What’s on tap?
By Stefanie Wallace
Beer, traditionally enjoyed alongside chicken wings while watching the
big game, is beginning to earn the flavour credit it deserves. The
number of craft breweries – and the flavours and types of beer available
– is ever-growing. Jackie Dodd recognized the beverage’s versatility
long before it became trendy.
Beer, traditionally enjoyed alongside chicken wings while watching the big game, is beginning to earn the flavour credit it deserves. The number of craft breweries – and the flavours and types of beer available – is ever-growing. Jackie Dodd recognized the beverage’s versatility long before it became trendy. Better known online as The Beeroness, the California-based blogger has been captivated by craft beer for years. Nearly two years ago, she decided to foray into cooking and baking with beer and searched for recipes to test, without much luck.
“People cook with wine all the time and I wanted to start cooking with beer,” she says. “It isn’t as well-navigated as the cooking-with-wine world, but a lot of the properties are still the same.”
Dodd, who didn’t have any previous culinary training, launched TheBeeroness.com and began developing recipes. These days, her recipes have become so popular that a cookbook is in the works, with an expected publish date in October – just in time for Oktoberfest. She favours beer as an ingredient when baking and cooking for three main reasons. First is flavour, especially when it comes to craft beers.
“The great thing about craft beer is that it’s made with fruits and spices and great flavours that come across in your baked goods,” she says. “If you’re used to using just water especially in your breads, you get a layer of flavour that you wouldn’t get with just water.”
Secondly, beer acts as a mild leavening agent, giving things such as cakes and cookies a great texture. She recommends stout for items such as chocolate cake or brownies, as the stout keeps the batter fairly light while still maintaining the richness.
Finally, beer is a great meat tenderizer, making it ideal for marinades and sauces, which is where many begin to experiment. However, the options don’t end here.
“It’s more than just a novelty,” she says.
Where to begin?
Adding beer to your recipes may sound like a great idea, but finding a starting point can be daunting. If you’re open to adapting one of your current recipes, find a beer that complements the flavours. If you find a beer that you really like, and decide to use it as a starting point for something new, Dodd advises being conscious of the flavour notes in the beer to determine what it will match well with. Inspiration can come from anywhere.
“Sometimes I like to take what should be a sweet dish and decide how to change it up, like making a spiced chocolate brownie. It goes either way, but be really mindful of what flavours are in the recipe and in the beer.”
Lots of test runs are necessary, especially if you’re hesitant to alter a tried-and-true recipe.
“If I’m going from an existing recipe, I usually make it at least twice. When I start, I replace half of the liquid with beer,” Dodd says.
She sticks to a general rule of thumb: if the liquid is just water, a straight-across swap for beer is usually fine. However, be mindful of what you are replacing, and the effect it could have on your final product. Beer is more bitter than water, so it’s important to remember to compensate by adding some extra sweetness. Dodd advises adding about a tablespoon of sugar for every one-third cup of beer. If the liquid you are replacing with beer has a high fat content, like buttermilk, whole milk or cream, be sure to compensate for the fat you are taking away. Dodd suggests adding an additional egg yolk or some butter.
Trial and error come in handy here, just as in any recipe development. After her first test run, Dodd tries the recipe out again, this time replacing all of the liquid with beer.
“Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it’s a little too much.”
Over her years of baking and cooking with beer, Dodd has learned several tips to remember when baking and cooking with beer; one notable one being that alcohol intensifies spiciness.
“If you have a recipe that calls for any kind of spice, know that adding any type of alcohol – beer included – ups the spiciness of the dish.”
Another tip to keep in mind is the bitterness factor. Beers are assigned an International Bitterness Unit (IBU) number: the higher the IBU number, the more intense the beer flavour is going to be.
“For the most part, [this intense flavour] can be too overwhelming in dishes where the beer needs to be cooked,” Dodd explains.
This is especially true for beers with a very high hop content, such as an India Pale Ale (IPA), or for a recipe that requires the beer to be reduced. In this case, look for a beer with a lower hop content.
“One of my go-to beers is a hefeweizen because it tends to be the most predictable when cooked,” Dodd says. “But I love IPAs, and if I find an IPA that I really love, I usually use it in marinades or something that doesn’t require any reducing or cooking.”
The high hop content can work in your favour, too.
“If you do have a recipe where only a little bit of beer is needed, using a high-hop beer like an IPA will give you that stronger punch of beer flavour.” Bear in mind that a higher hop content means a higher IBU number.
Whether in chocolate stout cake or honey wheat dinner rolls, beer can add unique flavours and textures to your baked goods. With a growing craft beer scene and the complex flavours craft brews have to offer, the opportunities for experimentation are endless.
Here are Jackie Dodd’s top tips to remember when baking with beer.
Match your recipe and beer wisely. Be mindful of the flavour of beer you’re using and the outcome you want from the recipe.
When you’re replacing water, a straight-across swap is usually fine in terms of quantity. But remember to add sugar to balance the bitter flavour you’re adding.
If you’re adding beer in place of liquid with a high fat content such as oil or buttermilk, add in some extra fat (such as butter or an egg yolk) to compensate for what you’re removing.
The higher the hop content, the higher the bitterness factor. Use high-hop beers when you need only a bit of beer.
Let your customers know there’s alcohol in your final product. Alcohol cooks off, making it safe for pregnant women and children, but there could be other reasons for your customers to choose not to consume something with beer as an ingredient. Whether it be lifestyle or religion, it’s respectful to let people know alcohol is an ingredient in your baked goods.
Hefeweizen Honey Rolls
Makes 16 large rolls.