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Byrrh - Bought it, tasted it (bitter -- but very good), what to do with it?

Stopped at the nearby Binnys here in Chicagoland and bought a small bottle of what's called 'Byrrh':

Like the taste -- it's somewhere between a vermouth and a bitter like Gran Classico or Campari. I've been using it in a cocktail I made up myself:

- 1.5 oz Rye
- 1.5 oz Averna Amaro
- .5 oz byrrh
- .5 oz Cointreau

Sort of an Italian inspired thing -- spicy, with a bitter citrus notes.

Anyway, apart from homemade, on-the-spot creations -- are there any "classic" cocktails that use byrrh? Anyone use it in other cocktails that they especially like? A byrrh Manhattan I'm sure is in the cards sometime soon. Maybe a byrrh Boulevardier/Negroni?

Aug 05, 2013
bobbyrolla in Spirits

Templeton Rye

Well, the good news is that despite the NPR mention, Templeton Rye is still stocked if you're in Illinois (and close to a Binny's liquor store).

Bad news is I tried it and loved it so much, I bought the last three bottles on the shelf at my local Binnys a few hours ago (however it is in stock at other Binny's if you're in Illinois -- $37.99 a bottle). Hands down, this stuff is the best rye I've had (and, I predict, will soon go the way of Pappy). Seriously -- it's smooth, nicely sweet, and has a great kick on the back end.

I figure it's time to stock up on Templeton.

Dec 30, 2012
bobbyrolla in Spirits

Infused Bourbon

Rapid infusion via nitrogen cavitation -- i.e. using an ISI whipper -- makes pretty quick work of this. No need to wait 2 weeks. Just place the ingredients in your whipper, infuse, shake like hell, then wait 2-3 minutes. Release the gas, pour into mason jar or back into bottle, and wait a few minutes until the bubbling stops. Within 10 minutes, you'll have a nicely infused, on-the-spot bourbon.

Some tips I've learned:

- Make sure everything is at room temp
- Make sure to shake it like crazy.
- The flavor seems to improve after 24 hours -- stronger, more distinct -- but it has a *lot* of flavor straight off the infusion.
- Chopping up herbs seems to help improve the overall flavor strength (as opposed to using, say, uncut mint leaves or whole sprigs of rosemary.)

For more info, check out:

I've made infusions tequila, whiskey, and vodka -- all with great results. For bitters, I usually use Everclear and a mix of aromatics, herbs, and barks -- and it works *very* well. As mentioned above, the spirit proof makes a difference in the overall effectiveness of the infusion -- although I've yet had to have a "bad" infusion with anything I've tried -- so long as the base liquor is good quality. I suspect the infusion brings out the qualities of the base spirit -- as well as melding together the new flavors.

BTW -- in response to a post above, I recommend *not* using cheap spirits for this method. The better the spirit, the tastier the overall infusion. I made this mistake when I tried this for the first time with cheap vodka and jalapeno peppers. It was awful -- fingernails on a blackboard in terms of taste. Next batch -- same measurements, same technique -- but with Absolut -- and the results were night and day.

Granted, Absolut is not the top of the top in terms of vodka, but it was much better than the no-name, cheap stuff for the infusion. The quality really does make a difference -- especially because you're tempted (I am, at least) to really savor the more interesting infusions straight. I've been using Buffalo Trace and Redemption (again, not top of the top, I realize --but for my budget, these brands work out) for my whiskey experiments with rapid infusion (and as a base for my bitters -- especially chocolate and coffee bitters). I suspect that as I go up the whiskey ladder (in quality and, unfortunately, in price) I'll get even better results.

Nov 22, 2012
bobbyrolla in Spirits

Sorbet Troubles

Yes -- the trick to setting sorbets in a home ice cream maker is to get the mixture down to as close to freezing as possible before putting it in the mixer. The easy way to do this is a water bath full of ice. Let your mixture sit in the bath for an hour or so. Even better -- and if you have time -- put the now cool mixture in the fridge for 12-24 hours. The idea here is to cool the mixture down as low as possible without freezing but also to allow the flavors to mature.

BTW -- use invert sugar (a scant teaspoon) and light corn syrup (less than 1/4 cup) in addition to your sugar syrup base to keep the sorbet smooth even after freezing. The invert sugar changes the structure of the sugar and makes sure the sorbet doesn't freeze rock solid in the fridge. Booze works, too, of course -- not too much or you'll get a soupy mess.

