Thursday, January 24, 2008

Samichlaus, "Ich bin ein überbier!"

Okay okay, so Samichlaus is brewed in Austria, not Germany; but I was unable to find an English-to-Austrian online dictionary, so I figured that German was close enough. Cut me some slack?

Behold! From the master brewers in Eggenberg, Austria, I bring you Samichlaus! At 14% ABV, it is without a doubt an überbier, often known in the US as an EXTREME beer, along with the likes of Dark Lord Imperial Stout (13% ABV) and the ever-publicized Samuel Adams Utopias (25% ABV, if you can believe that!).

“Samichlaus” beer is brewed once a year, in each case on December 6th, and stored and matured afterwards for over 10 months before it is bottled.
- Schloss Eggenberger

This probably explains why this single, 11.2 fl. oz. bottle cost me a pretty $4.00, so it's certainly not an everyday beer. As a seasonal treat, however, it's a beer that's hard to beat.

There she is. Beautiful, no? Sami pours a warm, dark amber, and with only a little head to start with, that dissipates quickly. The first thing I noticed upon my first sip is just how sweet the beer is; so mush so that I was unable to take more than a sip at any time. The flavor is, in a word, Christmasy, with flavors of honey, molasses, spices, and even a soupçon of toffee. I also noticed that though the alcohol was very much there, it remained in balance with the other flavors, and wasn't overwhelming.

The mouth-feel is quite heavy, almost like a thin syrup. The heaviness gives the beer a smooth and creamy texture, and a medium finish. The carbonation is minimal, and exhausts itself soon after pouring, leaving only a hint of its ghost on the tip of your tung. It reminded me of Guinness, in that way.

The brewer's website suggests storing the beer away, as one would wine. Aging the beer is said to enhance the creaminess and warmth of the beer. I may heed this suggestion, myself, and pickup a few bottle for next Christmas.

I liked the beer, to be sure. Like I said, it's definitely not a beer I'd drink regularly, but it would be a perfect ending to a cold Winter's day, sitting in the living room with friends, enjoying the warm glow of the...TV (I don't have a fireplace).

If you can find yourself a bottle of Samiclaus, you should give it a try. It way not be your thing, but hey, how many of your friends can honestly say they've had a beer this strong?

Just don't drink too much of the stuff, you'll get wasted waaaay too soon. ~_^


Monday, January 14, 2008

Tofu Joes

For the past year-and-a-half or so, I have been sticking to a flexitarian diet, with pretty good success. I feel good, I feel healthy, I am saving money, and doing my part to shrink my carbon footprint without going through the hassles that some people go through. As part of my diet, I have been learning the ways of Tofu. My problem, however, is an inability to come up with new, creative ideas to use the stuff. I mean sure, stir-fry is great, but I quickly tire of the flavors of soy sauce, shredded cabbage, and bean sprouts. Thus my prayers were answered a few weeks ago while wandering through the aisles of Barnes & Noble when my eyes fell upon a small cookbook. Small, but full to bursting with ideas and recipes for tofu.

101 Things to do with Tofu, by Donna Kelly and Anne Tegtmeier, is a breath of fresh, non-soy sauce scented, air. Recipes range from the simple basics, like tofu fillets, to sauces, tofu Alfredo sauce, anyone?, to more creative fare, such as tofu tikka masala. Even desserts are covered, with recipes for raspberry chocolate chunk pie, chocolate cheesefake, and crème brûlée. On the menu today...Tofu Sloppy Joes.

This is one of those recipes that you need to plan ahead, as the first step is to freeze your tofu. Yes, freeze it. It sounded weird to me too the first time I did it, but in freezing the tofu you change the internal structure of the curd, causing it to release its water and become more porous and sponge-like.

Yum, a hot, open-faced tofu sloppy joe. Tastes remarkably like a sloppy joe...who'da thunk? I think I'll be making this recipe again. ^_^

Here's the recipe, with a few personal alterations.

Tofu Sloppy Joes

1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
8 oz firm tofu, frozen then thawed
half a can of tomato paste
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup water.

Sauté onion and green pepper in olive oil over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Press tofu to dry and crumble into the pan, cook five minutes, stirring constantly. Add remaining ingredients and simmer ten minutes, stirring frequently. Serve on a bun, or in my case, an English muffin.


After note: I was wandering through the State Liquor Store on Pacific Ave, today and my eyes fell upon a beer (or malt liquor, technically, I suppose) that held my attention and imagination.

Stay tuned for my review...if I'm still able to type after drinking it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Delicious Simplicity

After the month-and-a-half of ornate, intricate, rich baking and cooking, I decided that today I needed something different, something simple, basic.

White bread. Yeah, that's the ticket.

I had seen a posting via Tastespotting, from Jennie at Straight from the Farm and decided to take a crack at it.

It's fluffy, light, and fall of flavor, which is a challenge sometimes with white bread. It is indeed Miracle Bread.


Part I
2 c. boiling water
2 T. butter
2 T. sugar
2 t. salt

Combine above ingredients and cool to lukewarm.

Part II
1/2 c. hot (but not boiling) water
2 packages of rapid rise dry yeast (2T.)
1 T. (scant) sugar

Whisk together Part II ingredients in a medium bowl and cover with a towel. Let yeast rise for 15-20 minutes, being sure it froths up and expands considerably. If yeast doesn’t rise, toss it and get new yeast before proceeding.

Once yeast has risen, combine with Part I. Add 6 to 6 1/2 cups of flour*, mixing with a spoon at first and then using your hands as it comes together. Add just enough flour to keep dough from being sticky. Knead dough for a few times and then cover bowl with a towel to let it rise. Come back to it every 10 minutes to punch it down and knead it some more, repeating this process 4-5 times. Don’t worry if you leave it longer - just be sure to punch it down a few times before proceeding with baking.

Divide dough in half at least once as it makes two large loaves. You can also divide it more times if you want to make smaller loaves or rolls. Place loaves on a greased baking sheet or in greased loaf pans. Cover again with a towel and let dough rise to double the size. If you want, you can use a sharp knife to make cuts in the dough to create ridges when they’re baked. I used an X shape this time on my round loaves for a nice artisan look.

Preheat oven to 375 F and bake risen loaves for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Take loaves from the oven and brush with melted butter or spray with cooking spray to give loaves a nice sheen.

*The flour can be all unbleached white flour or a mixture of whole wheat and white flour. Use at least 3 cups of white flour or else the dough won’t be as forgiving.

Paix et santé!