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Lucy Saunders
4230 N. Oakland #178
Shorewood WI
53211 USA
@ site name

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Sure, beer is often called "liquid bread." The problematic part of that phrase for home cooks is "liquid."

How best can you add the malty flavors of beer to food without having it turn into a drippy mess? Just add the appropriate thickener.

Here are capsule reviews of the thickeners I reach for in cooking with beer:

When making a sweet dessert or confection that will be chilled, I turn to unflavored gelatin. Just one packet (about oz. or one tablespoon) of powdered gelatin will set about 2 and one half cups of liquid.

The key is to mix the gelatin with just two tablespoons of water for a few minutes, until softened and not grainy. That's because alcohol can make the gelatin gummy and coarse, rather than dissolve smoothly.

Then just add the softened gelatin to the room temperature beer. If the beer is ice cold, the gelatin will seize up and become lumpy.

When making a soup or stew, adding too much beer at the beginning can make the stew watery. Worse yet, if you try to boil off the liquid to reduce the stew volume, it may become bitter. Just stir in a few handfuls of dried potato flakes, or mix 2 tablespoons of potato starch flour with a ladle of the watery broth, then stir that emulsified mixture back into the stew pot. It will thicken up nicely in 10 minutes of simmering, while gently stirring the pot.

Bitter may be better for homebrew, but in food, it's rejected by many Americans - who love sweet, sugary tastes. If cooking a savory stew and it tastes bitter, remedy that with some pureed, sauteed carrots, a few drops of lemon juice, and extra spices (rosemary or thyme). If making a sauce with onions or mushrooms, and the beer flavor turns bitter, add a splash of sweet Madiera or sherry wine to round it out.

Rather than add pure cane sugar to a dish made with beer, I use sweeteners, such as unhopped barley malt extract, rice syrup, maple syrup or molasses, that have enough caramel notes to enhance the malt flavors.

Remember volume! Beer from a bottle is carbonated, and foams upon contact with other food ingredients. Use a larger-than-usual mixing bowl or measuring cup.

Flat, old beer usually tastes oxidized and not so pleasant as fresh beer. Try whisking your beer in a separate bowl to release some of that excess carbonation, and let it settle before measuring into your recipe.

www.beercook.com, Copyright © 2012-2002, by Lucy Saunders. All rights reserved. Note copyright of authors and recipe contributors in bylines and prefaces. Fee required for reprints in any commercial media.

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