Bad Elmer's Porter chocolate cake

This is the time when we don’t want to let go. This is when pumpkin beers start to hit the shelves and this is when I see school supplies and boots in the stores. It doesn’t feel so strange to not be in school anymore, and the humidity still feels like June, but when September starts creeping up it feels like we’re leaving something behind. We don’t have several months of sunburned days and hot nights ahead of us anymore. I usually try to hang on to any shred of summer I can, and try to will the warm weather to stay. But I’m trying to remind myself that as the months pass there are still new adventures ahead of us.

I have a life, a job, and a person firmly in the past at this point. No part of my present. I listened to a song that we played on the way to Pittsburgh, and realized how far behind that feels at this point. My whole life I’ve struggled with “looking in the rearview mirror” as my father puts it. And it’s true. I still don’t have the concept of “letting go” completely down. I’ve moved away from my hometown, and at least for now, I’m doing better this time around. The faster we try to cling on to memories of the past to keep them as part of our present, the seasons, anything that’s left, the faster they disappear like water from our cupped hands. Time moves faster than we can imagine, so we have to either let go or be dragged. Now let’s bake some cake.

To continue the adventure of baking with beer, I used a Bad Elmer’s Porter and adapted a recipe from Tartelette for a chocolate cake that is rich, but not too dark, and smooth. I used the porter and coffee to replace the water and espresso powder that her recipe calls for. Next time you have someone over for dinner (or even treat yourself to dinner) break out the coffee again and some vanilla ice cream to have with this cake. I have a stash of Indiana beers I’m trying to get through, but you can use any mild porter that is available in your area.

Porter Chocolate Cake with Bad Elmer’s Porter
Adapted from Tartelette

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup Bad Elmer’s Porter, flat and room temperature
1/2 cup warm coffee

1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy in a medium sized bowl (you’ll have all your batter in this one at the end). Add eggs and mix until incorporated.
2. Mix dry ingredients (cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, and baking soda) in separate bowl.
3. Prepare coffee and let cool until barely warm to the touch. Mix with the beer.
4. Add half of the the coffee/porter mixture to the butter, sugar, and eggs and mix quickly until incorporated. (Yes, this will be very soupy. Just keep mixing until smooth).
5. Add half of the dry ingredients and gently mix until just incorporated.
6. Add second half of the coffee/porter mixture, and mix again.
7. Slowly add the remaining half of your dry ingredients and mix again until just incorporated.
8. Butter and flour three miniature spring-form or mini cake pans.
9. Fill 3/4 full with cake batter, and bake at 325 degrees F for 30-35 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean).

Note: This cake will rise a lot, so if you want to use this recipe to make a multi-layered cake you will need to cut the tops off so that the pieces are level.

Bad Elmer's porter chocolate cake

Bad Elmer's Porter chocolate cake

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You’ve probably read The Food Babe’s article titled “The Shocking Ingredients in Beer.” (I really don’t want to link to it, because I think one of the goals of that post was to direct a lot of traffic to that website. Sigh.)

The craft beer community has been quick to respond to it in articles and generally through Twitter. Most recently The Dangers of Dumbassery – bless you.

The craft beer community’s response has gone something a little like this, and I love it.

Springfield Furniture

A couple weekends ago I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a weekend with my family in Springfield, Illinois, to be tourists for the Abraham Lincoln sights and history. We were celebrating my father’s birthday, and Springfield is just about halfway for all of us to meet up. Can I say just how nice it was to see and spend time with them? I’m always happy to see my parents, and my brother and I got along the whole weekend. (Sorry dude, but you know we get really frustrated with each other) I’ve missed all of them so much, and it simultaneously made being here easier (felt refreshed after quality family time) and being here a lot harder (felt a little lonely coming back to an empty apartment after quality family time). Even aside from that Springfield was really interesting and such a fun trip for me. Now when I say fun, I mean historic, interesting, and informative. I loved it, and if you’re interested in history (especially Abraham Lincoln) I think you will too.

