Baking with Beer: Homebrewed Desserts

Barley and wheat have been around since the beginning of our civilization. These two grains are the building blocks for our society as we know it. Yet these grains are used and treated so differently.

Wheat is a very complex grain. When one looks at wheat, there are many types that are all very different from one another. Wheat is broken down into three types of species: Diploid (two complements of seven chromosomes), Tetraploid (a hybrid of 2 types of Diploid grasses) and Hexaploid (having six different sets of paired chromosomes from hybridization of 3 types of grasses). Under the Diploid species is Einkorn, an ancient variety of the grain with a wonderful rich flavor and has more nutrients (fat, phosphorus, potassium, pyridoxine, and beta-carotene) than standard wheat produced today. Emmer (Tuscan Emmer is also known as Farro, that is a main ingredient in many Italian dishes), Khorasan (this wheat grain is twice the size of a standard flour grain and is prized for its nutty rich flavor, used in some artisanal breads) and Durum (ground Durum flour is also known as semolina flour that is used to give pasta its chew, color and texture) wheat fall under the Tetraploid species variety. Spelt and bread wheat varieties are classified under the Hexaploid species, having a higher protein level, going as high as 17%. Wheat also changes if it’s grown in the winter or spring months, changing its red, white, or amber color, and also changes in the protein content, which are also is reflective in the gluten content.

Wheat is used in many sweet and savory ways in the kitchen. It can be cooked whole, much like a (Farro) risotto or breakfast porridge (wheat berries), cracked and called bulgur (or groats) to make Middle Eastern dishes like tabbouleh, or ground into flour for baking. The different types of wheat flours are used for many different kinds of baking applications. Higher protein flours (13% and up) are used to make breads full of gluten, giving the loaves wonderful chew and texture. Wheat flours in the 10-12% protein level are what is commonly called all-purpose flour and used to make things like biscuits, scones, cakes, cookies, doughnuts, crepes, some breads (quick and yeasted), and muffins. Lower protein flours (below 10%) are used to make cake and pastry flour, as they create a wonderful soft crumb and texture. These flours echo that of milled barley flour with a protein level of around 9%. Yet with all these uses, none of the wheat grain is kilned like barley. Some wheat is sprouted (usually used for bread with its increased nutrition from the germination process), some is rolled (first steamed or cooked, then rolled between heavy cylinders like oats) and some wheat is processed to create torrefied wheat (added to some breakfast cereals, and when added to a beer’s grist it helps aid in head retention). Try and experiment with these ancient varieties of wheat in your home kitchen (Einkorn, Emmer, Farro, Khorasan and Spelt) and use them in culinary and brewing applications.

As wheat isn’t germinated, kilned at high heat for a short period of time or over low heat for a longer time point like brewing grains are, and also not usually toasted or roasted (while chocolate wheat is available for brewing, I have yet to see it used as a culinary ingredient), we don’t get all the unique flavors and colors of wheat like malted barley. This is where brewers have an edge in the bakery — using barley in small amounts can drastically improve the flavors of baked goods. Bagels often contain diastatic malt flour, full of enzymatic activity to help ferment the bagels, giving even more texture and crust when boiled. Some flour tortillas have barley flour to add another flavor element to the finished product. But most recipes for baking and pastry don’t use barley flours intended for the brew house. This is where experimenting with malted barley adds a ton of flavor and unique essences that can’t be created otherwise. In a chocolate cake or cupcakes, for example, try using some chocolate malt or roasted barley to give them more chocolate depth without more actual chocolate. Or use brewing grains to create unique styled breads: Add different ground or cracked caramelized barley varieties, giving a wonderful crust and echoing the Maillard reaction in the creation of the crust into the interior, while adding a subtle sweetness.

The recipes in this article use Weyermann Cararye® malt and Simpsons new DRCTM (Double Roasted Caramel) malt to enhance a cake and scone recipe. With cooler fall nights and shorter days, these two recipes are enhanced by brewing ingredients being ground into flours to add depth and characteristics classic to autumn flavors.

Spiced Cararye® Cake with Barley Caramel Topping

Serves: 8–12 people

When I first tasted Cararye® malt, I didn’t think of a beer right away, I thought of food. This malt has a wonderful caramel undertone that begs to be infused into baked goods. I created this cake to enhance this caramel complexity and layer it with fall spices, then topped it with a caramel sauce that is infused with Pilsner malt extract. This malt syrup is a little lighter than a standard amber malt extract, yet still has that caramel depth. This cake is pretty flexible, as most malty brews that have a lot of melanoidin complexity, will shine in this recipe.


