Biting the Bulleit

Whiskies of the World 2016 in San Francisco is upon us. It is a great gathering of some of the world’s most iconic spirits. Jason has been feeling anxious about baking 500 mini nut pies for the event. In honor of the occasion, and to highlight the delicious, complex flavors of Bulleit Bourbon and Bulleit Rye, he has created these tasty mini pies with a focus on the ingredients that make American whiskey the national treasure that it is.

Jason has loads of experience baking in both professional kitchens and at home. That experience served him well as he prepared a rather large batch of tiny pecan-bourbon and walnut-rye “pie bites.” Of course, it helps to use great ingredients and Bulleit’s delicious bourbon and rye played their roles brilliantly in the preparation and final taste of these delicious little morsels.

Coming up with these recipes took a lot of experimentation, tweaking, and tasting (lucky us). The challenge here was in bringing the bourbon and rye flavors to the fore, preserving their complexity in the face of punishing heat and the resultant evaporation of the alcohol. Baking with alcohol is a futile effort if you’re truling to retain the rich, spicy character of the spirit. Alcohol plays a critical role in the flavor of the whisky. The result of all that experimentation payed off in a big way!

So, how do you create a sweet dessert that retains the character of the whisky? Very carefully. It starts with the pie dough. Take the Pecan Bourbon bites, for example. The dough consists of a mix of grain flours in proportions that mirror the grains used in the creation of Bulleit Bourbon in exactly the same ratios: 68% corn flour, 28% rye flour, 4% barley flour. He did the same with the Walnut Rye bites: 95% rye flour and 5% barley flour. Add and little butter and you have some tasty doughs.

The mix of flours works to produce a tasty pastry, but that didn’t get the bites across the finish line. The bourbon and rye are used to create the caramel. While other bourbon pecan pie recipes call for extremely modest additions of the whisky (a tablespoon for a standard sized pie), these little bites get a much more generous helping. The caramel is composed of equal parts bourbon or rye and brown sugar. The nuts are dressed with a small amount of their respective caramel companions before being used to fill the pie shells. When added to the pie shells, the nuts act as a sort of pie weight, preventing them from puffing up out of the muffin tins. Then, while the pies bake, more caramel is drizzled into the center at intervals. Adding that last bit of caramel before baking is complete ensures the flavors aren’t lost in the final product. The tasty, but still subtle whisky, comes through in the gooey, nutty pies. Extra effort? You bet. But the results speak for themself!

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Bulliet Bourbon & Pecan Bites
Makes 24

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup corn flour
1 tablespoon rye flour
1 tablespoon barley
1 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoon bourbon whiskey
2-3 tablespoons ice water

Mix flours, salt and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Add grated frozen butter to the bowl along and sprinkle the bourbon whiskey. Using one hand, mix flour, butter, and water until the dough comes together when making a fist.

Place the dough on a sheet of plastic and roll into a 1″ x 4″ log. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before continuing.
Filling
1 cup finely chopped raw pecans
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup Bulleit Bourbon
3 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
pinch of kosher salt

1 strip crisp bacon chopped finely (optional) or
2 tablespoons chopped dark chocolate (optional) or
2 tablespoon blue cheese (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, except bacon, chocolate, or blue cheese, if you’re using. Set aside in fridge.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray mini muffin pans with non stick spray. Slice each log into twelve discs. Using your fingers, gently press each disc until it fits up the sides of the muffin tin. Continue with all twelve. Refrigerate if the dough becomes too soft.

Once all the shells are in the tins, (add a few pieces of bacon, chocolate, or blue cheese to each shell if using) spoon 1 teaspoon of nuts into each shell. Do not add any of the caramel at this time. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Try not to get any caramel on the top of the muffin tin.

After 10 minutes remove from the oven and add 1 teaspoon of caramel to each tart shells. Place back in the oven for 10 more minutes. Remove again and add another teaspoon of caramel. Place back in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove, add caramel and back for another 5 minutes or so. For a total of 30 minutes of baking and 3 additions of caramel.

After final baking remove from the oven and cool for 5-7 minute before removing from the pan. Once cool gently remove each she’ll, if necessary use a butter knife.

Bulleit Rye & Walnut Bites
Makes 24

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rye flour
1 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, frozen grated butter
1 1/2 teaspoon Bulleit Rye whiskey
2-3 tablespoons ice water

Grate the frozen butter on a box grater. Place back in the fridge until ready to use.

Mix flours, salt and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Add grated frozen butter to the bowl along and sprinkle the rye whiskey. Using one hand, mix flour, butter, and water until the dough comes together when making a fist.

Place the dough on a sheet of plastic and roll into a 1″ x 4″ log. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling.

Filling
1 cup finely chopped raw walnuts
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup Bulleit Rye
3 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
pinch of kosher salt

1 strip crisp bacon chopped finely (optional) or
2 tablespoons chopped dark chocolate (optional)or
2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese (optional)

[See baking instructions above.]

