Let's not get carried away. Let's call it an experiment.
It goes back to an America's Test Kitchen episode I saw a while back. Chris Kimball is sitting with a micro-brewer learning about the basics of making beer. The brewer hands Chris a few malt grains to chew on, saying that the brewers often like to snack on them for their nutty, malty quality.
My wheels have been turning ever since. At first I imagined using them to replace nuts in something sweet and bake-able. I did a bit of research, asked a few questions of my friend Chris McKim from The Brew Kettle, and decided it was worth a try in some aspect of my sweet experimentation.
There are a LOT of different types of grains available for brewing beer. Making those into something you would want to eat is another story. I settled on two different types that I'd like to have on hand to dabble with: an imported Belgian grain called Caravienne Malt, and a domestic American grain called Victory. What to put them in?
My first reaction happened while I was making those Lindemann's truffles - I wanted to loosely chop the grains and roll the finished truffle (using a stout beer) in the grains for texture instead of nuts. Once I got the grains, though, I recalled Chris McKim's advice as I chopped them. They could potentially be a little toothy. Have you ever bitten into a partially popped popcorn kernel? Uh-huh.
I shelved this original idea and will work on it more later. But I wanted to try something to learn what these grains could do. I wanted to stay with chocolate, liked the beer idea...and then thought about how beer and pretzels were such good buddies. A chocolate-beer soft pretzel with grains baked in?
|Cocoa Image Courtesy Hersheys.com|
I wanted to play it safe and use cocoa powder since I'd be making a dough. I do know that cocoa powder often needs a lift to bring out the chocolate flavor. Most folks use coffee, but I went a different direction. Guinness beer is a lovely stout, slightly bitter with a coffee/chocolate memory. I ground the Caravienne grains in my trusty grinder till they were loose and the husky outer shell was no longer stringy. From there, it was a matter of gathering every pretzel recipe I could find, reworking them using my three odd ingredients and adding more sugar to boot. I ended up here.
Guinness & Grains Cocoa Pretzels
1 cup Guinness stout beer, room temperature
1/4 c (60 grams) sugar
1/4 c (30 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon table salt
3 cups (400 grams) unbleached AP flour
1/8 c (28 grams) Caravienne Belgian malt grains, ground
2 1/4 teaspoons (7 grams) active dry yeast
1/4 c warm water
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 cups hot water
2-3 teaspoons baking soda
1 egg, beaten
copious amounts of sanding sugar
Combine sugar through malt grains in a large bowl, sift and leave out any large bits. Set aside.
Sprinkle yeast over warm water in large bowl, let stand 5 minutes.
When yeast and water are ready, pour Guinness into yeast mixture and follow with oil. Add the dry mixture and stir until dough comes together. Place dough on a lightly floured surface, knead 8-10 minutes or until smooth & elastic. Add more flour as you knead if necessary. Place in a lightly greased bowl, pat with oil to keep ball moist and cover. Let rise in a warm place (I turned my oven onto 175F and then shut it off, put the bowl in covered and left the door open) for 1 1/2 hours. Dough should be about doubled.
Punch down dough and divide into 12 pieces for thin pretzels, or 8 pieces for "knot roll" shapes as shown in photo. Roll each piece into a long rope (thicker for knots, thinner for more crunchy pretzels) and shape the ropes into pretzels.
Combine hot water and baking soda in a shallow bowl. Dip pretzels into the solution and place on a lightly greased or parchment lined baking sheet. Cover pretzels and let rise in a warm place 20 minutes.
Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sanding sugar liberally. Some will bake into the pretzel and some will leave the sugary crunchy exterior as shown.
Bake in a preheated 425F oven approximately 15 minutes. Sprinkle with additional sanding sugar for a final crust.
The results? Crunch through that sugar crust into a malty, delicately stout sweet bread with just a hint of cocoa. I could very well see these equally along side a frothy pint of Guinness or a creamy warm cup of hot chocolate. Dip in some caramel sauce for a "faux" mustard! It falls somewhere in the "after dinner snack" and "dessert" category. I think that this dough would also make lovely pretzel rods if you twisted the ropes and left them long and thin before sugaring, standing in a glass on the table while you pour yourself a pint!