If you bake it, they will come.
All the more so if you're cooking with beer, and the people lining up for a taste just happen to be at a beer fest.
More than 3,000 beer enthusiasts crowded into Construction Junction this past Saturday for the seventh annual Steel City Big Pour, and man, they were as hungry as they were thirsty.
Over the course of the two three-hour sessions, the PG food team -- food editor Bob Batz Jr., homes editor Kevin Kirkland, and yours truly -- served up more than 1,000 sample-sized portions of two beery desserts: Stout and Sauerkraut Chocolate Cake with Stout Icing, and Pumpkin Ale Cheesecake with Pumpkin Ale Pecan Caramel Sauce.
Both desserts (13 cheesecakes and 11 chocolate cakes) proved a huge hit, with some coming back for seconds and even thirds. But if we had to choose a winner, the cheesecake appeared to have a slight edge. I mean, who doesn't love pumpkin?
We handed out recipe cards at the sold-out event, but just in case you didn't get tickets, we offer both recipes below.
Stout and Sauerkraut Chocolate Cake
Stout gives this rich chocolate cake, moistened with sauerkraut, a fuller, nuttier flavor. We used Victory Storm King Stout, a full-bodied American Imperial stout with deep, dark- chocolate flavors of roasted malts.
2/3 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup stout
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sauerkraut, rinsed well and chopped fine
1 cup raisins (optional)
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Stout Frosting (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease pan or line cupcake pans with 18 liners.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and smooth. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until each is smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed. Add the vanilla and stout.
Sift the cocoa, flour, baking powder, soda, and salt in a large bowl. To the creamed bowl, add the dry ingredients a little at a time. Stir in the sauerkraut and raisins and nuts, if using. Pour into cake pan (or lined cupcake cups). Bake until the cake springs back when touched, about 35 minutes. Transfer the pan to wire racks to cool completely before removing the cake/cupcakes.
Frost the cooled cake/cupcakes with Stout Frosting.
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, divided
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup stout, divided
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the softened butter with half the confectioners' sugar. Add the cocoa, salt, and roughly 1/3 of the stout. Beat until smooth.
Alternate adding the remaining sugar with the remaining stout and beat until fluffy.
Pumpkin Ale Cheesecake with Pumpkin Ale Pecan Caramel Sauce
If you love the taste of pumpkin, this cheesecake will knock your socks off. The addition of ale gives it a much airier texture -- it's almost like a mousse -- and the graham cracker crust couldn't be easier. We used Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Ale, which is spiced with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice and includes both roasted and raw pumpkin seeds in the mash.
9 standard-sized graham crackers
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
16 ounces cream cheese (softened)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup pumpkin ale
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
For caramel sauce
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin ale
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup cream
1/3 cup pecans
In a food processor add the graham crackers and brown sugar; process until only crumbs are left. While food processor is still running, add the melted butter and process until it resembles wet sand. Dump into the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan. Press into the bottom until well compacted.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the brown sugar, white sugar and cream cheese. Mix until well combined. One at a time, add the eggs and vanilla, mixing until well combined, scraping the bottom, before adding more.
Add pumpkin, cinnamon nutmeg and salt. Mix until very well combined.
Add ale and stir until combined.
Sprinkle flour over the bowl, stir on medium speed until just combined.
Pour over the crust.
Bake at 350 degrees for about one hour or until the center no longer jiggles when you shake the rack the cheesecake sits on, it will still look wet in the center. The secret to a great cheesecake is not to overbake it; it's better to slightly underbake it for a smooth mousse-like texture.
Chill until set, about 3 hours.
To make the caramel sauce, add the sugar, ale and corn syrup to a pot and stir over medium high heat for about 1 minute. Stop stirring and allow to boil, untouched, until it turns an amber color, about 10 minutes (230 degrees on a candy thermometer). Add the butter and cream; stir until combined. Add the pecans and stir. Allow to cool to approximately room temperature before serving over chilled cheesecake.
Makes 1 cheesecake.
Gretchen McKay: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay.