Beer Bread… with lime?

My sister introduced me to this simple, savory quick bread.  Now, I have always loved cooking with alcohol.  Sometimes, I even put it in the food.  (ba-dum, tish)  The fact that the recipe calls for an entire can of beer probably got me to make it the first time; but it is the slightly sweet, faintly buttery, English-muffin-like flavor that earned it a permanent spot in my recipe collection.  This bread couldn’t be easier: four ingredients that you likely have sitting around, quickly stirred together, and baked into a crusty, yet crumbly, loaf.  If you have no time (or patience) for a yeast bread, this one will provide an excellent substitute.  

I have seen several variations of this recipe, mainly increasing or decreasing the amount of sugar and butter; but this is my favorite.  Play around with it, make it your own!  Add some herbs, or grated cheese.  Use different beers, see what they taste like.  It’s so incredibly easy that it will never feel like a hassle to make, and it’s so delicious (especially toasted!) that you will never have extra sitting around for long.

I recently decided to make this one night after opening a beer that, after tasting, I had no intention of finishing.  Without naming names, it was a light beer with lime flavoring.  It tasted mostly like a bad soda, and the 2.2% alcohol was simply not worth it.  Unwilling to throw away “perfectly good beer”, I pulled out the worn index card with my sister’s Beer Bread recipe.  I measured out what was left of the beer, and came up 2 sips short of the needed 12 ounces.  Why I decided to make up the difference with dry vermouth, I’m not entirely sure; I think it had to do with a concern about the lack of alcohol affecting the texture, or something.  Also, after starting the recipe, I realized I didn’t have enough all-purpose flour, so I made up the difference there with whole-wheat flour.  Stirring the mess together, I decided to bake it in my cast-iron skillet instead of my two loaf pans, each too small to hold the whole recipe (one less thing to clean, you see).

Between the lime beer, the vermouth, the dense whole-wheat flour, and the skillet, I was sure this poor loaf was doomed to failure.  But, throwing caution to the wind, I stuck my concoction in the oven, and silently wished it luck.

And you know what?  It came out perfectly.  The top domed cheerfully in the pan, turning a luscious golden brown.  The crust turned out as toothsome as ever.  It smelled heavenly.  And the taste?  Despite being perhaps a touch sweeter than usual, there was no hint of lime or vermouth.  The whole-wheat flour lent a rustic quality, and the familiar taste of butter lingered slightly on the palate.  This bread, it seems, is forgiving of even the most major modifications and mistakes.

I’m giving you the recipe as I have it, without all the vermouth-y modifications described above.  Generally, when using beer to make bread or other baked goods, you want to find a light, mild-tasting beer.  I used to keep Pabst Blue Ribbon on hand for such needs.  A stronger-flavored beer can sometimes overwhelm the other ingredients, or become bitter.  On the other hand, of course, sometimes you want that effect, depending on the recipe!  Just don’t use that nice microbrew you’ve been saving; I promise it will taste better on its own.

Beer Bread

3 cups + 2 teaspoons self-rising flour
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 twelve-oz can light beer

1.  Coat 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with butter, olive oil, or cooking spray.  Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons flour.
2.  Mix all ingredients until moist and just combined.  Pour into loaf pan. 
3.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes.  Remove from pan.  Cool at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Notes:
1.  If you don’t have self-rising flour, use the following instead: 3 cups all-purpose flour + 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder  + 3/8 teaspoons salt (or 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt).
2.  To prepare the pan,  coat with oil of choice, sprinkle with flour, and knock out excess.  After bread is baked, loosen with a knife if needed, and bang edge of pan on counter to release the loaf.

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