We have friends over from time to time, and people bring beer. Then they drink our craft beer and leave their not-so-delicious beer in our fridge. Leaving me with the quandary of what to do with it. I’m certainly not going to drink it for the fun of it. I’m not really into beer all that much so if I’m drinking it, it had better be good.
So I’ve been experimenting with cooking with beer (with mixed results). No comment.
And then I thought about baking with beer. I’ve been treated to some great beer bread over the years, but it never crossed my mind to try making any. Of course, why stop there?
Traditional beer bread is baking powder/soda based, and more like a savory coffee cake. I knew there had to be a decent yeast and beer bread recipe out there. (Well if you Google it, there’s lots, but they look sketchy even at best.) So I picked a few that looked promising and worked them together into one that seems to work for me.
First of all, ‘beer’ means a lighter beer. I’ve experimented with a porter and a few other darker beers, but it just didn’t go well. I have a bunch of Presidente left over from a recent party, and this seems to work just right.
Now, because I’m either super busy or secretly lazy, I’ve always owned a bread machine. Just to make the dough. Who would want to cook it in there and end up with that huge cube of bread? Yuck.
Yeast Beer Bread
Makes 1.5 lb loaf
12 oz. bottle of room temperature beer
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 1/3 cups bread flour
1 packet or 2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
This is a long but almost labor-less process, so start off with pouring the beer into a bowl and whisking it a bit to get the froth out. Since my beer is all in the fridge, I have to let it sit out for an hour to get it to room temperature also. Then pour it into the bread maker bucket (remember to put in the little paddle if yours is detachable because that’s FUN to forget!). Then put in the ingredients in the order listed. Most bread makers tell you to put in all wet ingredients, then dry ingredients. But really who cares since you’re about to mix it all together.
Set your bread maker to dough only, then go about your life. Mine does this in about an hour, giving me plenty of time to check Facebook, do laundry, wash dishes, blog, etc. And I don’t have to fiddle with timing, checking, punching down, and resting it.
Just before the dough is ready, I get out a big bowl and oil the inside, and oil whatever pan or tray I’m going to use. This recipe makes very fluffy dough that gets out of hand, so I’m actually looking for an over-size loaf pan. Standard size just gives me a huge loaf with a giant bread-afro. When your dough asks to be let out, get your fingertips a little oiled so you can help scoop it out of the bucket and slide it into the oiled bowl. Punch it down a little in the bowl (I tend to overwork my dough which is bad bad bad), and then shape it into a loaf by gently tucking all of the corners and edges under for a smooth crown. Center this on a flat baking tray, or fit it into your loaf pan.
Cover this with a dish towel and set aside for an hour or until it doubles in size. And it will. Like the federal budget deficit during Ronnie’s first term.
Now, my oven and I have a hate-hate relationship, so I can only offer guidelines for baking. I put in a flat loaf on a tray at 360 for 25-30 minutes. For the loaf pan style, I go at 350 for about 40-45 minutes. To make sure it’s cooked through properly. Nothing like opening up a lovely loaf of bread to find it’s got a squishy middle.
Not only does this make a nice loaf of bread, it’s a great base for being creative with. Add ingredients to make it garlicky, sweet, cheesy, whatever. A few cloves of pressed garlic at the very beginning with the beer, some finely shredded basil leaves, some Italian seasonings, and 1/2 cup of pecorino romano, and you have some mighty fine bread there. Or dried cranberries, a touch of nutmeg and powdered ginger. Mmmmmm…
And you can split up the dough into smaller balls, roll them in garlic and oil before the last rise, and make dinner rolls. My next experiment will be using this to make cinnamon bun inspired rolls that don’t make your eyeballs want to fall out from all of the sugar.
Beer bread using yeast is unusual because beer naturally has a lot of yeast in it, so depending on the type of beer you use, you might end up with some super insane fluffy dough that crawls out of the pan while it’s baking (yes, I know from experience). And I have to make the observation that some of these recipes called for honey instead of brown sugar, which seemed to make the dough very unstable. Sounds yummy but not so practical.
I’m not all about the brands but I have to say that since I switched to Kind Arthur Flour Co. flour, I can absolutely tell the difference. Between the good quality flour, and the extra power of the beer, this bread is ridiculously easy and turns out really fluffy and soft. A little butter and good jam, and dig in while it’s fresh. It doesn’t get any better than this.