Week Twenty-Five: Beer Bread Week!
Having determined yesterday that beer is a crucial ingredient in beer bread (for as-yet undetermined reasons), I decided to keep that ingredient unchanged (PBR ftw!), and instead mess around with the dry ingredients today. I’m a big fan of whole grains in general, so I decided to see what a whole wheat beer bread would end up like.
Now, as much as I would love a 100% whole wheat beer bread, I know better than to just swap out all the white flour for whole wheat. (This is, of course, assuming I would like to end up with an edible end product. If the goal is to produce a doorstop, then that approach would certainly work.) Generally speaking, you can substitute up to half of the white flour in any given bread recipe with little ill effect. I thought that’d be a good place to start.
So now I had 50% white flour and 50% whole wheat flour. The next step was the leavening. In the original recipe, self-rising flour is used, which leads to a question. But first, here’s a secret: I’ve never actually purchased self-rising flour (since I became mistress of my own kitchen, anyway). I simply don’t have the space to store yet another bag of flour, when I’ve got all the ingredients necessary to make the stuff on hand anyway. It’s just salt and baking powder, for crying out loud!
The question was, do I use enough chemical leavening (baking powder and salt) to leaven all the flour, or just the white flour (as though I had substituted whole wheat flour for half of the specified self-rising flour)? I decided, in the end, to err on the side of fluffiness. I added enough baking powder and salt to essentially make self-rising white and whole wheat flour. (Wow, I hope all that makes sense to anyone else.) In the original recipe, the flavor of baking powder wasn’t detectable, so I knew that amount wouldn’t be overkill; and I was more worried about the whole wheat flour weighing things down, than I was about over-leavening.
The batter certainly looked like beer bread batter, and it baked into a loaf that looked just like beer bread ought. It was as difficult to cut as beer bread usually is, and it smelled just a wee bit more earthy than usual. Trying my first bite, it tasted exactly like I was hoping it would: like a nuttier, more wholesome beer bread. Success was mine!
The light sweetness was still there, the faint butteriness was there, the crust was spot-on, and the texture just as fluffy as could be hoped (no gumminess today!). It was crumbly, soft, and complex, it was classic beer bread made rustic, and I loved it. Will this variation replace its originator in my culinary reperatoire? Maybe not entirely; but that original better get ready to shove over and make some room! Here come the whole grains!
Whole Wheat Beer Bread
Makes one 9 x 5 inch loaf
1 1/2 cups + 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
12 ounces light beer, at room temperature
1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Lightly grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour. Shake the flour around until the whole interior is coated, then knock out the excess.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add the butter and beer, and stir with a spoon or spatula until moist and just combined. Pour into prepared loaf pan.
3. Bake at 350º F for 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Remove from pan. Cool at least 10 minutes on a rack before slicing.
1. After the bread is baked, loosen the edges with a knife if needed, and gently knock the edge of the pan on the counter to release the loaf.
2. This recipe can easily be made into muffins instead of a whole loaf. Grease and flour a muffin tin as directed, and fill each cup about halfway full. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from tin and cool on a rack.