Things you shouldn’t miss

Ditzy Blonde

Breakfast/Lunch at Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery
If the weather is nice, try to sit outside on their patio. If you go on Sunday, buy an appetizer and be prepared to wait a while for you food. It’s brunch, so enjoy the sun and be patient. Get the Eggs Benedict with the country ham. If you want lunch, get the fish & chips. I can’t recommend the Strawberry beer they had the other weekend, but I did enjoy the Ditzy Blonde.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum
Wear comfortable shoes and take your time, because this museum is so well done. Do not miss this stop. It’s good to go here in the afternoon, because it’s air conditioned and there are plenty of benches/chairs so you can rest if you or any other family get tired along the way.

The Lincoln Home

The Lincoln Home
This National Park has preserved about four blocks of the Lincoln neighborhood as it was when Lincoln lived in Springfield. If you want to go on the tour of the home, get here early so you can grab a ticket before they stop issuing them for the day. Now what is really cool is if you go by the neighborhood at night after everything closes. The streets aren’t blocked off or locked up, so you can park right outside the neighborhood and stroll around for a little while. The streets are dark, it’s extremely quiet, and I think it’s about as close to experiencing what night was like back then as I’ve seen. Maybe Williamsburg was closer, but it’s been a really long time since we went there so my memory doesn’t serve me as well.

P.S. Wild wallpaper, huh?

State House Inn

Lodging

The State House Inn
This place is awesome. 
1) The rates are reasonable for how lovely the rooms are.
2) Think 1960s style (molded Eames chairs), but with modern day hotel niceties.
3) It’s about two blocks away from the Amtrak station and one block from the new state capitol.
4) Don’t try to go there for breakfast. The coffe is okay, but the breakfast is lacking (standard bagels, bananas, okay orange juice).

Bonus

If you’re traveling back on I-55 South, on your way to St. Louis stop at the Pink Elephant Antique Store, which is in an old high school. (You can imagine how big this place is.) Even if you have no interest in going to an antique store, it’ll give you an excuse to buy an ice cream. Yes, please.

Antiques

Twistee Treats

Peach cobbler with beer

Peach cobbler with beer

If you’ve been here a while you may have noticed that I don’t do a whole lot of baking with beer. It really intimidates me and I have not had a lot of luck in the past, but I think it’s because I haven’t taken the time or had the patience to do try it again. This weekend I said enough is enough. Let’s get weird.

Normally this cobbler is very tart (especially with perfectly ripe peaches) and bright, and using this bit of beer rounds the flavor out. If you don’t want to make the leap in using beer in a whole recipe, I would recommend taking the portion of cut peaches you would use for one cobbler and cover that with the beer described below. This way you can still try the beer in one of the cobblers and be able to compare it to the regular recipe (sans beer). You know what the best part of this recipe is, though? The  step that calls for “Drink the rest of the beer.”

Fountain Square Workingman’s Pilsner Peach Cobbler
using a slightly adapted version of Joy the Baker’s topping

2 large ripe peaches
1/4 C all-purpose flour
1/4 C packed dark brown sugar
3 Tablespoon rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons slivered almonds or granola
3 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 bottle Fountain Square Workingman’s Pilsner (or other pilsner you can find)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare the topping by dicing butter into 1/4 inch slices, then placing in the freezer (on the cutting board, with the knife) for about 15 minutes to stiffen. Now cut again into 1/4 inch cubes. (This is my way of getting the butter down to really small pieces before you start mixing it with dry ingredients)
2. Mix all dry ingredients together in a small bowl, add butter, and mix with your hands. Crumble the butter into smaller pieces with the dry mixture until the mixture can be patted down and sticks together so that you can create a kind of crust on top of the fruit. (The motions are almost like kneading bread)
3. Peel the peaches, and slice into one inch cubes. Place into a small bowl.
4. Pour the pilsner over the peaches until they are covered and let sit for about five minutes. Drink the rest of the beer.
4. Spray Pam or butter the inside of small ramekins (I used three).
5. Drain peaches and fill ramekins until the peaches are even with the top. Pour 1-2 teaspoons beer over peaches. Sprinkle the topping generously over the peaches until the are covered and press down so the topping is compact.
6. Place ramekins on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. (I use a cookie sheet in case the fruit juice spills over a little. This happened to me once, so better safe than sorry, I say)
7. Serve hot and preferably with vanilla ice cream. Obviously.

