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Top Tips for Beer & Food Matching - Beer & Chocolate

In the second of a series which shows how to get the best from some specific food and beer pairings, our expert columnist and food blogger Kristin Jensen gives her tips on matching beer and chocolate. Prepare to be surprised!

Beer and … chocolate? It’s probably not the first pairing that springs to mind, but they’re a beautiful match. ‘No wine can match chocolate desserts nearly as well as the right beer,’ writes Garrett Oliver in The Brewmaster’s Table, and stout or porter are the perfect partners for chocolate and chocolate desserts.

Pairing stout and chocolate is a case of complementing (as opposed to contrasting) the common flavours to pick up on the toasted, roasted and bitter flavours in each of them. The roasted malts in stouts and porters often naturally lend coffee and chocolate flavours to the beer, while Lucy Saunders, writing in The Best of American Beer and Food, says that ‘the flavours of dark roasted barley meld with the aromatics of roasted cocoa and the buttery notes of the finished chocolate’. Sometimes chocolate is even added directly to the beer itself in the brewing process.

‘Best of all,’ writes Lucy Saunders, ‘many styles of craft beer make the flavours of chocolate expand on the palate. The combination of malt and carbonation creates a textural pairing on the palate. Often, wine can’t stand up to the richness and bittersweet flavours of chocolate, while craft beer extends and lifts the flavours of chocolate.’ In other words, the right match can make the chocolate taste even better – what’s not to like about that?

Stout works exceptionally well in baked goods (think chocolate stout cake or porter brownies), but for a Valentine’s Day treat that will be a hit with guys and girls alike, try these chocolate stout truffles with a deep, dark, bitter edge – just like love?

Also, with Valentine’s just marking the beginning of the spring chocolate season, which goes pretty much over the top at Easter, keep this recipe handy: make them egg-shaped instead of the usual balls, and these truffles will be just the ticket for your Easter petits fours.

Chocolate Stout TrufflesChocolate Stout Truffles

Makes about 24 truffles

Dungarvan Brewing Company’s Coffee and Oatmeal Stout, Eight Degrees Brewing Company’s Knockmealdown Porter or Trouble Brewing’s Dark Arts Porter would all be excellent choices, either to use in the truffles themselves or to sip alongside them.

250 ml stout
200 g dark chocolate, chopped or broken into pieces
100 ml double cream
a few tablespoons of cocoa powder, to dust

Place the stout in a saucepan and bring to the boil, watching it carefully to make sure it doesn’t bubble over, which it’s bound to do the moment you turn your back on it. Reduce the heat to a lively simmer until the stout has reduced to 50 ml. Remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water (a bain marie), making sure the chocolate never comes into direct contact with the water. Place the cream in a separate small saucepan and heat it through.

Allow the chocolate to melt, then stir in the cream, which will thicken the chocolate. Gradually whisk in the reduced stout. Don’t worry if the mixture looks grainy or if it starts to separate – just whisk like mad until it turns smooth and shiny and the stout is fully incorporated.

Spread the chocolate into a shallow casserole dish or tray. Cover the dish with cling film and set aside at room temperature for a few hours, until the mixture firms up. You could also put it in the fridge overnight, then set it out to come back to room temperature when you’re ready to form the truffles (fridge-cold chocolate will be too hard to scoop).

Fill up your sink with some warm soapy water or have a damp cloth ready so that you can clean your hands if you need to as you go along.

Sift a few tablespoons of cocoa powder into a bowl or a shallow plate. Use a teaspoon or melon baller to scoop out a little chocolate, then form the chocolate into small, bite-sized balls by rolling the mixture between your hands. Gently roll the truffles around in the cocoa power until they’re thinly coated. Store the truffles in the fridge.

Kristin Jensen is a freelance editor specialising in cookery and food books and has worked with many of Ireland's top food writers and chefs. She writes the Edible Ireland blog and is a co-founder of the Irish Food Bloggers Association

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