Here’s a pint of Guinness. Now, slán go fóill, y’all, because I’m off to Ireland!
Well, not immediately. (And why yes, I did bake a cylindrical Guinness chocolate cake and carve it into the shape of a pint glass and top it with Guinness foam. Because Guinness cake has been done a million times before so it was time to take it up another notch. BAM!)
But I leave in a bit under two weeks to go and work with collaborators in Dublin for a couple of weeks to analyse the data I’ve been collecting over the past 16 months. Could I have even hoped for better-located collaborators? I think not. After that, my boyfriend Chris and I will be hanging around in Ireland for a few extra days before hopping over to London and taking in as much of the UK as we can over the course of several weeks.
So, any suggestions for particular places we should go? Seriously, anywhere in Ireland or the UK is up for consideration, especially if there is food involved. Leave a comment or e-mail me with suggestions, as they will be greatly appreciated.
Also, since we’ll probably be, you know, hopefully, sort of, kind of busy, it means that once I leave I probably won’t be updating the blog very much until I’m back next year. I’ll do what I can, but alas – I can’t make any promises. I won’t be blogging about my travels since I think of this as more of a food/science blog than a personal blog (if I do come across anything particularly amazing in terms of food and/or science, I’ll certainly try to post it).
However, if you want to follow along with my travels, leave a comment or send me an e-mail to let me know and then when I start uploading photos to the online photo album I use, I’ll send you the link. Last time I was overseas, in April this year, I was pretty good at uploading photos every day.
This is just the slightest tweaking of Nigella’s chocolate Guinness cake
250g unsalted butter
400g caster sugar
150g sour cream
1 tbs vanilla paste or extract
275g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (yep, 1 1/2, you want this denser than Nigella’s cake)
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a cylindrical baking tin (approximately 10cm diameter, 21cm long) with butter. Cut out a circle of baking paper to fit on the base and stick it in place (the butter should hold it). Cut out two rectangular pieces of baking paper, both 2cm longer than the length of the tin and about 1cm wider than half the circumference of the tin. Insert one into the tin to line half the inside, grease its surface with butter, then insert the second piece of baking paper to cover the rest of the inside, overlapping slightly with the first piece. Grease its surface again, as well as that of the circular piece of paper on the base, and smooth all the paper down, making sure it’s well attached to the tin with butter.
Put the Guinness in a medium-sized saucepan over low heat. Add the butter and let it melt, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and whisk in the sugar and cocoa. Combine the sour cream, eggs and vanilla in a jug, beat with a fork, then add into the Guinness mixture and stir to combine. Pour the Guinness mixture through a sieve into a large bowl. Add the flour and bicarb and stir until everything is combined.
Pour the cake batter into the cylindrical tin so it is about 3/4 full (if you have a bit left over, use it to make cupcakes). Put the tin on a baking tray and place it on the lowest rack in the oven (the cake will rise a fair bit and you don’t want it hitting the upper element in the oven – keep and eye on it and if it does rise too much, you might need to slice the upper inch or two off the cake during baking). Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a cake tester or skewer or knife pushed into the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
Once the cake is completely cool, remove it from the tin, cover it in cling-wrap, and place it in the fridge overnight. When you are almost ready to prepare it, place it in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours – this makes it a lot easier to carve. Then just get a sharp paring knife and carve it into the shape of a pint glass – it really helps to have a pint glass handy for reference. Shave bits slowly off the side, checking to make sure that you aren’t taking too much off by holding it up to the pint glass (e.g. compare the base of the cake to the size of the base of the pint glass to make sure you’re not taking too much off the lower half).
Keep the cake off-cuts as you can use them to make a dessert of your liking – I mixed the shaved-off bits of Guinness cake with beaten ricotta and finely chopped dark chocolate. Nice.
1/2 cup Guinness (flat, if possible)
Using a stick blender, blend enough xanthan into the Guinness that it has the consistency of thickened cream. Weigh the mixture and put it in the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle in 1.25% methylcellulose (e.g. Methocel) or 2% Texturas Metil by weight, then whisk on high speed for 5 to 10 minutes. The mixture will expand and go foamy.
Cut a sheet of acetate (an overhead transparency) into a band about 3cm wide and the full length of the sheet (the length will be trimmed later, it just needs to be long enough to go around the top of the cake). Fix this in place around the top of the cake (it should be very tight), so that about 1cm of the top of the cake is inside the circular band of acetate, and acetate rises up about 2cm above the top of the cake. Trim the length of the acetate so that it overlaps itself by about 1cm, and sticky-tape the end in place. Spoon the Guinness foam on top of the cake, so that the acetate holds it in place like the edges of a glass. Make sure to press the foam down with the back of the spoon, to get it firmly attached to the cake and firmly pushed up against the sides of the acetate. When the foam is about 0.5-1cm thick, place the cake in the freezer for at least an hour to freeze the foam, then take the cake out and carefully pull the acetate band off, leaving the foam in place on top of the cake, as if it was the head of the Guinness contained within an invisible glass. Serve… somehow.