Wort, the sweet liquid that yeast turns into beer, is made by mashing malt in hot water for an hour. A thought: what if you attempted the same process using cream and milk and use it to make a custard? As soon as that burrowed itself into my brain I had to find out.
I popped to my local brewery – Royal Tunbridge Wells – to pick up a few handfuls of pale malt. Back in the kitchen I loosely repeated the brewing process by heating some cream and milk in a cast-iron casserole to roughly (i.e. I guessed and when it started bubbling I moved it onto a smaller gas ring) 70C and then added the malt and a vanilla pod, stirring it every few minutes for an hour and hoping it stayed at a regular temperature. From there I followed the typical recipe for a crème brûlées.
And did it work?
Hell yeah! The finished brûlées are fantastic. Even better than I hoped they’d be. Creamy and smooth, the malt is subtle but definitely there, adding extra sweetness and a different depth of flavour, almost white chocolate-like and somehow wonderfully comforting. If you’ve got any pale malt lying around (or if you pinch some from your local brewery like I did – you don’t need much) then I definitely recommend this.
This will make six brûlées (or four brûlées and some ice cream):
900ml double cream
150g pale malt
1 vanilla pod
8 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
Heat the double cream and milk to around 70C (there’s a lot more than a usual recipe but you lose some to the malt), then add the vanilla and malt and heat for 45-60 minutes, stirring to avoid it clumping together. Strain the creamy wort into a clean pan, pressing as much liquid through the sieve as possible.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar then gradually pour the hot cream over it while still whisking. Strain into a pouring jug and then fill some ramekins. Bake in a bain marie at 150C for 30-40 minutes (or until it is set on top but still wobbles), chill in the fridge for at least six hours and then before serving top with sugar (I tried a sugar and malt topping but the malt burnt before the sugar caramelised) and caramelise it with a kitchen blowtorch or under the grill.
(To make ice cream... save back some when you fill the ramekins and put this into a clean saucepan, stir with a wooden spoon until it thickens – you are making custard – and then let it cool before freezing or churning in an ice cream maker – the ice cream tastes amazing!).
Not quite cooking with beer, more cooking with pre-beer, but it's a fun little beery recipe but one which works generally and isn’t just for beer freaks like me – the malt genuinely adds a fantastic flavour to it. I’m also guessing that this would be great with a massive imperial stout on the side, something like Bourbon County Stout or oak aged Yeti – the bigger the better.
Inspiration for this came from BeerBirraBier’s malted pancake post. And while at Royal Tunbridge Wells Brewery I also picked up a few bottles, of course. I drank Royal, their best seller, while I cooked, and it’s a really decent easy-drinking best bitter.