka Bread # 4

I worked with a local baker for a day in hopes of picking up some tips and tricks regarding my pursuit of baking great bread.  I picked up a flour – water – starter ratio (3:2:1) and better idea of the final feel dough post kneading.  I kneaded a lot of dough that day.  I still have work to do in order to get the bread dialed in just right, but here is the next segment of my bread baking journey.

Bread # 4

(We’ll call it number four to be consistent with the blog, but it is really like Bread #9.)

1/4 Cup  Warm Water

2 tsp  Yeast, dried

In a medium bowl, add the water then sprinkle the yeast on top.  Allow the yeast to bloom for about 5 or so minutes.


55 g  Water

Stir into the yeast liquid.  Then add your flours:

55 g  Whole Wheat Flour

55 g  All Purpose Flour

Stir it all up, cover, and let that rise for 2 hours.

The dough should be nice and poofed/bubbly by this point.

You’ll want to do this next bit on a kitchen scale.  Scrape the starter dough into a large bowl which is on the scale.  The starter should be   about 212 grams, give or take a gram.  This is now 1 part.

Add that starter:

424 g  Water (or two parts)

Stir it around to loosen up the starter a bit.  Now add 3 parts Flour which would be 636 grams.  The flour gives you some room to customize.  I used:

100 g  Whole Wheat Flour

536 g  All Purpose Flour


3 tsp  Kosher Salt

Mix all this up until the spoon becomes ineffective and then turn out onto a well floured surface.

Knead the dough for about 30 minutes.  Your are looking for the dough to be lightly tacky, but not sticky.  I ended up adding another 1/2 to 3/4 cup All Purpose flour during this kneading process…

Once you get the dough where you want it.  Toss it into a bowl, cover, and rise for 1.5 to 2 hours.

Then take your big ball of dough and separate it into two pieces forming each piece into a tight boule.  Put those back into the bowl, cover it again and let them rest for about 20 minutes.

Next, I did a final shaping making nice and tight, but also trying not to press out all of the air bubbles that were in the dough.

Place these onto a floured cloth, somewhat covered with the extra cloth.  Let it rise for another 1-2 hours.

About an hour before you expect to be ready to bake the bread, you’ll want to get your oven heating up.  Get your baking stone and a pan for a steam bath in place in your oven and preheat to 500 F.

Now your bread is ready.  Prep a peel or, as is my case, a wooden cutting board with a dusting of semolina flour.  Gently move the loaves to the “peel.”  Score the tops any which way you like, but aim for having your knife at a 45 degree angle.  Turn the heat on the oven down to 450 F.  Have a cup of hot water (from the tap is fine) standing by.

Open the oven slid on in your soon-to-be bread and pour the water into the hot pan.  Set your timer for 25 minutes and listen to the oven roar.

Cool on a wire rack.

Final thoughts:

The crumb was still a bit more dense than I want it to be.  The crust was a nice color, however, I didn’t get the spring I was hoping for, since “skin” looked as if it had sagged during baking.  See:

It could be that I didn’t shape the final loaf tight enough…  I probably could have baked it another 5 minutes and maybe next, time I’ll keep the oven 25 degrees hotter.  Another tsp of salt wouldn’t hurt either.

On the plus side, it wasn’t dry or crumbly.  It had a very nice flavor and texture, maybe a little bit more chewiness would be nice, but I won’t fault that.  At least not at this point.  Possibly adding 1oo – 200 g Bread Flour would help add a tough of chew.

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