Beer & Sympathy
January 5, 2012 7:09 AM   Subscribe

I tried making this chocolate stout cupcake yesterday, using a local ale in place of Guinness. When I added the beer to the butter, it curdled. Why did that happen and what can I do to prevent it from happening in the future?

I ended up baking them anyway and they turned out pretty tasty, albeit a bit flat.
posted by chara to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Were you adding cold beer to the melted butter? If so, the butter is not curdling, but re-solidifying.

I found this out with a recipe that requires adding eggs to melted butter--the eggs were straight from the fridge, and the butter solidified. Solution was to warm the eggs first, then add. No problems since.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:14 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Generally it's acidic ingredients that curdle butter. Guinness is (to my taste) less acidic than an ale, though I don't know the exact composition. I'd say that the more acidic beer did that where a stout wouldn't be acidic enough to curdle the dairy in a recipe.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:14 AM on January 5, 2012

Could it be that you added cold beer to melted butter and the butter just resolidified?
posted by jon1270 at 7:15 AM on January 5, 2012

Was your butter hot and beer cold? Temperature shocks can cause curdling. If this is the case, let the beer come to room temp and let the butter cool down. Butter won't re-solidify until it's been sitting on the counter for awhile.

I can't see why you can't mix the eggs into just the butter and vanilla until all the eggs are in and then add the beer. Once that's smooth mix in the sour cream.
posted by royalsong at 7:16 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you make that recipe again, try this:

1. Heat the butter and beer in a saucepan. Once the butter is melted, whisk the cocoa powder in. Let cool a bit.

2. Mix all of the other dry ingredients together.

3. Beat the eggs into the sour cream.

4. Add the butter/beer mixture to the egg/sour cream mixture.

5. Slowly add the dry mix into the wet mix.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:55 AM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Elsietheel has the right idea. Solid advice.
posted by bryanthecook at 8:06 AM on January 5, 2012

Thanks Elsietheel! That's fantastic advice.

When I made this recipe, I browned the butter first (the ale I used has some really lovely caramel/nutty notes and I wanted to highlight that). Can I still brown the butter and then slowly add in the beer? Or do I need to heat them together?
posted by chara at 9:24 AM on January 5, 2012

Yeah, the butter solids just re-solidified. It's not really a big deal. It's happened to me more than once. One time with milk. In my experience, just using room temperature beer should solve your problem. Part of why this happens is that butter has a very sharp melting point (that's also why cookies made with butter spread more than those made with shortening ). I'd suggest browning the butter and adding the (room temp) beer a slowly over heat and then continuing on like Elsietheel suggests.

For what it's worth, I like to make beer-butter spread. Just add melted butter ( like to saute some garlic in it first) to cold beer, stick it in the fridge for awhile, strain out the solids and stick them back in the fridge to chill a little while longer. I like to use it on burger buns. The beer gets saved and used to make a sauce.

Oh, and Guinness is actually more acidic than most beers. For baking with chocolate I like to use a good sweet stout (they might also be called cream or milk stouts), the lactose (milk sugars) caramelizes a little, and the malt flavors are generally a bit coffee or chocolaty. It's nice.
posted by Gygesringtone at 10:06 AM on January 5, 2012

I would assume you could, but heat the beer as well, to ensure it doesn't re-freeze the butter, then mix after browning the butter.
posted by defcom1 at 10:08 AM on January 5, 2012

Er that was unclear. One of the times the butter re-solidified was in cold milk, but a couple of times has been in cold beer.

The thinking behind adding the beer over heat was that way some of the heat the beer absorbed came from the pan and the stove instead of stealing it all from the butter.
posted by Gygesringtone at 10:18 AM on January 5, 2012

You could brown the butter and heat the beer separately, then mix them when they're similarly warm.
posted by asphericalcow at 11:08 AM on January 5, 2012

If the butter does resolidify again, you could just beat the (solid but likely still soft) butter and beer together. The butter fat is not going to *dissolve* in the beer no matter what you do; if you blend them together well enough (a hand mixer should be plenty) they'll still get emulsified. But room temp beer (and a warmish mixing bowl) will probably solve your problem without actually having to heat the beer.
posted by mskyle at 12:59 PM on January 5, 2012

I'd just brown the butter and then add the beer. Room temperature would make things go faster, but cold beer wouldn't hurt it. You definitely want to mix the cocoa powder into the hot liquid though. It makes a HUGE difference in flavor.
posted by elsietheeel at 1:02 PM on January 5, 2012

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