A photo of a piece of chocolate layer cake on a plate with a fork

Baking with Beer

Sipping Borderlands Brewing Co.’s Noche Dulce Vanilla Porter in July’s craft beer class, taught by Ayla Kapahi, the creative genius head brewer and director of operations, I wonder, could I bake with this?

The answer: Yes!

You’re probably familiar with beer bread, but I’m thinking something more, well, yummier and exotic considering the porter’s slightly sweet brew with coffee, dark chocolate and Mexican vanilla bean notes.

One of humankind’s oldest beverages practically begged to marry with one of the world’s favorite ingredients – chocolate. I’m no genius here; probably millions of others have paired the two.

Evidence of early beer brewing has been confirmed at the Sumerian settlement of Godin Tepe in modern-day Iran going back to between 3500-3100 BCE.

According to the Beer Institute, Sumerian laborers received rations of beer. Egyptians made it from barley, Babylonians from wheat and Incans from corn.

Barley for brewing was so important to the early Romans that they honored the grain on their gold and silver coins. Historians call beer the national drink of ancient Egypt; pharaohs appointed a “royal chief beer inspector” to protect its quality. Long before Confucius, the Chinese used cereal grain millet for their brew.

The carbonation assists with leavening baked goods, giving an extra lift to quick breads and cakes. Since alcohol inhibits gluten formation, the result is a tender, delicate crumb.

Cheers to the Wildcats for bringing back the Territorial Cup by defeating ASU! The kitchen will be rocking in Friday’s sold out Cooking with the Wildcats: Food and Football with Coach Ricky & LaMonte Hunley’s class.

Want 10 dozen biscotti with no dishes to do? On December 3, it’s Take & Bake: Almond Biscotti with Executive Chef and Slow Food Southern Arizona Chapter President Barry Infuso. We’ll start the morning with a hot beverage that’ll be perfect for dunking some already made twice-baked cookies. You’ll make and take home dough ready for the oven.

Once you make fresh panettone, the holiday Italian sweet bread showing up on store shelves, you’ll never buy it again. Made months in advance, preservatives keep it soft. Instead, on December 10, join Executive Chef Barry Infuso and learn to make and bake it in a paper bag, proving fresh is best. We guarantee it’s so amazing, you’ll never buy it readymade again. Light and fluffy, buttery and chock full of dried fruits, the yeast-leavened, mouth-watering bread is often thought of as dessert. You’ll make enough dough to bake four 1 pound breads to keep or give as gifts.

Just 3 seats left for El Rustio Owner/Chef Juan Almanza’s December 12 Get the Más Out of Masa class. He’s done the hardest part – making the masa. You’ll have fun pressing tortillas for Enchilada en Tomatala (tomato sauce) and Enchilada with Red Sauce; making Sopes (also known as picadita, originating in central and southern Mexico) and Gorditas (masa stuffed with meat or other fillings); and cooking three filling options: Chicken with veggies, border-style shredded beef with potatoes and veggie calabacitas con queso, as well as accompanying salsas and a variety of garnishes.

News & Notes
On December 3, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at AVA Amphitheater at Casino Del Sol, 5655 W. Valencia Rd., is the 17th Tucson Tamal & Heritage Festival. Free and open to the public, the Festival celebrates the rich tastes, smells and variation of tamales from the Southwest and Mexico.

December 7-18, from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., get some holiday shopping done at Heirloom Farmers Markets’ Holidays at the Markets at the Green Valley Village Farmers & Artisans Market, Udall Park Farmers Market, Oro Valley Farmers Market, Rincon Valley Farmers & Artisans Market, and Rillito Park Farmers Market. Festivities include live music, Taste of the Market tastings and recipes, a donation drive, activities and plenty of local gift ideas. Here are the details.

On December 18, from 5:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., Mr. Bing’s Supper Club presents the Holiday Gala at the Savoy Opera House at Trail Dust Town, 6541 E. Tanque Verde Rd. With an Italian-inspired buffet, it’s an intimate evening filled with singing, dancing and comedy with world-class entertainers Katherine Byrnes, Brian Levario, Chach Snook and Crystal Stark. Tickets are $85 each.

La Baguette Parisienne, 7851 E. Broadway Blvd., has reopened under new ownership with an updated space and offering all the delicious bakery items the Marini family made. Hours are Tuesday-Sunday, 7 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Houlden’s Rise Above, 5029 E. Fifth St., a 100% vegan bakery, is now open Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m. until sold out. Pastry Chef Hannah Houlden is well known around town for her pastries at coffee shops.

Wishing you joy in the kitchen,

Chocolate Porter Cake with Pecan Frosting
Adapted from a recipe by Lori Rice
Yield: A 9-inch cake

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon table salt
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa, Dutch-process or natural
¼ cup very hot water
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
1 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
¾ cup porter

¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons cornstarch
5 tablespoons porter
3 large egg yolks
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
5 tablespoons whole milk
2 ½ cups powdered sugar
½ teaspoon table salt
1 heaping cup pecans, toasted, chopped, divided

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan and line bottom with a parchment circle.

2. To make cake: In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

3. In a small bowl, mix cocoa and hot water; set aside.

4. In a small heatproof bowl, melt butter and chocolate over a double boiler or in a microwave. Stir until smooth then transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl if using a handheld mixer. Add sugar and beat on medium-high speed until mixture lightens in color. Add the cocoa mixture and eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping the bowl after each egg; mixture should thicken slightly and look like mayonnaise.

4. Add dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with the porter. Mix at medium-high speed for 30 seconds, scrape bowl, and beat another 15 seconds.

5. Pour batter into pan, place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

6. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack 10 minutes then run a thin spatula around the edge of the cake, open and remove the side of the pan. Cool completely.

7. To make frosting: In a medium saucepan, whisk together brown sugar, cornstarch, porter and yolks. Place over medium heat and add butter. Cook until beer foams and mixture begins to bubble around the edges. Add milk and cook until it thickens and bubbles in the center, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into a large mixing bowl. Cool to room temperature.

8. When cool, and with mixer on low, slowly add powdered sugar. Once all sugar is added, increase to medium-high and beat until frosting is light and satiny. Stir in salt and ½ cup of pecans.

9. To assemble: Level top if necessary. Cut cake in half horizontally. Place one half on a serving plate and spread with half the frosting. Top with remaining layer and spread with remaining frosting. Sprinkle pecans on top. Cover and refrigerate up to 5 days.

Photo credit: Cristina Matos Albers on Unsplash 

Leave a Reply