1⁄2 cup butter, unsalted (room temperature)
1 cup sugar, preferably organic
1⁄4 cup sugar, light brown, packed firmly
3 eggs, jumbo, at room temperature
1⁄3 cup oil, vegetable or neutral flavored
1⁄2 cup buttermilk
1⁄4 cup homebrewed beer, English brown ale, bock or wee heavy (room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, bourbon based
11⁄4 cups cake flour
1⁄4 cup Weyermann Cararye® malt, ground to a fine flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt, kosher
1 tsp. ginger, ground
1 tsp. cinnamon, Ceylon, ground
1⁄2 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated

Barley Malt Caramel Topping Ingredients:
1 cup cream, heavy or whipping, preferably organic and not ultra-pasteurized
1⁄2 cup sugar, light brown, packed firmly
1⁄4 cup Pilsner liquid malt extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1⁄2 tsp. Kosher salt

Step by Step:

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, add the room temperature butter, white and brown sugar, then lock into the mixer and fit the motor with a paddle attachment. Cream the butter and sugars together for 3 to 4 minutes, stopping the motor to scrape down the sides a few times. The butter mixture should be light and fluffy. With the motor on low speed, add the room temperature eggs, one at a time, giving a good 30 seconds before the next egg is added. Once all the eggs are mixed in, increase the speed to medium and let this mix for a full minute. Add the oil, in a slow steady stream into the center of the bowl, emulsifying it into the mixture. Next, add the buttermilk (warm in the microwave for 30 seconds to room temperature), slowly pouring into the center of the bowl, followed by the beer of choice. Leave the mixer on for 5 to 6 minutes, letting everything combine and get super fluffy.

As the mixer is running, in a separate bowl combine the cake flour, Cararye® malt flour (ground into a fine powder in a grain mill or a clean coffee grinder), baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Using a whisk, stir the flour ingredients until everything is evenly mixed in. Turn the mixer speed to low, and slowly add the dry flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Let the batter mix for 45 to 60 seconds, until all the flour mixture is just incorporated. Turn off the mixer and remove the paddle attachment and bowl. Using a spatula, scrape off any batter on the paddle and fold into the batter, making sure all is fully incorporated into the batter.

Cooking Directions:

When I designed this recipe, I wanted to look at baking a little differently. Many cakes become overcooked when the internal temperature goes over 205–210 °F (96–99 °C). There are times, too, when we have other food items that need to be in an oven, such as a roast, so that when a dessert is finally served it can’t be served warm. This led me to thinking about using a crockpot as a standalone baking option for this recipe. Most crockpot models hold the heat at 190 °F (88 °C) on low and go to 210 °F (99 °C) on high. All crockpots come with a lid, leaving the moisture in the container, creating a moist tender cake. Plus, once the cake is done, it can be held to stay warm, which is the best way to serve this Spiced Cararye® Cake.

Coat the bottom and sides of a crockpot with an aerosol non-stick baking spray. Pour the cake batter into the center of the crockpot insert, then using a spatula, level out the batter to an even layer. Cover the crockpot with its lid and set the timer for 3 hours on high. Now you can walk away, go mash in a homebrew, and pretty much leave this cake to cook, low and slow. After about 21⁄2 hours, you can check the temperature of the cake with a probe-style thermometer. The cake is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 200 °F (93 °C). At this point you can turn the crockpot to low, or just turn it off, which will keep it warm for about an hour.

Barley Malt Caramel Topping Directions:

The last 30 minutes of cooking the cake in the crockpot is when you need to start making the Barley Malt Caramel Topping. In a 4–6-quart sauce pot, combine the cream, brown sugar, and liquid malt extract. Place the pot over medium high heat and stir the mixture to help dissolve the brown sugar. Once the caramel comes to a boil, scrape down the sides and bottom of the pot periodically to prevent scorching. Cook the caramel until it reaches a temperature of 220 °F (104 °C), testing with a probe thermometer or IR handheld laser thermometer. This should take about 5–7 minutes. Remove the caramel from the heat and keep it warm until the cake is finished baking.

To assemble the cake, use either a wooden skewer or chopstick to poke the cake all over, creating small holes in an even pattern. Now, pour the warm Barley Malt Caramel Topping evenly over the whole cake, while in the crockpot. Cover the crockpot with its lid and let the cake sit for about  30 minutes before serving. This time allows the caramel to fill those holes and ooze into them, filling the cake with caramel and hardening to make a unique topping for this cake. The cake is ready to be served and is best warm. If the cake has cooled, turn on the crockpot for 5–10 minutes to re-warm the cake, and then turn it off. You can cut the cake out or scoop it out with a spoon, into bowls. Then to really make this cake shine, serve it with a vanilla bean ice cream, frozen yogurt, or whipped cream, to help cut the  rich caramel flavors found in the cake and topping.

Home Brew Chef Tip: If your coffee/spice grinder smells of what was in it before, add a torn up slice of sandwich bread and pulse several times to clean all around the blade and absorb the oils. Then use the cleaned grinder to pulverize any malt to make it into flour, about 1⁄4 cup at a time.

