Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Baking with Beer at Cook

This past weekend, I went to a class at Cook. I'm not sure how to describe it totally, but Cook is a studio that has about 12 seats around a horseshoe bar that wraps around a kitchen area. They offer a variety of classes with various teachers. Back in March, Jo saw they were having a Baking with Beer class and so bought it for me for my birthday. The teacher was Liz Begosh (as you can see in the picture above) and she has a bunch of experience using beer in various confectionery concoctions.

As I said the room was set up to house 12 people sitting around a bar.
Very cozy digs. Since I was the first person there (I'm prompt, so sue me), I took a seat right in the middle of the room. Gave me a nice view and I like being in the center.

So a little bit about Liz since I have this nice card with some of her history on it in front of me. Here's a picture of her with Lily Cope, the Executive Director of Cook. Liz is the one on the right.
Liz started her sweets career with Betty's Tasty Buttons. She sold fudge to local farmer's markets and started making her name that way. One of the first recipes with beer was apparently her Victorious fudge, made with Victory Lager. I assumed it would be made with St. Victorious considering the name but she used the Lager because the former is a seasonal and wasn't available at the time she first made the fudge. After selling the fudge for a while at farmer's markets and some other local stores, she started looking for a physical location and found it at 2241 Grays Ferry and named it Betty's Speakeasy. It opened in 2009 and they've been baking there ever since.

So yeah, some history. I assume there's much more to her than that small paragraph but that's all I know. Okay, back to the class. She started off by making a quick bread with Yards ESA. All of her ingredients were already measured out and made for a nice picture. I never have my stuff laid out like this so it's nice to see.
Though actually some of that is for the first cupcake batter she made but let's not quibble about specifics. Here's Liz pouring the ESA into the batter for the quick bread.
After some mixing, her assistant (whose name I can't remember), took the batter and put it into the glass dish that you can see in the above picture.
He also explained some stuff about the bread as far as smoothing it out and the issues with letting it sit out too long before putting it in the oven. And then about 30 minutes later, the bread was baked and ready to go. Here's the finished product.
I think this is when he said my favorite quote of the day which was basically, "If something comes out craggy and kind of ugly, just call it rustic. If it's rustic, it can be as ugly as you want and it doesn't matter." Works for me! I'm pretty sure everything I'll be making will be called rustic from now on since, well, mostly everything I make is kind of ugly. Generally delicious, but ugly.

After the bread, Liz mixed up some apple cupcakes made with Yards Brawler. If you look at the picture above you can see the apples that she added to them. They were cooked in the beer for about 45 minutes, basically creating a not quite apple sauce and infusing the apples with a Brawler reduction. I think this picture is from when she was making those cupcakes. It's Liz pouring some vanilla in the mixer.
And finally, the last example was their newer Devil's Pocket cupcakes made with Yeungling Porter. Apparently the name is the nickname for the area around where her store is located. The saying goes that it used to be pretty dangerous and even the Devil would get his pocket picked there. Pretty sure it's safer now though! The cupcakes were pretty tasty too so totally worth visiting the area for one.

And that was the demos. Since I already know how to bake relatively well, I didn't learn too much from the actual demos themselves. I did get to ask quite a few questions (hopefully without bugging the rest of the people in the class) and found out some useful things about using beer in baked goods. The major piece of information and something I may try in the future is that you can replace liquids with beer in stuff that doesn't call for it though don't replace things like buttermilk or yogurt. Obviously, the beer you pick will effect the flavor so be careful there but it's worth a try.

I guess now the only question left is whether I thought the class was worth it. Let me be clear that disregarding the cost, I thought the class was pretty interesting. I may not have learned anything as far as baking technique goes, but getting to ask Liz and her assistant questions was pretty useful. On top of that, we got to sample some of their cupcakes as she made them and eating small cupcakes is never a bad thing. However, the cost is pretty high so it's not easy to disregard it. I'd say that as a gift, it's really cool. If it was just me looking to do something, though, I probably wouldn't do it again since I could put that money towards something else like the awesome beer dinner I went to a few weeks ago. Maybe their evening classes are better as far as cost to value ratio goes, but I don't know. In the end, if you don't mind spending the money, just go and enjoy yourself, forget how much it cost, and you'll be better off.

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