Monday, February 9, 2015

the world's easiest beer bread

beer bread made with Harp...mmm mmm good !
"Put one foot in front of the other"....that's all I have to do to start blogging again, right ? Baby steps...

This really is just about the easiest beer bread in the world...well, short of buying a mix. There's really no reason to buy a mix, though; we're talking 5 ingredients including the beer...most likely things you have around the house, assuming someone in your house drinks beer (or buys it for their friends). Oh, you can throw in more ingredients, if you feel up to it; this can very easily turn into an Italian Herb bread, or a Cheddar-Dill Bread, or even an Apple-Cinnamon Bread. At its core, though, this is simple perfection; beautiful crust, tender crumb, the slightest touch of sweet. Hearty enough to stand up to whatever you want to spread on it, adaptable enough to make friends with whatever meal you want to serve it with, confident enough to stand on its own...this is just damn good bread.

bread made with - and standing next to - a Sam Adams

When I set out to come up with a basic beer bread recipe, I had a few requirements. The few mixes I've tried - and a lot of the recipes I found - all had copious amounts of sugar; curiously, many of them also called for melting large quantities of butter and dumping it over the bread before baking. I have nothing against sugar and butter - especially combined with bread dough; fried dough is one of my favorite foods on earth - but that's not what I was looking for here. I just wanted bread.

another shot of the Harp loaf
As for the beer, "extra" beer is not a term that is used in my house. We love beer - all kinds of beer - and consume large amounts of it on a regular basis; our main concern through the recent snowstorms was maintaining our beer supply. I've heard legends of people who don't like beer; they buy beer for parties, but if it doesn't get enjoyed that night it sits unloved, languishing in the back of the fridge. Don't let this happen to your beer - use it for bread. Who doesn't like bread, for Pete's sake  ? (Answer : probably people who don't read this blog : ) ) . You can use absolutely any kind of beer to make this bread, from the cheap swill you buy for your relatives who don't know any better to the most snooty of microbrews. In the end, they will all turn into bread...and bread is the staff of life, after all.

and another shot of the Sam
A few additional notes :
  • Do follow the cooling instructions at the's tempting to tear right in when this comes out of the oven, but it will very likely fall apart if you do.
  • If your beer isn't quite 12 ounces - for example, Red Stripe comes in an 11.2 ounce bottle - just add a little water until you get to 12 ounces (1 1/2 cups)
  • I've given some variations at the end of the recipe. You can also sub out half the white flour for whole wheat; I would suggest adding another teaspoon of baking powder if you do. (I probably wouldn't use more whole wheat than that , or you will get very dense bread...though if you're into that sort of thing, go for it !) You can also substitute brown sugar for white, if you like the taste of the brown; brown sugar is particularly nice with whole wheat flour, and also goes very nicely with many types of beer.

Basic Beer Bread

3 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 (12 ounce) beer of your choice

Preheat oven to 375. Grease an 8" loaf pan (or spray with cooking spray)

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl; slowly pour in beer. Mix with a nice sturdy spoon (this will be thick) until combined.

Spread batter in pan. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until it's starting to brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes; then remove from pan and cool another 10.

Serve warm, cold, or anywhere in between. Keeps very well.

Variations :

Italian Herb Bread : add 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and 2 1/2 tsp. Italian Seasoning to dry ingredients. (I mix my own Italian Seasoning; for this bread, that would basically work out to 1 tsp. oregano, 1 tsp. basil, and 1/2 tsp. rosemary). A teaspoon of minced garlic wouldn't go amiss here either.

Cheesy Dill Bread : add 1/2 cup grated cheddar and 2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill (or 2 tsp dried) to dry ingredients.

Apple-Cinnamon Bread : increase sugar to 2 tablespoons. Add one peeled and chopped apple and 2 tsp. of cinnamon to dry ingredients.

Irish Beer Bread : use Guinness for beer; add 1/2 cup currants to dry ingredients. (This would work particularly well with the whole wheat - brown sugar version)