(…not that anyone was… or wait…)
For Christmas 2011, it seemed like everyone gave me a stack of cookbooks. One of the ones Jay gave me was the Williams-Sonoma Bread book. I haven’t made many things from the book yet, just a few. Give me a break- I have a bajillion cook books I’m trying to get through! But one of the things I keep making over & over again from the book is the beer bread. And it became Jay’s favorite thing ever the minute it came out of the oven. Trust me- that’s a big deal. He’s a picky one, and he BARELY eats any of my goodies! (side note: feel free to tell him in the comments that he’s crazy, and remind him how some would kill for that opportunity)
I’m telling you, though, once you make a good beer bread, you never want to stop. You want to just keep making it using all kinds of beer, any kind of beer you can get your hands on; all of a sudden it’s “Mmm this beer is good… I bet it’d make a great beer bread!” I’ve tweaked some of the amounts of things just a bit, based on my experience making it, so that’s the version I’m giving you. It’s such a rustic bread, it always reminds me of old fashioned pioneer breads or Colonial bread, so it’s only fitting I used Samuel Adams beer.
Either way, no matter what beer you use, it’s so incredibly SIMPLE to make and it’s always a hit.
Also, just a note: I’ve made this bread with Samuel Adams Summer Ale, Blue Point Oktoberfest, Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Harp Lager, Guinness stout and now, Samuel Adams Winter Lager. Every single beer gave the bread a totally different flavor, and yet every single one made it delicious. I haven’t hit on a bad one yet!
JAY’S FAVORITE 5-INGREDIENT BEER BATTER BREAD (adapted from Williams-Sonoma’s Bread book)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 rounded tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 bottle beer, (12 fl oz/375 ml), unopened and at room temperature*
- 2 tablespoons melted butter (I use unsalted, but if you’re using salted just use half the amount of salt in the recipe), plus more for greasing the pan
- Preheat your oven to 375° F. Grease (with softened butter) a 9″-by-5″-inch loaf pan. Set aside.
- In a bowl, stir the flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt together. Open the beer and add it all at once; it’s going to foam up. Stir briskly just until it comes together & everything is combined (the book says 20 strokes). The batter will be a little lumpy- that’s okay. It might even be a big ball of dough (like a regular bread dough), and that’s fine too.
- Pour (or scoop) into the prepared loaf pan. Tap the pan on the counter to even it out, and pat it down if it needs it. Drizzle with the melted butter.
- Bake until the top is crusty and a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean, roughly 35-40 minutes. Let the loaf rest in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature the day it’s made. Cut into thick slices and serve with plenty of butter.
*Avoid using an overly bitter beer; you’ll get very unsavory results.
Jay likes to eat his either right out of the oven or warmed up in the toaster oven, with salted butter. Depending on the kind of beer you use, I think it can be spectacular with soup, especially an Irish potato soup. However I do find it’s best when warm, so if you have leftovers be sure to heat them up a little, or even toast them slightly. Unlike the Guinness ginger cake, which keeps for days, this doesn’t keep well over long periods of time. It’s best to eat it within one to three days (three days being tops). It won’t go bad after that but it just won’t taste as good… it gets a bit rubbery.
It’s absolutely best the day it’s made, however.
Like I said, with this batch I used Samuel Adams Winter Lager. It came out wonderful (again), ironically with a kind of banana-y note to it. I cannot stress the following enough: Be very careful of the beer you use! A bitter beer will make a really nasty bread. A sweet beer will make a sweet(er) bread, etc. For example: a dark, creamy porter or stout will make a bread better for dessert or breakfast, whereas an ale or lager will make a better savory bread. Beware of IPA’s & pilsner’s; they can be a bit too bitter or hop-y. Very crisp beers aren’t suited for this, really, because there’s very little else in the bread to help flavor it. If you use a chocolate or cream stout or maple pecan porter or something, you could probably add some chopped nuts to the bread too, or mix a little brown sugar into the melted butter before you drizzle it on top. If you’re not sure of the different styles of beer & what they’re like, try checking out this website. I’d also recommend using a fancier (read: better quality) beer than, say, Coors Light or Budweiser. Those don’t have much flavor to impart, and the bread probably wouldn’t turn out very good.
If you’re a beer lover, I’m serious; you need to try this bread. Start out with a sweet beer & ease into the experimentation. Soon you’ll hit on one that’s your absolute favorite!