In the Fall 2018 issue of Sift Magazine, cookbook author Lori Rice shares her wisdom about baking with beer. While most bakers are accustomed to reaching for spirits to accent their baked goods, the range of flavor profiles found in beer is much wider. With so many styles of beer to choose from, how do you know which is best for the recipe you want to make? Come explore with us.
Beer is a truly underutilized baking ingredient, considering that it can have flavors from citrus and coriander to pepper, vanilla, and caramel. But where to start?
Which beer for which recipe?
Baking with beer starts with flavor and moves into science. Because of its carbonation, it assists with leavening baked goods. When used as the liquid in a recipe, it gives extra lift and tender texture to breads and cakes.
If you're new to baking with beer, porters and stouts are the best place to begin. Because they're brewed with dark roasted malt, they lend flavor notes of cocoa and coffee.
Porters lean more toward chocolate and malted flavors with less bitterness. Stouts offer a more intense bitter coffee flavor and are often higher in alcohol. Used in caramel, stout is reduced with the cream as the caramel cooks.
This Milk Stout Caramel Tart is complex and well balanced, the bitter from the stout in harmony with sweet caramel. A sprinkling of flaky salt is the crowning touch.
In our Chocolate Pecan Coconut Porter Cake, we use porter for part of the cake's liquid, which gives it a unique fluffy texture.
Bourbon Barrel-Aged Blondies (shown in our opening photo), have just a few tablespoons of barrel-aged beer for flavor, much the same as you'd add a healthy splash of vanilla extract.
All hail brown ale
When baking with beer, amber and brown ales behave just as nicely as porters and stouts. Their low bitterness and nutty flavor with hints of caramel work well with cookies, pies, and sweet sauces.
We've been especially fond of the complex note amber ale gives to these Ginger Molasses Amber Ale Cookies. The first step is reducing the beer to a syrup, which concentrates its flavor. When added to the cookie dough, it balances the raisins and spice in every bite.
Paler brews like lagers and Witbiers with citrus and coriander notes do great things for cakes with similar flavors.
Try pairing them with bold citrus in this Blood Orange Witbier Cake. You'll be amazed at how well this combination works.
Tips for baking with beer
- Use freshly opened, room-temperature beer. Pour it out and let it sit for 5 minutes before adding to the recipe. This lets the foam dissipate and releases some of the carbonation.
- Beer works better with full-fat dairy. It's acidic and can curdle lower-fat ingredients.
- Beer desserts are best when fresh. The flavor of the beer can change over time, so bake and serve on the same day if you can.
With so many styles and flavors available, baking with beer is an adventure you can try over and over. Explore your local craft brews and let us know how you'd like to use them in the comments below. You'll be amazed at all the great baking you've been missing.
If you'd like to catch up on stories you may have missed in Sift, check out back issues of the magazine.