Sunday, July 13, 2014

Beer Caramel Chocolate Almond Bar Cookies

Much like mushrooms springing from front yard mulch after the rain, brewpubs are popping up all over Pittsburgh. Among them, is a fledgling spot down the Ohio River that stands out from the (6?) pack. It's not because it's the biggest or has the most taps or even that it has the catchiest name, Aurochs Brewing Company is the only exclusively gluten-free brewery in the 'Burgh.

Ryan Bove, one of the owners of Aurochs, recently led me through the the brewery on Ohio River Boulevard in Emsworth and it didn't take long. The space is cavernous, while currently the brewing capacity is quite modest....BUT...their plans for the future are BIG.

Aurochs current brewing set up.

We stood in the well lit, mostly empty, cement floored warehouse/brewing area while I learned of all that is planned to fill Aurochs to capacity - future big mash tuns, brewing kettles, settling tanks and such. I like an organization with an eye to the future!

Just imagine the gluten-free beer glory to come!

While we talked about plans yet to be realized for Aurochs, one that Ryan told me about was their hopes for a tasting room at Soergel's Farm Market in Wexford. Why Soergel's? Ryan's partner, Doug Foster, is married to Amy Soergel. An Aurochs tasting room at Soergel's is particularly appropos since Soergel's grows some of the hops for Aurochs' brews. 

When the Soergel's tasting room becomes reality, I'm looking forward to some great Soergel's BBQ on a soft gluten-free bun accompanied by a cold, crisp gluten-free Aurochs beer. (If you haven't had the pleasure of BBQ pork, chicken and beef from the huge smoker at Soergel's, get you some NOW!)

What was the best part of the tour? The part when Mark and I got to taste and enjoy two of the brews produced on the premises. We each tried both the White Ale and the Amber Ale. My favorite for a hot and steamy Pittsburgh summer day was definitely the cold, crisp and refreshing White Ale. 

White Ale on the left, Amber Ale on the right.

The slightly smoky and caramel-y, fuller bodied Amber Ale was what we bought by the growler...I had plans myself for this lovely brew in an old favorite cookie I hadn't had in many years. 

Natchez cookies. An easy to make crisp, caramel and chocolate cookie - sort of like a Heath Bar on a crunchy crust - was smack dab on my radar with a few small adjustments to make them gluten-free. The crust, normally a simple layer of graham crackers, would now consist of Glutino gluten free table crackers original premium squares. The caramel? Beer caramel now....with the Aurochs Amber Ale.

Here's Ryan!

The assembly went like this. I placed the crackers edge to edge in a rimmed baking sheet, then (carefully) poured hot, bubbling caramel over the tops, popped the sheet (again, carefully) into the oven until the caramel became a beautiful shade of deep, dark brown, then took the pan out of the oven. Once the caramel had cooled a bit, I sprinkled chocolate chips over the top, let them melt and spread the chocolate evenly over all, then finally scattered sliced honeyed almonds over everything. Once the pan cooled, it was time to break them into cookie-sized pieces and enjoy!

Like Aurochs, I have plans for the future, too...using their product! Already I'm planning on making gluten-free beer battered onion rings - something we gluten-free folk NEVER get. For Thanksgiving I'm already thinking how a chocolate pecan pie with a good dark stout would really make for a festive finish to our family feast!

Speaking of plans, I just got word of Aurochs' new regular schedule at 8321 Ohio River Boulevard in Emsworth. Starting August 7th, they'll be open Thursdays & Fridays 4:00-8:00 p.m. and Saturdays noon-6:00 p.m. Maybe I'll see you all there sometime soon!

Beer Caramel Chocolate Almond Bar Cookies

  • 16 Glutino Gluten Free Table Crackers - Original Premium Squares (7 oz. package) to make these GF (or equivalent of graham crackers if gluten isn't an issue)
  • 2 T gluten-free beer syrup (boil down 1 cup to 2 T - watch carefully at the end as it seems to go quickly then!)
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 C dark brown sugar
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  •  12 oz bag Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet chocolate chips - my favorite brand - real chocolate without that waxy component
  • 1 1/2 C Trader Joe's (or like brand) Honey Roasted Almonds - these are sliced, not whole
  • parchment paper to line the 11" X 17" rimmed baking sheet plus Pam spray to spray the parchment paper with (just for good measure)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut parchment paper to just fit the inside of the rimmed pan and spray with Pam, letting the spray hit the inside rim, too. Again...for good measure. 

Arrange the crackers edge to edge as in the photo below. You may have to overlap ever so slightly. No big deal.

In a small, deep pot, boil 1 C beer down to 2 T. Watch carefully towards the end as it goes quickly then. 

To the 2 T beer syrup in the pot, add the butter and dark brown sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the sugar is completely dissolved. Continue to boil until the contents become slightly syrupy. Remove the pot from the heat and carefully add will boil up slightly!

Again, carefully pour he caramel over the crackers in the baking sheet. Use an offset spatula to even the caramel out to cover all crackers all the way to the edges. Carefully put the pan into the oven and bake approximately 20 minutes - more or less. Watch for the caramel to stop being liquid-y and start looking "set." Remove from oven.

Wait just a minute before evenly scattering the chocolate chips over the caramel. Wait another minute. Using an offset spatula, spread the melting chocolate evenly over the top until the caramel is completely covered. 

Wait another minute and scatter the almonds over the top - evenly, of course. Put your hand into a plastic sandwich bag and gently press the almonds into the chocolate.

Let the pan of bar cookies cool and set completely on a cooling rack. Once the chocolate is set, slide a knife under an edge of the cookies, lift up the edge and start breaking the cookies into large "cookie size" pieces. I guess that measurement depends on how big you like your cookies....bite size or giant size...go for it!

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