Whisky: It’s What’s For Dinner

They're rare so get them while you can!

We’re likely to make whisky dinners a habit after a recent event presented by Whiskies of the World and The City Club Whisky Society in San Francisco. City Club’s David Forsyth and WoW’s Douglas Smith hosted Ed Kohl of ImpEx Beverages who led the evening’s educational tasting of a magnificent selection of whiskies from the Ian Macleod DistillersChieftain’s Range of single cask bottlings.

Now, you might be thinking to yourselves, “Whisky with dinner? That’s just crazy!” Believe us, whisky is a fantastic companion to many of your favorite foods. Pairing food and spirits takes some experience, but you already know that it works well with examples like tequila and carne asada or Grand Marnier and chocolate soufflé.

This was our favorite-and most rare-of the bunch.

So, here’s the setup: each course of the meal is paired with two different but complimentary Scotch whiskies, each selected for its unique flavor profile and likely affinity to the flavors of the food it accompanies. As the meal progresses, our whisky expert explains the whisky making process while describing the flavors of the whiskies in front of us on the table. Diners have a unique opportunity to experiment with pairings that would never have occurred to them (who thinks to serve whisky with fish?) while learning quite a lot about a spirit category many Americans are rediscovering.

The City Club’s very own Chef Michael Munoz, formerly of Moose’s Restaurant in North Beach, put out a fantastic meal that began with a taste of pepper seared beef tenderloin, roasted peppers and blue cheese cream on toasted crostini. Our whisky experts from ImpEx paired the hors d’oeuvres with two fantastic drams – the first, an 8 year old Isle of Skye blended malt with its mellow smokiness, was the perfect start to the evening’s tasting; the second, a 31 year old bottling of Speyside malt Allt a’ Bhainne, was a spicy, warm and woody counterpoint to the rich flavors of the beef and blue cheese.

Beautiful and delicious scallop with duck hash.

The pan seared Maine Diver Scallop dish that kicked off the sit down meal impressed us. Chef Munoz plated these beautiful scallops with Muscovy Duck Sausage Hash, Rocket greens and a delicate sauce béarnaise. The accompanying whiskies, an 18 year old Glen Moray from Speyside and a 25 year old Port Ellen from Islay were gorgeous on their own. The exquisite Port Ellen was jaw droppingly delicious and oh so fine! The Glen Moray was full of fruit and sweet oaky spice that lingered for a very long time. Both complimented the scallop and duck perfectly.

Venison, the other red meat.

Our venison consumption has been limited to the wild variety – mule deer, elk and antelope from Idaho and Wyoming – so we were curious to taste Chef’s Denver Leg of Venison, which he plated with herbed spaetzle, a puree of English peas, an heirloom tomato sauce and black truffle jus. We were impressed by the kitchen’s expert touch with the venison, served nice and rare. Venison is naturally lean relative to beef and as such doesn’t hold up well to overcooking. Wild venison cooked well turns into shoe leather and once “ruined” must be cooked for a very long time to get it back to a point where it is chewable. This dish was delicate and perfectly tender! We loved the spaetzle, a treat we’ve prepared at home with good success but something we don’t eat often enough. If there was a disappointment in the dish, it had to be the pea puree. It wasn’t a bad idea, but it didn’t do anything for the venison and one of us thought it tasted as though the peas were old. We both agreed that while some preparations of greens might pair well with whisky, this pea puree did not. The flavor of the tomato sauce was barely perceptible. The course was paired with a 16 year old Linkwood, a Speyside malt of excellent character with sweet smoke and spicy cedar notes that worked beautifully with the venison. We also tasted a 14 year old Glenrothes that has been finished in a Burgundy cask (also from Speyside). We love Glenrothes whisky, and this one was fine, but the Burgundy finish was distracting and, for a few dinner guests we spoke to, confusing. They wanted wine with their venison and the Glenrothes disappointed because the wine finish is, of course, very subtle.

You can never go wrong with Chocolate and Whisky.

The evening meal ended with a dark chocolate pot de crème and chocolate dipped hazelnut short bread. The pot de crème was interesting – very buttery and dense. We thought it was delicious. The hazelnut short bread was awesome! Unlike many shortbreads, this one was crisp not sandy. We wanted a plate of them. Desert paired nicely with an 11 year old Madeira finished Dalmore that we thought to be perfectly sweet and creamy with just hint of chocolate and smoke. It’s a warm, sunny malt from the Scottish Highlands that works nicely with the added richness of the Madeira.

Our compliments to the Chef and the whisky makers! You’ve inspired us to think more broadly about food and beverage pairings. To those of you who are still scratching your heads, we say let go of your inhibitions and give it a try. How bad can a great steak paired with a great glass of Scotch taste? We think you’ll love them together.