Baking with your favorite brews

This week's Think Beer…Drink Beer looks at us­ing beers as an in­gredi­ent in bak­ing.

Ob­vi­ously the best thing one can do with beer is drink it.

However, like wine, beer can be used in a vari­ety of ways in the kit­chen.

Plenty of cooks make beer-can chick­en, and some­times a stout is the per­fect thing to en­hance your bar­be­cue sauce. 

But the use of beer in bak­ing of­ten gets over­looked, which is a shame since it can really en­hance some baked goods.

To bet­ter ex­plain how to bake with beer, I’ve en­lis­ted the help of Justin Relkin, pastry chef at Sup­per (at 926 South St.), a gradu­ate of John­son and Wales Col­lege of Culin­ary Arts and vet­er­an pastry chef at res­taur­ants such as Parc and Barclay Prime.

Justin is no stranger to work­ing with beer; he has made an­niversary beer cakes for the Fishtown Beer Run­ners (on­line at www.fishtown­beer­run­ that in­cluded a stout cake lay­er and can­died Walt Wit, as well ex­per­i­ment­ing with sour­dough bread made with the Vic­tory Brew­ing Co.’s Hop Dev­il beer.

The first thing to keep in mind with bak­ing is to pick the right re­cipe.

Look for re­cipes with a good amount of li­quid. 

“Cook­ie dough would be a bad idea,” said Justin. “There is such a small amount (of li­quid) and you wouldn’t taste the beer.”

Cakes and breads are more ideal.

You can sub­sti­tute beer for any li­quid, wheth­er it is milk, wa­ter or juice.

Justin poin­ted out one caveat: “If you are mak­ing a yeasted bread you have to boil the beer then cool it down and pro­ceed.” 

In the worst case, ldquo;the al­co­hol will kill the (baker’s) yeast,” he said.

More likely, Justin said, “it will make your bread slug­gish and will not rise with the vig­or you would like it to.”

The next step is to choose the right beer for a re­cipe. 

“A baked item would work bet­ter with something with a strong malt com­pon­ent. The car­a­mel­ized sug­ars in bak­ing com­ple­ment the malty and roas­ted fla­vors,” Justin said. “Dark­er malt be­ne­fits in the oven more so than a light­er beer.” 

Stouts and port­ers are the ob­vi­ous choice, but a Ger­man Bock or Bel­gian Dub­bel would also work.

If you want to work with a light­er beer, such as Bel­gian Wits or oth­er wheat beers, boil­ing it down and mak­ing lol­li­pops or candy are also a tasty op­tion. 

If you do bake with those beers, you may want to add in some season­ings — such as cori­ander or cloves — since the fla­vor from the beer it­self may be too subtle.

Justin re­com­men­ded ex­per­i­ment­ing and ad­just­ing re­cipes over time. 

“The beer in and of it­self will not cause (re­cipe) fail­ure. It may not come out per­fect the first time, but it shouldn’t re­quire wild changes,” he said.

The chef also found that a dif­fer­ent ap­proach has helped him bake.

“Since I was a cook first, it in­forms the way that I bake. I think about food be­fore I think about pastries, and I try to think about how to make that in­to a baked good,” said Justin. 

Ex­per­i­ment with dif­fer­ent beers — you can make a stout cake with Guin­ness, but also try Phil­adelphia Brew­ing Com­pany’s Shack­amax­im­um Stout, Joe Port­er or Yard’s George Wash­ing­ton Port­er. 

You won’t need to ad­just the re­cipe for dif­fer­ent beers, but it will change the fla­vor of the cake.

If you are a homebrew­er who doesn’t want to give up any of your pre­cious home-brewed beer for bak­ing, you can still get in on the ac­tion by mak­ing bread from the leftover grains used in brew­ing. 

Save a few cups of the spent grain after brew­ing, it freezes well for long-term stor­age.

I’ve made this bread re­cipe at ht­tp://­at­­dex.php/beer-din­ners/spent-grain-beer-bread/ sev­er­al times; there is also a good bread re­cipe in the blog for a loc­al brew­er at mel­lody­brew­

PA Beer Law Up­date: A change just went in­to ef­fect for Pennsylvania brew­er­ies, al­low­ing them to sell beer in any size con­tain­er, not just the cases and growl­ers they were al­lowed to sell be­fore. Phil­adelphia Brew­ing Com­pany, at 2439 Am­ber St., has an­nounced they will be­gin selling 6-packs and even single bottles at their re­tail store.

Now it will be even easi­er to get your fa­vor­ite beers for drink­ing or bak­ing. ••

Tim Pat­ton is a Fishtown res­id­ent, beer afi­cion­ado and brew­er. His column is ded­ic­ated to show­cas­ing everything that is great about en­joy­ing beer in the river­wards. He can be con­tac­ted at tim@stben­jamin­brew­

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