With a chill in the air and Halloween just around the corner, one thing is abundantly clear: It's butterbeer season!
Harry Potter fans are intimately aware of butterbeer. We salivated over J.K. Rowling's pages, reading about our magical heroes venturing into Hogsmeade for a pint of butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks. The drink seemed so delicious, so autumnal, so fictionally unattainable. That is, until a few years ago, when my friend provided me with what she referred to as the official recipe for butterbeer.
This year, I couldn't go to my friend's annual harvest party, where butterbeer is doled out in an endless carousel of frosty mugs, so I decided to make the drink myself. My cooking skills are notorious for being perfectly abysmal, but I thought, "How hard can it be to make a silly kids drink?"
Before venturing on this culinary journey, my friend reassured me that as long as I hit the three main components of butterbeer, failure would be an impossibility:
1) It must taste like butterscotch.
2) It must have a frothy head.
3) It must be nonalcoholic.
The recipe stayed next to me as I diligently worked, but somehow the final product came out tasting a little ... different. Sure, I made a few alterations, but everyone knows that a good chef improvises. For the life of me, I can't figure out what I did wrong.
—In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 cup of brown sugar with 2 tablespoons of water. Bring to a boil, stirring often, until the mixture reads 240F on a candy thermometer.
First of all, who owns measuring cups? Second, what in heaven's name is a candy thermometer? And brown sugar? Harry Potter and friends are getting pretty snooty with their highbrow British ingredients. I add a few handfuls of white sugar and a splash of water to the pan. Turn on high. Forget to stir. Get distracted by "Dumb and Dumber To" commercial. Return to smell of burning. Quickly put pan in sink. Run water over burnt, hard, sugar-crusted pan bottom.
—Stir in 6 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of cider vinegar and 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Set aside to cool.
Replace cider vinegar with the only vinegar I have: balsamic. Add in the butter, salt and whole milk. Who owns heavy cream? Stir ingredients into the water that sits atop the crust of burnt sugar. Use a knife to crack apart the burnt sugar on the bottom. That should do the trick. Walk away and allow ingredients to blend. Well, blend-ish.
—Once mixture has cooled, stir in 1/2 teaspoon of rum extract.
Easy peasy. The sugar is still supposed to be burnt on the bottom of the pan or in hard black chunks floating around, right?
—Make the frothy topping by combining 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar mixture to 1/2 cup of whipping cream in a mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat until thickened.
Dip into saucepan of buttery balsamic milk mixture, scraping the hard sugar on the bottom to get black specks of burnt sugar onto a spoon, and add to bowl. Find coffee creamers stolen from restaurants in my fridge. Assume they will work better than adding more milk. Empty those contents into bowl. Take a fork and whisk ingredients as fast and hard as I can for as long as I can. A few minutes later, admire the black-speckled gray liquid but wonder why it hasn't thickened.
—To serve, pour the brown sugar mixture from the saucepan into 4 cups. Add 1/4 cup of cream soda to each cup. Stir. Then spoon the whipped topping over each cup for the frothy top.
Pour the buttery balsamic milk into a cup. Find most of the sugar still burnt on the bottom of the pan. Attempt to scrape up more sugar with a steak knife. Cut finger. Get bandage. Abandon brown sugar mission. Add cream soda to cups. Stir. Add the "frothy" topping that never actually thickened. Stir again. Create a new frothy head by adding actual whipped cream to the top. Wonder why I didn't think of that in the first place.
—Sip and enjoy.
Sip and spit out. Return to kitchen. Pull ice cream out of the freezer and place in bowl. Walk to liquor cabinet and cover ice cream with rum and butterscotch schnapps. Close enough.
Like Katiedid Langrock on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/katiedidhumor. Check out her column at http://didionsbible.com. To find out more about Katiedid Langrock and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.