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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Beer Bread: Part 1

Ok, well, I didn't expect to get moving so quickly, but a friend posted a question on facebook asking about how to make a good beer bread. Of course, something I literally know NOTHING about. Bread baking is something I'm dying to get good at, and hopefully, will challenge myself with in the next few months.

Anyway, I decided to do a bit of research. Got to love the internet. First, I looked over a bunch of recipes to see what they all have in common. Then, I asked a good baking friend. But most importantly, I remembered something random I saw on the Food Network--on Alton Brown's Good Eats. He once did a show on cookie baking, and talked about how changing up the ingredients in a cookie recipe changes the texture. (Something I'll delve into at some point soon when I cave and bake cookies for my husband. Just wait, you'll get all the cookie knowledge I've got!)

My beer bread loving friend said she loves the mix she's bought online, but it's expensive. She said she tried a recipe she found online but it came out too dry. Taking that into consideration, along with all the recipes I found, here is what I did. Turns out, beer bread is ridiculously easy. Seriously. Like, so easy I'm quite certain that anyone reading this has these ingredients in their house right now and could try it if they wanted to. Go ahead, I dare you. No, I triple dog dare you. (You like that right, how I skipped right over double dog dare? I'm ballsy, what can I say!)

Me being me, I have to give you a SOLID piece of advice here. From all my knowledge of beer, and cooking with beer, the type of beer you use DOES matter. (Yes, it's true, I've been known to boil brats in Miller Lite before grilling them, but that's it as far as my relationship with any beer-flavored-seltzer goes.)
The only thing I had in the house to use in this capacity was Yuengling. It made a great, subtly flavored beer bread, but next time I will definitely use something heftier. An Oatmeal Stout, perhaps, or something super hoppy, like Bell's Hopslam. It also could use seasoning with some fresh and dried herbs, which I would alter depending on the type of beer used. Again, next time.

With all of that knowledge, I give you the recipe I literally just pieced together, tested, and tasted in the last few hours. I'll be testing it again soon, probably with a meal planned with it, and definitely a more intentional beer. 

I cut half of this loaf and wrapped it up to take to work with me BEFORE I realized I should take a picture.
(I promise to get better/more prepared with the pictures.)

3 C all-purpose flour (I'd LOVE to try using half whole-wheat or something grainier)
1/2 TBSP light brown sugar (this gives it a mildly chewier texture)
1/2 TBSP granulated sugar (I used organic raw sugar--I'm sure white sugar would be fine)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 TBSP baking powder
12 oz beer (again, use what you like, but I'm inclined to recommend something delightfully strong in flavor)
1 egg
2 tsp water

Preheat oven to 375 F.
Grease (I used butter--no cooking spray on hand) a loaf pan
In large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, salt, and baking powder.
Slowly whisk in 1/3 of the beer. Switch to a silicone/rubber spatula or strong wooden spoon
Slowly mix in remaining beer (in 2 batches). Mix until just combined.
**Note: Mine didn't fully combine with the 12oz of beer. I used my hands to lightly mix the rest of 
    of the flour mixture into the dough. The dough will be thick. DO NOT OVER MIX 
    (You will create too much gluten, resulting in a tough and drier bread.)
Spread the dough into the greased loaf pan.
Beat together the egg and the water to create an egg wash. 
Brush the egg wash over the loaf, to add shine and seal in the moisture. (At least that's my reasoning.)

Bake roughly 45 minutes, or until the sainted toothpick comes out clean. 
The top will have this gorgeous, lumpy texture. It will beg you to cut into it immediately. 
DON'T! Let it cool for about 10 minutes in the pan. Then, you can eat it, store it in an air-tight container, use it for toast in the morning...the possibilities are truly endless, aren't they. 

Cheers seems appropriate here, so...



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