Liquid Ingredients

By Elizabeth Winslow
Photography by Whitney Arostegui 

You’ve no doubt heard the sage advice handed down from cook to cook that you should never cook with any wine you wouldn’t drink. As someone who likes to sip while I stir, I couldn’t agree more. The same can also be said about the many other liquids we use for culinary purposes—their quality, too, should be given attention. Think rich and creamy local milk, spicy and complex handcrafted root beer, bright and hoppy German-style pilsner beer, puckery handmade citrus liqueur, fresh summer-melon juice, sun-brewed peach tea and locally distilled small-batch whiskey.

 Here, we break out the good stuff and let the liquid ingredients of our dishes do the shining. These delicious do-ahead summer recipes are a great excuse to gather friends on the porch for a lazy evening of conversation, dining and sipping—and all the more reason to pop open a bottle or a can of something new while you’re cooking!


Chocolate Root Beer Cake

Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking © Stewart, Tabori & Chang (2008) by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

For the cake:
2 c. Maine Root root beer
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
½ c. unsalted butter, cut into 1-in. pieces, plus extra for the pan
1¼ c. sugar
½ c. firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 c. all-purpose flour, plus extra for the pan
1¼ t. baking soda
1 t. salt
2 large eggs

For the frosting:
2 oz. dark chocolate (60% cacao), melted and cooled slightly
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 t. salt
¼ c. Maine Root root beer
2/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2½ c. powdered sugar

Make the cake. Preheat the oven to 325°. Butter and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan and knock out the excess flour. In a small saucepan, heat the root beer, cocoa powder and butter over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add the sugars and whisk until dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until just beaten, then whisk them into the cooled cocoa mixture until combined. Gently fold the flour mixture into the cocoa mixture. The batter will be slightly lumpy—do not overbeat, as it could cause the cake to be tough. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes—rotating the pan halfway through the baking time—until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Using a thin knife, gently loosen the sides of the cake from the pan and turn it out onto the rack.

Make the frosting. Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and pulse in short bursts until the frosting is shiny and smooth. Use a spatula to spread the fudge frosting over the crown of the Bundt cake in a thick layer. Let the frosting set before serving. Serve with or without vanilla ice cream.


Lemon Pound Cake
Courtesy of Jeanne Chauvin

For the cake:
1 c. butter, softened, plus extra for the pan
¼ c. vegetable oil
3 c. sugar
5 eggs
3 c. all-purpose flour, plus extra for the pan
1 c. milk
1 t. Paula’s Texas Lemon liqueur

For the glaze:
½ c. sugar
½ c. water
1 t. grated lemon zest
¼ c. Paula’s Texas Lemon liqueur

Preheat the oven to 300°. Butter and flour a 10-inch tube pan. Using a handheld mixer at medium speed, beat the butter in a large bowl—gradually adding the oil and beating until well blended. Gradually add the sugar and beat well. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition. Alternately add the flour and milk to the creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour—mixing just until blended after each addition. Stir in the liqueur. Pour the batter into the prepared tube pan and bake for 1½ hours, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove from the pan and place directly on the wire rack.

Combine the glaze ingredients—stirring until the sugar dissolves. Brush the lemon glaze on the sides of cake and spoon over the top a little at a time. Let the lemon pound cake cool completely.


Beer Batter Bread

Courtesy of Stephan Pyles, Chef/Owner, Stephan Pyles Concepts

3 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
3 T. sugar
1 t. salt
1 12-oz. local beer (We used Pearl-Snap from Austin Beerworks.)
¼ c. butter, melted, plus extra unmelted butter for the pan

Preheat the oven to 375°. Butter a 9-inch loaf pan and set aside. Place the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir to blend. Add the beer all at once and stir just until mixed (do not overwork the batter!) Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth out, then pour melted butter over the top. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the loaf comes out clean. Serve with pimiento cheese and pickled chow-chow.

Quick-Pickled Chow-Chow

1 medium zucchini, diced
1 medium yellow squash, diced
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 ear of corn, kernels removed
1 bunch green onions, sliced into thin rings (white part only)
1 c. rice wine vinegar
2 T. sugar

Combine the vegetables in a large bowl, then pack them into a quart-size jar. Heat the vinegar and sugar until the sugar dissolves, then pour over the vegetables in the jar. Allow to sit for at least 1 hour before serving.


Peach Tea Rumble
Courtesy of Jessica Evans, Zhi Tea

Serves 8

4 c. water
4 c. Zhi Tea’s Fredericksburg Peach Iced Tea, brewed
  and cooled
12 oz. tangerine juice with pulp
6 oz. peach nectar (or homemade puree)
3 c. bourbon or Rumble (Rumble, from Balcones Distilling is
  made from Texas wildflower honey, organic turbinado sugar   
  and dried Mission figs.)
4 oz. Paula’s Texas Orange liqueur
Splash of agave syrup
Fresh mint, to garnish

Mix all of the ingredients in large pitcher and place in the freezer a day before enjoying. When ready to serve, thaw until slushy and pourable. Garnish with mint.

Chicken in Milk

Reprinted with permission from Jamie Oliver: Happy Days with the Naked Chef

Serves 4

1 4-lb. organic chicken
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 stick of butter
Olive oil
½ cinnamon stick
1 good handful of fresh sage, leaves picked
Zest of 2 lemons
10 cloves of garlic, skin left on
2 cups milk*

Preheat the oven to 375°, and find a snug-fitting pot for the chicken. Season it generously all over, and fry it in the butter and a little olive oil, turning the chicken to get an even color all over, until golden. Remove from the heat, put the chicken on a plate, and throw away the oil and butter left in the pot. This will leave you with tasty sticky goodness at the bottom of the pan, which will give you a lovely caramel flavor later on.

Put your chicken back in the pot with the rest of the ingredients, and cook in the preheated oven for 1½ hours. Baste with the cooking juice when you remember. The lemon zest will sort of split the milk, making a sauce that is absolutely fantastic.

To serve, pull the meat off the bones and divide it onto your plates. Spoon over plenty of juice and the little curds.

*Texas Daily Harvest and Mill-King both offer low-temperature-pasteurized milk at Austin-area farmers markets.


Picante Galia Melon Ice Pops
Adapted with permission from Sweet Cream & Sugar Cones by Kris Hoogerhyde, Anne Walker and Dabney Gough, copyright © 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

Makes 8 3-ounce ice pops

1 small Galia melon (about 2¼ lb.), peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
½ c. simple syrup (equal amounts of water and sugar, heated until sugar dissolves), cooled and divided
2 T. freshly squeezed lime juice, strained
¼ t. kosher salt
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
Special equipment: 8 3-oz. ice-pop molds (or shot glasses) and popsicle sticks

In a food processor or blender, puree the melon until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium-size bowl. Add 6 tablespoons of the simple syrup, then the lime juice, salt and cayenne and taste. It should taste just a bit too sweet (once frozen, it will lose some of its sweetness). Add the remaining simple syrup if needed. Transfer to a liquid measuring cup and pour into ice-pop molds (or shot glasses as shown in our photograph). Insert the sticks and freeze until completely solid, about 4 hours. Unmold just before serving.