Beer Brioche

12 04 2013

Which came first, the bread or the beer? And what happens if you use beer as the liquid in bread? I can’t answer that first question with any certainty, but I can tell you that the second is a worthy experiment.

shapingbrioche

Curious about the flavor that a beer might impart to bread – whether the hops would be discernible, what the yeast would think of the alcohol, how gluten development would be affected, etc., yes, I’m kind of science-nerdy sometimes – I went about adapting a brioche recipe because I had a hankering for fresh hamburger buns and also because I like the way it sounds: beer brioche. It’s just as nice in French: brioche à la bière.

after proofing, round 2

My first attempt was not a success. I waited and waited, but the dough simply refused to rise. I worried that I may have killed the yeast with the alcohol in the beer, but then I told myself that beer doesn’t usually reach the alcohol concentrations required to kill yeast. So it probably wasn’t that. But it was definitely something. The yeast were there, they were moving, but so slowly that even after four hours in a warm, humid space created just for their liking in my oven, my rolls had barely puffed at all. I went ahead and baked them, and ate them, but they were heavy and dense and nearly cakelike. I considered that too much butter may have been the culprit – brioche is notorious for making life difficult for yeast with all that added fat requiring heavy lifting – and made a mental note to adjust the amount.

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Beer Month, and the Return of Worthwhile French Beers

3 04 2013

Longtime readers of this blog (and pretty much anyone who’s ever met me) know how much I love beer.  So when I saw (via the always awesome Jenni, aka Pastry Chef Online) that Sophia of NY FoodGasm had gotten a group together to blog about beer this April, well, obviously I asked if I could participate. And, gracious hostess that she is, Sophia welcomed me to the group.

BeerMonth-logo

For the last couple of months I’ve been working on a project for Paris By Mouth, which has had me buying lots of beer in shops and bars (great work if you can get it!). But despite all the tasting, I was so focused on the places themselves that I never took any notes on specific beers. So last weekend Nick and I decided to go on an adventure in our own city, and rode bikes all the way across town to the Butte aux Cailles neighborhood in the 13th, a place we’d heard about but had never been. We wandered the cute, village-y streets and happened across a charming little organic shop with some beers in the window.

Brasserie Artisanale du Luberon

Naturally, we bought a bottle of each and brought them home for tasting.

Now, perhaps I should mention that Nick expressed some doubt about organic beers in general, which I dismissed as remnant of a bias we may have developed years ago, when the only non-industrial French beers we could find were usually organic, and tended to lack a certain finesse. At any rate, I figured they were worth a try.

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Beer Hall Eating in Köln

28 11 2011

A couple of weekends ago, Nick and I found ourselves in Cologne, Germany (Köln to the natives) for a concert.  Thanks to the Thalys high-speed train network, the trip from Paris was a short three hours, allowing us to spend the better part of two days eating and drinking our way through the city’s many beer halls.  We arrived in time for lunch, and after finding our hotel, headed straight for the Päffgen Hausbrauerei.

Paffgen brewery

The beers (Kölsch, and Kölsch alone) are brought around on deep trays with slots to hold the narrow glasses. The waiter keeps a tally of how many you’ve ordered on your coaster.

sauerbraten & potato dumplings

I had sauerbraten, a dish of braised beef in a sweet-and-sour sauce traditionally thickened with ground gingersnaps.  It came with potato dumplings and applesauce.  Classic.

bratwurst

Nick ordered the bratwurst, sold in lengths of three-quarters of a meter.  It was served with a tiny tureen of spicy mustard.

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Worthwhile French Beers: Gallia

27 06 2011

Gallia beer tasting

Summer has finally arrived in Paris!  (Again.)  While rosé may be the beverage of choice among parisian picnickers, a cold, refreshing beer on a café terrasse hits the spot just as well.

Enter Gallia.  There are those who would argue (Simon at La Cave à Bulles being one of them) that it doesn’t count as a French beer, because it is currently being brewed in the Czech Republic.  In its defense, though, the company was first started in 1890.  They brewed four types of beer – strong, double, petite, and bock – from their location in Paris’ 14th arrondissement.  By 1896, it was the second biggest brewery in Paris, and in 1900, Gallia won the gold medal at the Universal Expo.  The company continued to grow until World War II, the volume of production decreasing by 30% in the 1940′s and ’50′s.  The ’60′s brought an increased popularity of foreign beers and pressure to join large conglomerates.  In 1968, the brewery closed and beer production ceased.

