A Guinness cake walks into a bar and orders one bowl of popcorn, one of peanuts and one of pretzels. The barkeep also brings a shot of whiskey. There are many ways to celebrate St. Patrick's Day but I can think of few better options than baking a dark chocolate Guinness Cake. You can ice it any which way you choose, bit I prefer salty caramel over cream cheese or ganache. And if you're feeling festive, caramel popcorn spiked with whiskey dresses things up nicely. Add some salted peanuts to the mix of dark brown sugar, maple syrup and your favorite whiskey, and party on until you decide to close down your favorite kitchen for the night.
I will leave the Guinness cake recipe up to you (lots of choices out there), but here is the Whiskey Caramel Corn:
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1/4 tsp. Diamond Crystal kosher salt or 1/8 tsp. table salt
2/3 cup lightly salted peanuts
1/3 cup miniature salted pretzels
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup or Lyle's Golden Syrup
1/4 cup whiskey
3 tbsp pure maple syrup
3/4 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt, or 3/8 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1. Position oven racks in bottom and top thirds of oven. Preheat to 250°F . Line two baking sheets with parchment paper ; have two heatproof rubber spatulas or wooden spoons handy.
2. To make popcorn, heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until very hot; add popcorn kernels and shake the pot to form a single layer on the bottom. Cover, and reduce heat to medium once you hear the first pop. Shake pot a few times; listen for steady popping. Remove from heat once the kernel pops slow down to a few at a time. Transfer to an extra-large bowl or large roasting pan and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. kosher salt or 1/8 tsp. table salt. Sprinkle with peanuts. You should have 12 to 14 cups.
3. To make caramel, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar, corn or Golden syrup, whiskey, maple syrup and 3/4 tsp. kosher salt or 3/8 tsp. table salt, stirring until combined. Raise heat to medium-high. Once mixture begins to boil, cook without stirring until mixture reaches 250°F, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat; immediately add baking soda and stir until mixture foams then settles.
4. Pour over popcorn mixture. Using two heatproof spatulas, quickly stir to coat evenly. Sprinkle with pretzels, if you wish. Divide among prepared pans and bake on top and bottom racks, stirring every 15 minutes, and switching and rotating pans until mixture is evenly coated and crisp, 30 to 45 minutes total. Remove from oven and cool completely. Caramel corn is best within first 3 days, but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.
Makes about 14 cups
In anticipation of Passover which arrives in less than a month, Purim provides both incentive and opportunity to clear out our kitchen cabinets of flour. It also nudges some of us towards the dark recesses of the freezer. Though I tend to align myself with traditional Hamantaschen fillings, this year I'm more than happy to color outside the poppy seed, apricot and prune lines. Inspired by the very last of last year's rhubarb stash and an over abundance of wild blueberries, I'm putting the prunes and poppyseeds on pause; ditto for the dried apricots.
Oven roasting strawberries and rhubarb heightens their flavor while taming the excess liquid that yields a runny filling. Frozen blueberries make a sturdy stove top jam that can be as sweet and lemony as you wish. I've never been smitten with dry, crumbly cookie versions of the tri-corner pastries; probably a latent Hebrew-school-Purim-costume-parade syndrome. Though my preference is delicate cream cheese dough, I'm also a fan of yeast driven Hamantaschen. Both require a little extra time and fiddle, but they are so well worth it. And if you feel up to the challenge of watching melted butter transform from bright yellow to golden brown, the nutty flavor of brown butter pairs beautifully with blueberries. Regardless of the flavor profile you choose, the story of Purim remains an important reminder of Queen Esther's bravery. As we celebrate the holiday today and tomorrow, it's a fine idea to consider the power of a pastry; one that symbolizes hope and resilience.
Professional Pie-isms & Seasonal Sarcasm