Last week was truly mad. Every day I got a different piece of good news: my Mexican Chilli Dogs recipe was featured in Easy Food Magazine's latest issue; I took part on Donal Skehan's HomeCooked blog tour and my blog was featured in Morrison's Magazine's Pick of the Best Food Blogs for the month. Yet, the best piece of news I got, was completely unexpected and truly fabulous: I got my name in the label of an Irish craft stout beer!!
Yes, you heard it, yours truly found her name and her little shop's name in the label of Eight Degrees Brewing latest brewing experiment! The limited edition Back to Black range, which includes the fabulous Aztec Stout has my name on it. How in the hell did I manage to pull that one off? - I hear you ask. Well, it all started a few months back, when I got a message from the lovely Caroline Hennessy from Bibliocook, who apart from being our friend, happens to be married to Scott, head kiwi brewer at Eight Degrees Brewing. We had a nice chat about Mexican dried chiles and after a few back and forth messages and a couple of transport disasters we arranged for a few bags of smoky chipotle chilies to make it all the way to County Cork, where the Eight Degrees Brewing guys experimented away with them.
Excitingly, when their Back to Black Limited Edition Range came out, I was delighted to find the result in the form of Aztec Stout, a wonderful Irish stout with the addition of chipotle chilies, chocolate, vanilla and a touch of cinnamon. The result is a deliciously smooth, rich, dark ale with a hint of smokiness and a tiny little bit of heat that lingers in your mouth. We absolutely loved it! I was so excited to see it out, that I completely missed the fact that the guys at Eight Degrees had included a little mention for me and the shop in the beer label!!
Those of you who know me, are fully aware that I'm not a beer drinker, but I adore cooking and baking with beer, so my head was spinning with recipe ideas for the new Aztec Stout. What better way to review it but by making something tasty with it! So I rushed to my nearest stockist in Dublin, Baggot Street Wines, and bought a bunch of bottles and by evening time, I was trying my first recipe with them.
I decided to make Mexican Hojarascas first. They are an old Christmas tradition at home. They are a beer and lard cookie with a beautifully light and crumbly texture covered in sugar and cinnamon for good measure. My mother has made these cookies for years and they were one of the first baked goods I mastered when I moved to Ireland. Luckily, I had a tub of Old Farm's White Gold pure leaf lard, which is my favourite lard in the whole wide world, so by evening time and after a couple of adjustments to my original recipe, which uses lager for it, I had a batch of these cooking in the oven.
This recipe is the first of my cooking adventures with Aztec Stout. I was super pleased with the results. Hope you like them too!
Start by getting the spiced coating ready. In a shallow bowl, mix the caster sugar, cinnamon and chipotle chili powder (see note regarding chipotle powder). Set aside for later.
This step might cause you a few sneezes, but the addition of the chipotle chili powder, although a bit unorthodox, is well worth it as it adds a hint of heat and goes very well with the sugar and cinnamon.
Put the flour, lard, cookeen, salt, sugar and chopped pecan nuts in a large bowl.
Pour the stout over the ingredients and using your hands, mix it all up to a dough. The mix should be soft but not wet. The amount of stout can vary slightly depending on temperature or weather, if you feel the dough is not coming together, add a little bit more stout. Bear in mind that the heat of your hands will heat the lard up melting it and making it easier to work.
Divide the dough in two and transfer one half into a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a circle of about 1/4 of a inch in thickness. Using your favourite cookie cutters, cut shapes into the circle and lay them on non-stick baking trays. No need to grease or lined them, the lard content in these cookies makes it very hard for them to stick.
Bake them in a preheated oven at 180° Celsius for 18 to 20 minutes. The cookies must be golden brown on the bottom, but do not need to be fully brown on the top side. As soon as the cookies are out of the oven, dip them in the spiced coating, making sure the cookies are well covered in the spiced sugary mix. Set them on a plate to cool and repeat step 3 to 5 until all the dough has been used.
These cookies keep well in an air tight container for up to a week. They're soft, crumbly and very tasty. I love them with a cold glass of milk for merienda (afternoon tea) and at home, we leave them out on Christmas even for Santa to snack on them, but we added a twist to it! Naughty or nice? only Santa knows!