Malted Carrot Orange Scones with Maple Porter Frosting

Makes: 8 scones

Simpsons Double Roasted Crystal malt was the building block for this recipe. This malt is very unique. Its rich heavy caramel/toffee flavor morphs into a dried fruit flavor, similar to currants and/or prunes, finishing with a touch of earthy roast essence coating the mouth. The currant flavor brought me to making scones, adding a new layer into a classic scone recipe, while the caramel sweetness with the roast brought carrots to the table. These scones are great on a brew day or any weekend brunch.


13⁄4 cups cake flour
1⁄4 cup Simpsons DRCTM (Double Roasted Crystal) malt, ground into a fine flour
1⁄4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 each orange, zested
1 Tb. baking powder
1 tsp. salt, kosher
1 tsp. cinnamon, Ceylon, ground
1⁄2 tsp. ginger, ground
1⁄2 tsp. allspice, ground
1⁄2 tsp. nutmeg, freshly ground
1 cup fresh carrot, peeled and grated fine (about 3–4 medium carrots)
6 Tbs. butter, unsalted, preferably European style (higher butter fat), cold
1⁄2+ cup cream, heavy or whipping, preferably organic and not ultra-pasteurized
1 egg, extra large

Maple Porter Frosting Ingredients:
11⁄2 cups sugar, powdered or confectioner, sifted to remove any lumps
3-4 oz. homebrewed or commercial porter
2 oz. maple syrup
1 tsp. Kosher salt

Step by Step:

Preheat the oven to 400 °F (204 °C). Convection bake works well, if you have that option/setting. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment, add the cake flour, DRCTM malt flour, brown sugar, orange zest, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg. Cover with the lid and pulse several times, then leave the processor running for 30 seconds to fully incorporate all the ingredients together, while grinding the orange zest into the flour mixture. Next add the carrots and pulse 4–5 times to mix them lightly into the flour mixture, but not purée into the flour mixture. Next, add the cold cubed butter to the flour mixture and pulse several times until the mixture forms pea-size balls.

Transfer the contents of the food processor into a metal mixing bowl. Depending on the moisture content of the carrots, the amount of cream needed to be added for a dough to form will change. Measure out the cream and add 2⁄3 of it to the bowl. Using your (clean) hands, turn the mixture until a dough starts to form. Add more cream if needed to get to this consistency. Be careful not to overwork the dough, as the carrot juice, cream (mostly made up of water) and flour are mixed together they form gluten, potentially resulting in a finished tough scone. Form and press the dough into a ball.

Cut some parchment paper into a large square or use a Silpat non-stick sheet pan liner and set the dough ball onto the center. Press the center of the dough down and spread/shape the dough into an 8–9-inch round disk, about 3⁄4 of an inch thick. Using a knife or dough scraper, divide the dough into 8 wedges, much like a pizza or pie (see photo on page 54). Transfer the parchment paper or Silpat to a sheet tray. Put a few tablespoons of extra cream into a small bowl and whisk in the egg to create an egg wash. Brush the egg wash over the surface of the scone disk. Lightly sprinkle the top with extra ground DRCTM malt and place the pan into the center of the preheated oven. Bake the scones for 20­–25 minutes. The scones are done when they reach an internal temperature of 200 °F (93 °C) and have a golden crust. Remove the scones from the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes. They are quite good to eat at this point, but I do suggest making the Maple Porter Frosting to use for a delicious topping.

Maple Porter Frosting Directions:

In a mixing bowl, add the powdered sugar, most of the porter, maple syrup, and salt. Whisk the ingredients together until they become a silky smooth, viscous, glaze-like consistency. Add a touch more beer if the mixture is too thick, or a teaspoon at a time of powdered sugar if the frosting is too thin. Using a spoon, scoop some of the frosting and drizzle it over each lightly cooled scone wedge, making a pattern or an even coating. Let the scones sit for about 20 minutes, letting the frosting harden. Serve as is or place into a sealable container and they will hold for a day or so, but they are best fresh.

Malted Pumpkin Spiced Scone with Maple Porter Frosting

To make this variation of the Malted Carrot Orange Scone, substitute the listed ingredients and follow the directions. You can keep the spices the same as in the Malted Carrot Orange Scone, or replace all the spices with 2–21⁄2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice. Replace the 1 cup of grated carrots with 3⁄4 cup of canned pumpkin purée, preferably certified organic. Be sure not to use “pumpkin pie filling,” as this contains other ingredients besides pumpkin that will change the finished texture of the scone. First add the butter and cut that into the flour mixture, then add the pumpkin purée and mix lightly, then fold in the cream.

Baconize your Scone

We’ve all heard of bacon maple doughnuts, well why not go crazy and top each baked scone wedge with a strip of crispy cooked bacon (that has been cooled on paper towels to absorb as much rendered fat as possible). Then glaze with the Maple Porter Frosting and serve!

Spiced Cararye® cake with barley caramel topping, served with vanilla-bean ice cream.

Issue: September 2015