Week Fourteen: Take Two!
When I originally made beer bread, I basically made it to use up a… well, let’s say a lesser bottle of beer. A generic, moderately-tasteless beer is perfect in this application, since a more subtley-flavored brew would find its nuances lost in the mix. You’re not using beer so much for the flavor here, you’re using it more for its other characteristics, specifically the alcohol and the carbonation. Well, I think you are.
Beer is sometimes referred to as “liquid bread”, since they both contain the same basic ingredients: grain, water, and yeast. They are obviously handled very differently, producing very different end results, but there’s one ingredient that acts the same in both instances: the yeast. Yeast eats sugar (from the grain) and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide. In beer, this produces bubbles and the alcoholic content of the beverage. In bread, this produces leavening (rising) of the dough and flavor. Note that different strains of yeast are used in beer brewing and bread making; neither will accomplish the desired result in the other usage.
Making bread with beer seems only natural, given their similarities. But what, exactly, does beer do when you make bread with it? I’ll be perfectly honest – I don’t precisely know. I know the carbonation aerates the bread a bit, but wouldn’t sparkling water then do the same thing? And usually, beer is used in cooking for the flavor it adds. But in my previous try at this bread, I used light lime-flavored beer and dry vermouth, for crying out loud. You couldn’t taste any hint of it! Not one bit! So, then, is it the alcohol that makes the difference? Maybe, except that any alcohol would (mostly) cook off in the heat of the oven. Perhaps the beer’s alcohol mimics the milder alcohol given off by bread yeast? I don’t know! So many questions!
All I know is that this bread is ridiculously good. Ridiculously. I doubt you will ever find another bread recipe so easy, so quick, and so incredibly delicious. Did I mention how addictive it is? This bread is almost too good. I personally have a hard time avoiding a nibble here and there if I know it’s in my kitchen, and I have never seen anyone turn a slice down. It’s so perfectly sweetened (just barely!), but still savory; it’s mild enough to match any food you put it with, but flavorful enough to stand on its own. I’m sure you could add any herbs or cheese you like to the batter; but I find it so tasty just plain on its own, I don’t even eat it with butter, jam, Nutella or anything else. And if that isn’t a glowing enough remark, I don’t know what is.
Makes one 9×5 inch loaf
3 cups + 2 teaspoons self-rising flour (see note 1 below)
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
12 ounces beer, room temperature
1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Lightly grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons flour. Shake the flour around until the whole interior is coated, then knock out the excess.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. 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 about 10 minutes on a rack before slicing.
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. Any sort of beer will do, but light-style beers are ideal. But any extremely delicious, expertly-crafted microbrew would be wasted in this. Drink it instead; you’ll be happier.
3. 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.