Mar 14, 2012
bobbyrolla in Home Cooking

Savory Sorbets

Try using a combination of invert sugar and light corn syrup. I understand the invert sugar changes the way the sugar crystallizes. I made a lime basil sorbet several days ago, and although it's been in the freezer for two days now, it's as smooth as silk. I used the normal sugar syrup mix -- 1:1 sugar to water and then added a scant teaspoon of invert sugar and a little less than 1/4 cup of light corn syrup.

If you don't have -- or can't make -- actual invert sugar, honey works fine.

Mar 14, 2012
bobbyrolla in Home Cooking

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

If you've had a Carol's Cookie, you understand one possible variation of an 'ultimate chocolate chip cookie.' Not the only variation -- but IMHO, the best variation. :)

Anyway, after tasting far too many Carol's Cookies over the past few years, I finally decided to search the internet for a clone. After 12+ batches -- and two days straight of making cookies -- I nailed it.

My info -- building on a base recipe from another poster (AnnaCG) earlier in the thread is here:

I modified a few things from base recipe and realize the perfect (IMHO) cookie came down to a several key things: (a) making a roux, (b) minimizing the moisture in the dough, (c) finding what was (for me, at least) the perfect ratio of brown sugar to white, and (d) freezing the finished cookie and then thawing.

I'm not sure (d) is a requirement, but it does something to the texture -- something that seems to make a better cookie than simply eating straight from the finished cookie sheet (which, in the case of this recipe, is not recommended. The cookies off the sheet don't look finished and need significant cooling to hit the flavor profile of a Carol's Cookie).

For those not familiar with Carol's Cookies (I believe they're available via mailorder, although here in Chicagoland, most Whole Foods and gourmet stores carry the fresh -- or freshly unfrozen cookies -- so they're pretty ubiquitous) they're unusually large and tall ("fat"). They're chewy -- but not overly so -- and most have a hard exterior and ever-so-slightly soft center. They're a peculiar density, actually -- and not at all like any cookie I've encountered before. I'm familiar with the "back of the bag" tollhouse varieties and the crispy varieties -- both of which I like, but neither of which I found to be completely satisfying. This might not make sense if you've not had one, but the first thing that came to my mind when I had my first Carol's cookie was 'cookie fudge' -- not from the chocolate chips (there aren't that many in the actual cookie) but from the density and richness of the finished cookie. If fudge could be a cookie, then a Carol's Cookie would be fudge (if that makes any sense at all).

Anyway, replicating this density and "chubbiness" were the key things I kept testing as I made batch after batch, tweaking a single ingredient at a time as I went along. I also wanted to keep the chubbiness during the entire 20 minute bake. This, I think, was solved by removing most of the moisture from the dough and by using AnnaCG's roux idea with flour and European butter (and also by reducing slightly AnnaCG's suggestion for the egg). Essentially -- after much trial and error -- all I did was tweak the sugar ratios and reduce the egg of AnnaCG's foundational recipe. It sounds simple now, but it took me a bunch of tries to figure out what each ingredient was doing in the context of the other ingredients (I'm no baker -- so this was a complete learning experience for me).

At any rate, the original recipe and my slight variation are posted in the thread. Again -- many thanks to the original poster for the starting point recipe!

The only caveat here is that these cookies are finicky to make. The almost dry, crumbly dough means that it's pretty sensitive to baking conditions. Once I hit upon a clone, I made the exact same recipe a second time -- measuring by weight and not volume both times -- and the second batch was not the same consistency of the previous batch -- even though everything was measured exactly the same (I ended up having to add a bit of moisture in the dough -- and I decided to (a) wet my fingers and (b) add a tiny, tiny bit of Grand Marnier -- something I happened to have sitting by the bowl when I was trying to form the dough. It worked -- and didn't impact the flavor or texture of the finished cookie). Plus, the roux adds a bit of twist to the usual process -- although it takes all of two minutes to make and then dump into the food processor and then add the additional ingredients.

Feb 06, 2012
bobbyrolla in Home Cooking

Vacuum infusions using ISI whipper.

I've tried both water and alcohol with my iSi Gourmet Whip plus -- and both work equally well. There are a lot of factors to keep in mind, though:

- Ingredients should be a room temp for best infusion

- the longer the infused liquid sits, the stronger it gets. I've infused choc nibs with vodka, for example -- and the best taste was 24 hours after the infusion.

- Shake hard once you've infused with the nitrous cartridge. (I've used c02 for quick marinating scallops and making carbonated fruit -- but always use nitrous for the water/spirit infusions.)

