A classic European dish said to have originated in Germany or eastern France, beer soup biersuppe (or beer soup) is traditionally roux-based and made with beer, as well as often being flavoured with cinnamon, lemon peel, or even raisins.
According to Time/Life Foods of the World – The Cooking of Germany, published in 1969, beer soup dates back to the Middle ages drawing to a close. An age of trade began for Germany, bringing new goods and great wealth. This also brought about a newfound appreciation for the art of fine cooking amongst the rising middle class, allowing them to keep up with nobles when it came to feasting.
Further testimony to the German love of beer, beer soup is said to have been invented during the end of the 16th century, served to 700 guests at the wedding of a Berlin maiden. The meal began with a beer soup heavily spiced with pepper and ginger, served on a table set with enormous cheeses. Four kinds of beer were also served to wash it down.
Having become a particularly popular dish in Germany, France, Belgium and Holland, beer soup is sometimes eaten as a breakfast soup, and either hot or chilled down, occasionally poured over bread.
In the UK, the concept of beer soup often divides opinion, but it’s a delicious soup even for those who don’t drink beer. Yes, the beer is present, but this recipe also teams it with chicken stock (or vegetable stock to make it vegetarian), bread crumbs, and a good amount of crème fraiche which adds plenty of decadence to the dish. It’s great on its own, with some crusty bread, but even better when served with gougères, ideally studded with ham and cheese.
Far easier to make than is typically expected, gougères are a form of savoury choux pastry often filled with cheese. The below gougères recipe begins by heating water, butter and salt in a pan before folding in flour. The dough is then mixed with eggs before grated gruyere and diced ham are added. The dough is then portioned with a tablespoon (no need for piping) and baked in the oven before being used as game-changing beer soup croutons.
- Stand mixer with paddle attachment (recommended but not essential)
- 30 g butter
- 4 shallots peeled and chopped
- 120 g breadcrumbs
- 500 ml good-quality beer such as lager or wheat beer
- 750 ml chicken stock
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 3 tbsp crème fraiche
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- Sea salt
- White pepper
For the gougères (makes 15-20)
- 250 ml water
- 85 g butter
- 130 g plain flour
- 4 large eggs at room temperature
- 150 g gruyere cheese grated
- 150 g ham cut into approx. 5-7mm dice
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- To begin, make the gougères.
- Pre-heat the oven to 220C/Gas 7 and line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper.
- Add the water, butter and a pinch of salt to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Add the flour to the pan and stir to combine, using a spatula or wooden spoon. Stir continuously until a dough forms and leaves a dry film on the bottom of the pan. This can take upwards of 5 minutes.
- Transfer the dough to a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and mix on a low speed for 5 minutes. (Alternatively mix by hand, which will take longer).
- Add one egg to the bowl, increase the speed of the mixer, and mix until completely incorporated. Repeat with the other eggs, adding one at a time.
- Add the cheese and ham to the dough and stir in with a spoon.
- Use a tablespoon to form rounded dough balls and place them on the sheet pans at least 2 inches apart as they’ll rise while cooking. Sprinkle with a crack of black pepper and place in the oven.
- Cook for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown, transferring the baking sheets between shelves half way through cooking. Leave to cool slightly before serving.
- While the gougères are cooking, make the beer soup.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the shallots. Cook over medium-low heat until soft.
- As the shallots begin to take on some colour, add the breadcrumbs and stir to combine with the shallots and butter.
- Season with a generous pinch of salt then add the beer. Bring to the boil and cook for 3-5 minutes until the alcohol smell has calmed down, then add the stock alongside a generous amount of white pepper, more salt, and the brown sugar.
- Simmer for 20-25 minutes, then blend until smooth.
- Return to the pan and stir in the crème fraiche. Transfer to bowls and sprinkle with a little grated nutmeg and top with one of the warm ham and cheese gougères.
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