But in 2010, two buddies, Guillaume Roy and Jacques Ferté, 53 years old if you add their ages together, decided to relaunch the brand.  They wanted to make a signature beer for Paris, and started with the blonde.  The recipe itself is not the same as it was before, tastes having changed in the intervening 40 years.  Like I said, it is currently being brewed in the Czech Republic, but they hope one day to move the brewing operation home.

It’s not perfect, but Gallia’s blonde would make a fine session beer.  Lightly hopped, the clear, golden brew has a balanced bitterness, and I could certainly see myself polishing off a few over a warm, sunny happy hour.

On this day in 2010: The Great Cupcake Extravaganza, Part Frosting

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Worthwhile French Beers: La Véliocasse

1 02 2011

Saturday morning dawned, as many weekend days do in Paris, bright and sunny.  Despite the cold, Nick and I thought we’d take a day trip to one of the many small towns around Paris.  We like to do this from time to time, because it’s really amazing how short a train trip it takes to find yourself in what feels like a very small burg in the middle of nowhere.  Of course, by the time we had eaten breakfast and bundled ourselves up for a nice long walk in the country, the sky had gone completely overcast.  Not to be deterred, we hopped on the metro to the Gare St. Lazare and caught a train to Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a town about half an hour’s train ride northwest of Paris.  It is located at the spot where the Seine and the Oise rivers meet, ans as such, was once a hub of river transport in Northern France.  Now most of its barges are being used as houseboats, but if you’re interested in that kind of thing, they have a whole museum dedicated to the barges.  It also happens to be twinned with Chimay, Belgium.  This post is about beer, I promise.

Our original plan had been to explore Conflans, then walk about four kilometers along the river to the next town, which we would also have a gander at, before heading back to Paris.  Well.  It turned out to be much colder and windier than we thought.  We walked into town from the train station, sat down on a bench on the riverfront to plan our route, then walked uphill to the Tour Montjoie, the remains of an 11th century castle.  We passed by the Saint Maclou church, built around the same time, but it was mostly covered in scaffolding and not much to look at.  The views over the Seine from the top of the hill were, though.  We made our way back down to the river via a series of almost hidden staircases, debating whether or not to go through with the 4K walk we had planned.  Cold and hunger were starting to set in when we spied a cozy-looking bar offering Belgian beers on tap and plates of sausage from the Aveyron.  The decision was not a difficult one.

We settled in with a couple of beers and a tasty sausage.  We noticed that in addition to the well-chosen tap beers, there were crates of bottled beers from England, Belgium, and France lining the walls.  A Frenchman and an Englishman walked in (I know it sounds like a bad joke) and we got to chatting.  In talking with them it came up that there is a brewery in a neighboring town which is open to visitors on weekends.  As luck would have it, the bar carried at least one of their beers, and that is how I got to taste La Véliocasse from the Brasserie du Vexin.

Bière du Vexin

La Véliocasse is a honeyed amber beer which won the gold medal at the Concours General Agricole de Paris in 2008, and silver in 2010.  It poured out a lovely amber color, its effervescence in the form of very many tiny bubbles which formed a good, thick head.  Aroma-wise, there was a lot going on with this beer.  I smelled toasted grains, Nick picked up on the fruity and grassy notes, while the Englishman thought it was floral and perfumey.  Upon tasting, the sweet, malty, caramelized flavors dominated, but not overly so.  La Véliocasse remains an eminently drinkable beer despite the rather high alcohol content – seven percent.  Strangely enough, the beer trails off at the end, leaving you waiting for the flavor punch alluded to in the nose.