Peach cobbler with beer

Mesa-Mule-Happyolks-11-1024x682

I’m spending a few minutes once a month introducing a blog I think you should spend your lazy Sunday morning getting to know (if you don’t love them already). *Photo from Happyolks*

If there’s one thing we can always use more of it is certainly hope. Make a cup of coffee, tuck your feet under you on the couch, and go dive into Happyolks to meet Kelsey & Shaun and get a big helping of hope this morning. I honestly feel that this is the one of two blogs I would read even if they didn’t have beautiful pictures accompanying their posts. Kelsey’s writing is genuine, uplifting, inspiring, and so hopeful. I regularly go back to this post whenever I feel completely overwhelmed by everything – everything that I love, everything that I want to do in the time that doesn’t seem to exist, everything that makes my heart soar and everything about life that intimidates me. She seems to have the hope that though we don’t have it all figured out, it’s still going to be okay. That post reminds me that yes, when we see life as a beautiful thing it can cover us in joy and it can also give us a swift kick. It’s messy, it leaves us lost sometimes, but that is part of the good. It’s wonderful when everything is neat and sweet, but those are short moments in between what makes life, well, life. These words lift me up.

P.S. And for camp cooking, the girl has some great recipes and lovely videos to accompany them.

Pasta with red sauce

I wrote a few weeks ago about getting into a better rhythm in the evenings by making dinner, and I have to say it’s taken some patience and easy recipes. I’m starting off small and humble, but as I’m getting a few easy pasta dishes under my belt I’m feeling more brave about taking it up a notch. But for now, here’s one of my go-to pasta sauces.

Red Pasta Sauce 
Lovechild of The Best Pasta Sauce & Smitten Kitchen’s Pasta Sauce
Use with 6-8 ounces pasta, to make two small servings

1 can plain diced tomatoes
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
1 small onion (the size of your palm)
1 garlic clove, smashed
handful of basil
1/4 – 1/3 cup fresh ricotta cheese
salt & pepper to taste

1. Heat olive oil on medium in a medium saucepan.
2. Finely chop onion and smash garlic. Sautee garlic & onion until onions are slightly clear and garlic is fragrant.
3. Drain can of tomatoes and pour into saucepan. If the garlic starts to brown sooner than the onions are ready, go ahead and pour the tomatoes in.
4. Let the tomatoes get to a simmer and drop the 2 Tablespoons butter in. Turn heat down to medium low, so that the tomatoes are barely bubbling. Let cook about 15 minutes.
5. Using a potato masher (I don’t have one so I used a clumsily use a whisk – it works with a little more effort), crush tomatoes until you have your desired consistency. Keep draining saucepan if the sauce is too watery.
6. Add basil leaves and let simmer five more minutes. Press basil until the leaves are soft.
7. Serve over 8 ounces of hot cooked pasta, add your dollop of ricotta and toss together until the dish is creamy.
8. Eat everything.

Schlafly Summer Lager

This beer is what my summer has looked like. Cool nights, calm, unassuming, and…quality. Just quality. Quality time relaxing, quality time baking in the sun listening to Frank Ocean, quality time cooking dinner every night, quality time kicking up my feet on the porch table, and quality time reading outside as it gets dark. This beer is just right for this summer. It’s a staple on my grocery list, and I really hope that this is a regular on their summer lineup.

All in all…
What is a summer lager supposed to taste like anyways? Well I certainly don’t claim to know, but if you’re looking for one start here. It’s not a stout so I can’t tell you all about how smooth and rich it is. It’s not a porter so I can’t tell you that it’s smoky. It’s not an IPA so I can’t tell you if the hops smell like grapefruit or pine cones. It’s not a pale ale so I can’t tell you how well they balanced the hops and malt. It’s not a Belgian so I can’t tell you that it smells like bread as it’s rising. It’s a lager, and it’s damn good.

Recommend to a friend?
Absolutely

Lightweight-safe?
Yes! 4.5%

Plus one?
For sure. Enjoy a few for one laid-back evening.

Get a six pack?
This is great for a six pack. Keep these in stock all summer long. You don’t have to think twice about having another as it’s affordable and low in ABV.

The Hops
The St. Louis Brewery – St. Louis, MO
Summer Lager

Schlafly Summer Lager