What Beer Can Add to a Recipe

As a savvy brewer, you take simple quality ingredients and—with practical knowledge and techniques—combine them for the best results. When you think about adding an ingredient to a brew recipe, you think about what the ingredient can contribute to the overall flavor profile that you are trying to achieve. Cooking with beer is much like brewing in this sense. You want to choose the right beer flavor and style to create the taste and texture you want on your plate.

Back to the Future

While cooking with beer has really moved beyond fried fish and the infamous beer bread, we can learn something from a quick look at those recipes. Think about the best fried fish you ever ate. The batter was probably light but crunchy, and the fish was rich and flaky. There is a good chance that the fish you have in mind was made with a beer batter. Adding beer to the batter enhances the texture of the fried fish because when the fish hits the hot oil, CO2 in the beer is released, creating air in the coating. This then provides that nice light crunch without having to overcook the fish inside. Think about how the same kind of batter might work with eggplant or zucchini.

Who doesn’t love beer bread for its dense but tender texture, sweet flavor, and nice chew? The use of beer in the bread helps produce this tasty result. As you mix bread, proteins in the flour become hydrated and gluten strands form. Sugar in the beer counteracts this process as it fights for the liquid. This process keeps the bread from rising too much and helps create that tasty tender texture.

In addition, the yeast in the beer is a natural leavening agent. I recently experimented with bread baked with bottle-conditioned beer, and the bread had a beautiful rise in the oven due in part to the addition of the fresh yeast at bottling.

With more than 100 recipes (and mouthwatering photos of every dish), there’s nothing in the world of cooking with craft beer like Craft Beer & Brewing’s new cookbook, The Craft Beer Kitchen. Order your copy today!

Moving On

Let’s move past fish and bread and onto more complex reasons for cooking with beer—it tastes great and makes your food better. Using the right beer in your recipe can intensify the flavors already present. For example, malty brown ale added to your stew brings out the sweet flavor of the carrots and tenderizes the beef. A hoppy IPA sauce can create a bright note with just enough bitterness to balance a fruit-stuffed pork roast. (Just be careful not to over-reduce your sauce when using a hoppy beer because the bitterness will increase as it reduces.)

Sweet stout with lactic sugars or chocolate malts can really intensify the taste of both caramel and chocolate in cakes and brownies. Replace half of the milk in a standard chocolate cake recipe with stout, keeping the amount of cocoa or chocolate the same. The result will be a cake with significantly more chocolate flavor, and the taste will linger longer. Keep in mind that more mature beers, such as barrel-aged stouts, will provide more intense flavors and at times can overpower other flavors in the cake. Experiment. Discover what you like.

Sour beers have become an ultimate passion for many, and because of the funky flavor from the wild yeast, they can create a unique flavor profile in many recipes. You can simply use a sour beer in place of vinegar in your next salad dressing. Or try making a pickling liquid with a sour beer and spices. If you choose a sour with a mild malt profile, you’ll have the perfect balance for pickling. If you open a Gose for this purpose, you will get the benefit of the yeast as well as the salt used in the beer-making process. You can even use sour beer as a substitute for lemon juice to make homemade cheese.

Keep in mind that when you’re cooking with beer, you should use beer that you actually like to drink. I don’t recommend using up that first homebrew (yes, you know the one) in a dish; the beer won’t get any better when cooked. Again, experiment. Substitute beer for wine, stock, or water. Try different styles and flavors and—just as you do if you’re brewing—keep notes on what works and what doesn’t. As with brewing, you can enjoy the process of cooking with beer as well as the result. Bon Appétit!

Deja un comentario