Recipe: IPA Cardamom Crunch Bars

December 17, 2018

By Ben Mims, December 17, 2018

IPA is a notoriously bitter and assertively flavored beer, so it’s a great match for a super-sweet cookie with other bold flavors to stand up to the beer’s. Here, the beer is mixed with confectioners’ sugar, butter, and cardamom to balance out its flavors into a rich, sweet glaze that sits atop extra-crunchy shortbread bars. A final layer of Swedish white pearl sugar creates a snow effect on top of the cookies and adds a great pop of sweetness.


1 1/2 cups India pale ale (one 12-ounce bottle)

1 3/4 cups (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 cup Swedish white pearl sugar


1. Pour the beer into a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat (see *Note). Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the beer cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Note: Beer foams up wildly when it first starts to boil. Avoid stirring the beer until the foam subsides on its own, after about 4 minutes, or else you run the risk of the foam bubbling over the side of the pot. You can either skim off the foam from the bubbling beer or not; it doesn’t make a difference in the final taste of the beer in the cookie.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan and line the bottom and two long sides with a sheet of parchment paper.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup (2 sticks) butter and the granulated sugar and beat medium speed of a mixer until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the dry ingredients and beat on low speed until just combined but still crumbly. Scrape the dough into the prepared baking pan and use your hands to press it over the bottom into an even layer. Bake until the shortbread base is golden brown at the edges, about 20 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack.

4. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the remaining 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter over medium heat. Stir in the reduced beer, the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, the confectioners’ sugar, and cardamom, and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, until smooth and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.

5. Immediately pour the filling over the shortbread base, tilting the pan to make sure the filling covers the shortbread completely. Let the filling cool completely.

6. Sprinkle the pearl sugar over the filling, tilting the pan to evenly spread out the sugar. Use your hands or the bottom of a measuring cup to very gently press the pearl sugar into the filling just so it stays in place. Use the parchment paper to lift the cookie slab out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut the slab into 2-inch-long, 1-inch-wide bars to serve.

Makes 36 cookies

Baking with beer tip: Because cookies are a notoriously low-moisture genre of baked goods, it’s difficult to fit a beer’s-worth of flavor into them. Unlike liquor or flavor extracts, beer is mostly water, so to concentrate its flavor, it needs to be reduced down to a very small amount. For all these recipes, you will need to reduce a standard 12-ounce beer, which is 1 1/2 cups liquid, down to 1/2 to 1/4 cup, depending on the recipe. And even in this concentrated form, the flavor of the beer might still not be noticable if just baked into the dough of a cookie, so you’ll see that I use the beer in the glazes and fillings that top each cookie to keep the beer aroma and flavor physically near your nose as you bite into each cookie, so you’re aware of it first thing.

Also, obviously, beer is bitter and cookies are sweet. To help counteract any imbalance of flavors in these cookies that can happen by adding such a highly concentrated dose of bitterness, I use finishing/decorating sugars for all these cookies. They not only make the final cookies look better, but add another layer of raw sugar sweetness that works with these pleasantly bitter cookies. Look for them at baking supply stores in your area or  

Photo by Liz Clayman.

ZX Ventures, a division within AB InBev, is an investor in October
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