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From Idea to Bracket

Created January 10, 2017

Beer Queso Nachos!? Black and Tan Beer Pops!? How do you dream up those recipes? It’s a question we’re asked often.

The creative process is unique to each project, but the result is always delicious. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how we created recipes for the Betty Bracket.

What’s the Big Idea?
For our second Betty Bracket, we decided to mix things up and add a special ingredient to our recipes — beer! That’s right, these recipes are beer inspired and are sure to be a hit at your next party. After all, craft brewing and cooking with beer are this year’s hot food trends. Bring on the battle of the beer party foods!

Field Trip!
We aren’t new to cooking and baking with beer. (After all, we created Beer and Bacon Mancakes.) But, we wanted to learn more about craft beer. We took a field trip to Summit Brewing in St. Paul to learn about the beer brewing process, as well as key differences between styles of beer like lagers and ales. Most importantly, we tasted the different types of beer and discussed flavor pairings and recipe ideas (ferociously taking notes in-between sips). 


Designing the Bracket
Visiting the brewery sparked lots of recipe ideas. But, before we could get in the kitchen to test the recipes, we needed to figure out how they’d fit in the bracket. Our mission was to design a bracket of 16 party foods — all featuring beer as an ingredient. After several bracket sketches and debates, we landed on a bracket strategy. We decided to include eight savory ideas (Beer Meets Bar Food) and eight sweet ideas (Beer Meets Bakery) since beer works well in both recipe types.

Recipe Testing and Kitchen Showdown
With the bracket plan in place, we were ready to get in the kitchen and test recipes. The most interesting part of testing was making the same recipe with different styles of beer. That way we could really taste the flavor impact of a particular beer and decide which style of beer to recommend.


The toughest part of recipe testing was deciding which recipes made the cut. We always start with more recipes than we need in case an idea doesn’t work. Since we had more recipes than we could fit in the bracket, we had our own recipe showdowns in the test kitchen.


For example, we worked on two ideas for the Sweet Treats Bracket that involved adding Belgian-style wheat ale to either a cupcake or a cookie. Only one of those could be featured in the bracket, so we had the team vote for their favorite of the two recipes. The Over the Moon White Ale Cupcakes got the most votes and advanced to the bracket. We still loved the cookie, but it didn’t make the cut. Do you think we made the right choice? Here’s the cookie recipe, in case you want to have a kitchen showdown of your own.


1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® sugar cookie mix
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1/4 cup Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons Belgian-style wheat ale beer
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds

2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange peel
Pinch salt
3 tablespoons Belgian-style wheat ale beer

Heat oven to 375°F. In large bowl, stir cookie mix, 1/2 cup butter, the egg, flour, 2 teaspoons orange peel, coriander, ginger and 2 tablespoons beer until soft dough forms. Stir in almonds.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets to make 36 cookies.

Bake 7 to 9 minutes or until golden brown around edges. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks. Cool completely, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in medium bowl, beat all filling ingredients with electric mixer on low speed until blended, then on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, scraping bowl occasionally.

To make sandwich cookies, spread some filling on each of 18 cookies, bottom side up. Top with remaining 18 cookies, bottom side down, gently pressing together. Store in airtight container.

Makes 18 sandwich cookies

Check out all of the Betty Bracket recipes. Or explore this year's Betty Bracket where the beer recipes go head to head. Vote for your favorite and then serve them at your next party while watching the games!