- Don't let it sit too long infusing. It seems that the longer you let it infuse, the more bitterness you'll probably get in the final product. I usually put the ingredients in the whipper, seal, infuse, shake for 30 secs, let sit for anywhere from 1-2 mins, release the gas, pour out. Then I let sit for at least five minutes before initially tasting.

- Finally, if you're using spirits as a base, be sure to use *good* quality spirits. I made the mistake of buying cheap tequila and cheap vodka (thinking it doesn't make a difference as a base). It does -- a big difference. Choc nibs infused in cheap vodka were far, far harsher than nibs in Absolut (very smooth, very rich, but not at all bitter).

- BTW -- I've made basil water, mint water -- works great! Nice, mellow but distinctive flavors.

Report back on your results! I'd love to hear more nitro-infusion combinations.

Feb 06, 2012
bobbyrolla in Home Cooking

Carol's Cookies, how does she get them to stay tall, not flat?

I realize this is an old thread, but I spent the weekend working toward cloning a Carol's Cookie -- and thanks to AnnaCG's recipe -- it worked. I've managed to make an identical clone (at least according to my tasters and my blind taste-test).

I followed the recipe -- including making the roux -- and deviated only by changing the ratio of brown sugar to white. I used 3.5Tbsp brown, 1.5 Tbsp white. I also used slightly less than 1Tbsp of a beaten egg.

The dough was incredibly crumbly -- but it matched a picture I saw on Carol's site of her cookie dough. It looks like there's not enough moisture in it, but if you ball it up tightly -- after adding the chips -- it forms (just barely, though). This seems to be (one) secret -- an almost dry, crumbly dough. I formed it and pressed it just slightly into a big raw cookie ball.

20 mins @ 350F in a convection oven. 18-19 mins for a slightly softer center (which matched some Carol samples I had. Some had slightly soft, doughy centers -- which were incredibly good when reheated slightly).

Cool for 30 mins, then directly into the freezer for 12 hours. Defrost in the fridge, then eat. A big, tall cookie that's not at all "cake-like" -- just dense, slightly chewy, with an interior texture identical to Carol's. I'd venture to say that this was *slightly* better than Carol's (or at least that's the opinion of the tasters -- however, our Carol's samples were from Whole Foods, so it's hard to tell how fresh they were. I assume they were pretty fresh, though.)

A couple other things I did:

- Made the roux with the Euro butter and flour, dumped it into a mini food processor. It was very warm, but I went ahead and pulsed it, then I added the salt and baking soda, pulsed it, then added the egg and vanilla -- pulsed it. At this point, it was cooler, so I just dumped it into a bowl, added a handful of chips, and pressed everything together with my fingers just barely wet with cold water. Another batch I made -- identical -- didn't hold together at all. So I added a bit of Grand Marnier (I just happened to have it sitting on the counter) -- a tiny bit, maybe a 1/4 tsp -- and this held it. No taste in the final product -- and no real difference in the texture. Previously (before I narrowed down the ratios and realized that the crumbly texture is the real secret here) I tried a bit of heavy cream to bind it, but the cream *did* change the cookie -- flattened it out and didn't give it the fat look of Carol's cookie. The cookie with the cream tasted really good -- thinner -- and it looked like a prototypical "chocolate chip cookie" is supposed to look: thinnish, chewy and dense. It's a great cookie, just not a Carol's clone.

- I also tried adding a bit more egg -- even tried the hardboiled egg route -- but beyond a tablespoon of egg and the cookie's texture became too cakey -- and not very good. The hardboiled egg -- actually one half of a hardboiled egg -- worked but only when I also added a bit of water (maybe 1/2 teaspoon or so). I think the moisture of the egg helps hold it together, so I'd recommend just lightly scrambling a single egg in a bowl, measure out just smidge less than a tablespoon, and then discarding (or using in something else) the rest of the egg.

- Preheated a Breville convection oven for about 15 mins to 350F. Baked on a cookie sheet with parchment. The recipe makes a cookie that's slightly smaller -- but just as dense -- as Carol's. I tried fiddling with the egg (adding more to add moisture -- but it made it too cakey) and fiddling with the sugar ratios (I used dark brown sugar and found that the more brown sugar, the better the taste -- and the closer to Carol's) and even tried splitting the batch into 2 cookies (but one big cookie seemed to work the best).

- I'm not sure the freezing and defrosting makes that much of a difference, but the defrosted cookies do have a slightly different -- better, I suppose -- texture -- so there might be something to this. Hard to tell.

Feb 06, 2012
bobbyrolla in Home Cooking