Archive for March, 2007

The Beer Bar

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007
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The Beer Bar: Guinness Ganache with Bar Snack Crunch (Pretzels, Peanuts, Corn Nuts, and Potato Chips) and a garnish of Cayenne Pig Candy (optional)

Hehehe… I love this bar.

Some people may be shocked… and/or disgusted… but I promise you, this bar is delicious. It may just be my favorite so far. It makes me giddy.

But if the bacon bothers you, here’s a more innocuous picture…


Ever since so many people declared an affinity for pretzels and saltiness in candy bars, I’ve been trying to think of an interesting way to incorporate them into a bar. It wasn’t until I reached for a beer that’s been languishing in a corner of our fridge that I really thought about beer as a flavor… and how it goes so well with pretzels… and how both would be wonderful incorporated into chocolate… along with other salty bar snacks…

The peanuts were a natural addition to the crunch component. I thought about popcorn, too (which is good coated with caramel and drizzled with chocolate), but after sampling some corn nuts, I was impressed by their popcorn taste, crunchiness, and compact size; I think the texture of popcorn would bother me in this, too. And I’ve had chocolate covered potato chips before, too, so I added those.

I like that, except for the potato chips, all the mix-ins can all be cut into roughly the same size and are similar colors, so there’s little predicting what you’ll get in one bite and every bite is slightly different, even crunch-wise. I find that the corn nuts produce an especially alluring flavor combination with the chocolate. The ganache provides a creamy refreshment to the crunch and a beer aftertaste… just like washing down some snacks with some beer (…and chocolate). The ganache on the bottom works as a nice change; and Chad’s been eating recently-made Malt Bars upside-down anyway.

Plus, I think this may be the first chocolate bar ever to contain two vegetables (corn and potato), a legume, and meat. It’s practically nutritious. 🙂

I just learned about Pig Candy last week, when I was looking at menus for Grace restaurant. For their doughnut shoppe night, they make the Elvis, which is filled with peanut butter and banana, and rolled in pig candy. “Pig… candy…?” I wondered. That’s just what it is — most recipes online say to coat strips of bacon in brown sugar and bake for 20 mins at 350F. I added some cayenne pepper to the brown sugar, baked it for 10 mins before patting off some of the fat, and then coating it in the sugar/cayenne. People wrote that it crisps up as it cools, but mine was still a bit soft in places, so I baked it for a bit longer. It tastes really, really good (sweet and smoky and savory and spicy and chewy and crispy)… and furthers my bacon-in-desserts cause.

I don’t think that it could reliably be placed on top of the bar for long periods of time, though. And mixing it into the rest of the bar wouldn’t be much better.

So, don’t worry, the finished bar will probably be bacon-less… Unless I had some pig candy handy… and a kindred spirit really wanted to try it.

Anyway, the Crunch layer was inspired by my experiences with entremet cakes at culinary school. A crunchy bottom cake layer can be made by mixing together melted chocolate, nut paste (or another fat, like butter), and feuilletine (crunchy, buttery cookie flakes). It is then pressed flat into the mold and allowed to set; it’s sliceable with the rest of the cake. I did the same thing with chocolate and mix-ins. I guess it’s also like a flattened, sliced rocher, if you want to get particular about it.

You can’t tell from the picture, but this is actually a triangle-shaped bar. I thought that a bar that dared to be triangular would be interesting, and the wider surface would show off the bumps on top from the mix-ins. I suppose it’s also an homage to other triangular bar snacks that didn’t make the Crunch cut: tortilla chips and fried cheddar triangles. I just think triangles work for bar snacks.

This bar still has some development to go through. This version feels like a bit of a cheat because I mixed together so many pre-made things. I’m going to experiment with making my own potato chips, pretzels, and corn nuts. That said… I was impressed that corn nuts contain only three appropriate ingredients: corn, corn oil, and salt. I also used Kettle Chips, and handmade Martin’s Pretzels that I’d picked up at the City Bakery; their only ingredients are flour, water, yeast, salt, and soda.

The ganache will also be an issue. For the ganache pictured, I used only chocolate, Guinness (non-reduced), invert sugar, and butter. No cream, which is rare for a ganache. The idea for this was based on a recipe that I got through the culinary school at CIA-Greystone that uses passion fruit puree instead of cream. These ganaches have less fat in them, but that affects their shelf life — the increased water makes them more prone to spoilage/mold. But, at least beer has some alcohol, which helps to preserve ganaches. It has less alcohol than a liquor like Grand Marnier, though, so it’s not that powerful, preservative-wise and so there’s more free water. On the other hand, I’m not sure if it’s any worse that a fruit puree would be. I’m going to track the spoilage rate of this ganache and play around with the formulation. It looks like it has some air bubbles, too.

I also made various ganaches with amber ale, reduced beer, glucose, and cream, but the version described above had the taste that I most liked… it just happened to be a bit too soft. The versions with cream and glucose also had a decent taste, but those were formulated to be a lot thicker. So, I’ll continue to experiment with Guinness until I get a firmer ganache that tastes good.

This bar is also very strong on dark chocolate flavor, because the mix-ins are incorporated into straight dark chocolate and the ganache is not rounded out by cream. I could try mixing peanut butter into the chocolate with the mix-ins or adding cream to the ganache.

I don’t want to mute the bar too much, though. I kind of want to let it be bold.