Seeing as I’m always on the hunt for locally-made food products, beers are no exception.  I’m interested to take a trip to the brewery one of these days, and I’m definitely looking forward to returning to Conflans-Sainte-Honorine when the weather turns warm again.  I can just imagine sitting on the patio of that bar (whose name I irresponsibly neglected to note), sipping delicious beers and watching the boats go down the river.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Worthwhile French Beers: La Caussenarde

14 11 2010

La Caussenarde Blonde, Brune, and Ambrée

Several weeks ago, I joined my friends Ann and Chris at the Aveyron fair in Paris. Right off the bat we stuffed ourselves with local specialties like aligot and farçou, and then decided to walk it off by exploring the rest of the fair.  We sound some excellent cheeses and sweet breads (not sweetbreads), and suddenly, as we were strolling along, I stopped and cried out, “beer!”  You see, among the other gustatory delights, there was a stand selling craft beers made in Aveyron, by a brewery called La Caussenarde.  So I bought one of each of their offerings: the blonde, the ambrée, and the brune.

Finally, Nick and I got around to tasting them last weekend.  Beer drinking becomes less of a leisure activity when there’s documentation involved.  But last Sunday we decided to sit down and taste these three, and it was much less of a chore than it initially seemed.

The Blonde poured out hazy, as much due to its nature as an unfiltered beer as to carelessness in pouring.  The beer was very fizzy, with a thin, quickly dissipating head.  Color-wise, it was darker than most blondes, edging into honey tones.  I was immediately taken by the fruity, floral hop aromas, reminiscent of honeysuckle and clover.  These flavors came through on the palate as well, with a sweetish, almost honey-like body, followed by a nice dry finish.  Sounding surprised, Nick declared, “Actually, I really like it.”

Moving on to the Ambrée, it too was really fizzy – almost the way a soda pop is.  This beer was unfiltered as well, but since it was poured more carefully, our glasses remained clear enough to show the lovely true amber color of the liquid.  It had a warm spicy smell, almost like French pain d’épices, with ginger, nutmeg, and anise notes prevailing.  Again, it tasted like it smelled, with a clean finish.

Finally, the Brune.  It poured out a pretty, clear brown color and with the effervescence now characteristic of La Caussenarde.  The nose had surprising sour notes mingling with the otherwise sweet and roasty aromas.  Like the Ambrée, this one had warm spices too, but different ones: cinnamon and clove were in the forefront here.  On the palate, there were few surprises, an unusual sourness balanced with plenty of sweet roasted malt flavors and gentle spices.

All of these beers tasted well-balanced and carefully crafted.  I would absolutely buy all three of them again, but if I had to pick a favorite, it’s probably the Blonde.  They do have more fun after all, right?

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Worthwhile French Beers: Agent Provocateur

9 10 2010

Agent Provocateur

It almost feels like cheating to call this a French beer, since Agent Provocateur is brewed by a Scotsman.  Craig Allan studied the science of brewing and distilling in Edinburgh, and after a decade of brewing for Scottish microbreweries, as well as working in the whisky trade and on Burgundian vineyards, he struck out on his own to brew fine craft beers in France.  It may seem like a strange choice of locale, but his aim is to prove that good microbrew has all the merit of fine wine.  If he can win over the French, mission accomplished!  Besides, he’s got the Auld Alliance (which has been in effect since the 13th century, and until the early 20th century gave all Scots French citizenship) to back him up.

History aside, this is a fantastic beer.  Nick’s family visited us for a week and a half in September, and his brother Casey is quite the beer enthusiast.  (This is putting it mildly – his beer bottle collection could fill a small museum.)  Nick directed him to a couple of our favorite beer stores, namely La Cave à Bulles, near the Centre Pompidou, and Terres de Bières in the Marché St. Quentin.  He came home a few days in a row with a selection of beers to try (and, if possible, bring home for the bottle collection).  One of said beers was Agent Provocateur, which was recommended as hoppier than most.

We poured it into three glasses and noted the pillowy, cream-colored head over a hazy, dark-golden liquid.  The aroma was quite hoppy, with fruity hints of grapefruit.  On the palate, it exhibited strong hop bitterness balanced with a very lightly sweet malt background and flavors of fresh-cut grass.

“This is the first good beer I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Casey declared.  I found it incredibly refreshing, and hands-down the most West Coast American IPA-style beer I’ve had in France.  That’s a good thing.

* * * * *

Just a quick reminder, if you haven’t already, to enter to win a $75 gift certificate to CSN stores!  I’ll be choosing a winner at random from the comments tomorrow, Sunday October 10th, at noon Paris time.  The announcement will follow shortly thereafter.

