There are many flavors that pair well with chocolate. Coffee is one, and it is often included in chocolate cakes to bring out some of the darker notes of chocolate. Believe it or not, but dark stout is another. These dark beers often have an intense malty flavor and an almost chocolate-like profile to them, and they can enhance the bitter and malty notes that you find in dark chocolate, giving a cake a great chocolate flavor and a lot of character.
This Chocolate Stout Sheet Cake is made using a stout beer. I used a beer called Boatswain Chocolate Stout, which is actually brewed with cocoa to enhance the chocolate-like notes often found in stout beer (although it doesn’t have more than a subtle hint of cocoa to it). It is worth noting that any stout beer will do the trick in this recipe. The cake is very moist and tender, using butter, vegetable oil and yogurt in it. It has a great dark chocolate flavor to it thanks to both the beer and a generous amount of cocoa powder. You won’t taste the beer in the finished cake, but it definitely takes the edge off what would otherwise be a fairly sweet cake and gives it a grown up chocolate taste.
I topped this cake off with a Chocolate Stout Buttercream, adding a little bit of my chocolate stout beer to a simple chocolate buttercream. This introduced a distinct malty note to the frosting (again, giving it a grown-up flavor) and really tied it in well with the cake. You can leave out the beer and opt for a plain chocolate buttercream by simply adding milk to your frosting instead. This cake is also good with vanilla frosting, and is satisfying enough to eat plain – with a cup of coffee or even a glass of that chocolatey stout that you used to make it.
As nice as a cold beer can be on a hot summer evening, there are other great ways to put it to use and one is beer bread. Beer bread is a type of quick bread that uses – you guessed it – beer as the main liquid in the batter. Beer gives a very nice, yeasty flavor to the finished loaf and you get a bread that is much more flavorful than you’d expect for something that only took a couple of minutes to put together.
Most beer breads I’ve had are savory – beer and cheese, beer and herbs, beer and garlic – but this particular bread is sweet because I started out with a sweet, light beer. I used Blue Moon Brewing Company‘s Honey Moon Summer Ale, which has definite notes of honey and a hint of citrus, and turned it into a cinnamon raisin bread. The bread uses a whole bottle of beer (the alcohol bakes out, so not to worry if you’re not a big drinker) and ends up with a great yeasty flavor that is slightly sweet, slightly spicy and studded with juicy raisins. It is very moist, and has the slightly dense-but-tender texture that you find with other quick bread loaves, so it makes for a very satisfying slice.
The bread is good plain and toasts up well. I liked it best when spread with a bit of salted butter, but it would also stand up to cream cheese or other more strongly flavored toppings. It actually goes very well with slices of cheese because of the beer notes and would make a neat addition to a cheese plate. Otherwise, serve this bread with breakfast or with dinner, because it’s a sweet and savory loaf that is easy to make and easy to eat any time of day.
“You have to try this beer. ”
“It’s only 7:30 in the morning. I think it’s a little early for that.”
“Well, I didn’t mean you have to try it this instant. It’ll still be here later. But you really do have to try some. ”
We open the refrigerator door.
“Pyramid Apricot Ale? I used to live pretty close to their brewery, although I’ve never had that flavor before. It actually sounds really good.” Pause, in which the bottle is examined. “I bet I could make some really great bread with that beer.”
This – more or less – is how I decided to make beer bread this week. In fact, it is very similar to the way I am inspired into making many things. A lot of refining happens in between the initial idea and the finished product, of course, but it all happens relatively quickly.
This bread, too, happens quickly. It takes only two minutes to stir it together before going into the oven. Once it is baked, you end up with an absolutely fantastic loaf that smells and tastes like it took hours to put together, not just seconds. It has a very light texture, somewhere between a standard “sandwich bread” and a soda bread, that gives it versatility, too. For instance, the texture is light enough that it could be used for a sandwich bread, as well as simply eaten on its own, which cannot be said for most quick breads, since they tend to be a little on the dense side.
The most remarkable thing about the bread is the yeasty taste that it gets from the beer. It is a flavor that usually only comes from repeated proofing of sponges and doughs, and even then, those types of loaves still take a lot of skill and precision to turn out properly. The addition of some sweetness from sugar and dried apricots keeps the yeast flavor from being overwhelming, as well as providing the additional bonus of making this loaf a good choice for both breakfast (toasted, with butter and/or jam) and dinner (untoasted, with butter and/or dipped in soup).