On this day in 2009: Kir Bourgignon

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Victorian Square, Sparks

23 09 2010

Is it gilding the lily to prolong a vacation that was already a month long?  One that has now been over for almost three weeks?  Maybe so, but I’m doing it anyway.  I still have vacation food photos to share, and they’re of some of my favorite places and foods in the world.  This one leans more toward favorite places, but you know the food is good, too, or they wouldn’t be my favorite places.

Some of my favorite eating and drinking establishments
1. The Nugget 2. Blind Onion Pizza 3. O’Ski’s Pub 4. Great Basin Brewing Co.

Sparks, Nevada (the middle “a” sounds like the one in “hat,” not “blah”) has been a sort of home-away-from-home for me for a long time.  (Except for the half-year I lived there, right after moving back to the US from France for the first time.  You can imagine the culture shock.)  Victorian Square, aka B Street, was the epicenter of my life there.  I spent many a happy hour at the Nugget Casino’s Orozko bar, drinking half-price drinks and eating tapas, and a few late nights at their blackjack and roulette tables.  I worked at the Great Basin Brewing Company, and I go back for a few pints and meals every time I’m in town.

Black and Blue burger at Great Basin Brewing Co.

I always have a hard time deciding between the signature Black and Blue burger and the fish and chips.  On this particular occasion, I went with the former – a juicy burger seasoned with Cajun blackening spices and topped with blue cheese.  It was every bit as flavorful as I remembered it.  Since this was our second lunch there in a week, and I’d had a chance to chat with the head chef, Nick got a special experimental sandwich he was working on.

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Lunching in Dublin

20 08 2010

What do you do when you have a transatlantic flight and you are pretty sure you don’t want to eat the airplane food?  If you’re me, you bake two batches of cookies in anticipation of mid-flight snackiness.  If you’re Nick, you book your flight such that you have a three-hour layover in Dublin where you can fuel up with some (hopefully) authentic pub grub and a pint or two of Guinness.  Luckily for both of us, we travel together.

Ahhhhh.

Naturally, our plane from Paris to Dublin arrived late, and with all the customs and security holdups, we ended up having much less time than we had hoped for lunch.  Add to that the time spent wandering around the airport looking for something that wasn’t just fast food, and the fact that the only real restaurant we could find refused to take food orders until 12 noon, and it was nearly a stressful experience.  Thank goodness for Guinness.

A pleasant surprise

I was heartened by this note on the menu as well – just because you’re in an airport doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a good meal.

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Worthwhile French Beers: Le P’tit Klintz

9 08 2010

Despite the long interval since my last Worthwhile French Beer post, I seem to have found the most similar possible beer to write about this time. 

Le P'tit Klintz - Alsatian honey beer

As you can see, this one is also organic, also from Brasserie Uberach, and also has “Klintz” in the name.  But if La Klintz blonde is the mama bear, and Le Klintz brune is the papa bear, then this little honeyed number is the baby bear of the family.

The bottle had been sitting in our fridge for quite a while, and a noticeable layer of sediment had accrued at the bottom.  When Nick opened the beer, it foamed vigorously and for some time, even though it was cold and relatively undisturbed.  Strange.

It poured out cloudy and yellow – definitely an unfiltered beer – and the bubbles kept coming, forming a thin, patchy white head.  My nose sensed an herbal quality, woodsy and rosemary-like, perhaps even pine-y.  Aromas of fresh bread wafted up as well.

On the palate, the continued effervescence gave it a very light feeling, and the bright citrus notes make this a very drinkable beer.  As I got deeper into the glass I noticed some hints of spice coming through, particularly coriander and clove, while Nick observed a presence of banana esters.

Overall, Le P’tit Klintz is a refreshing beer, one I wouldn’t hesitate to drink again.  It makes me happy to know that breweries like Uberach exist in France, making an effort to produce quality, organic beer in a country whose first love will always be wine.

More Worthwhile French Beers:
Ninkasi IPA
Kohler Rehm
Thomas Beckett Bière de Noël
La Mandubienne Blonde
Page 24
3 Monts
Britt
Étoile du Nord
Les 3 Brasseurs
Félibrée
Moulins d’Ascq
Hellemus

Originally published on Croque-Camille.








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