Beers and Tears (of joy)

January 24, 2008

I have a lot to cover. I know I said that San Francisco's luscious pastries, damn fine coffee and superlative pizza would have their day(s) and they will. I think. But right now I am motivated by the mad ecstasy of warm carbs to share with you as quickly as possible the method by which you too might experience the singular joy of warm bread at midnight. I don't do yeast these days, though I have before and hope to once more. The primary reason why I have not attacked my old standard, Cuban Easy Bread, is because whenever I read a recipe directive to "place dough on floured surface" I immediately cringe at the thought of placing a precious lump of dough on any surface of my kitchen, floured or no. So until I have a nice wood countertop to flour to my heart's content and clean with boiling water and oil with oils, yeasty bread will have to wait. Hence beer bread. Beer bread is an infinitely satisfying amalgam of quick bread and yeast bread, requires practically no effort or baking talent and acts as a stellar vehicle for whatever fixins for which you might be jonesing (though fruit probably wouldn't work too well as filler, stick to savory). Though it lacks the satisfying crisp crust of a veritable loaf, it toasts brilliantly and possesses the chewy elasticity of a kneaded bread. The ineffable delight of oven-fresh bread is one I discovered at school, lurking in the kitchen waiting with a ladle of butter/salsa/peanut sauce for loaves oozing with jalapeno-jack to come out of the oven, marveling at the occasional emergence of foccacia, challah, sourdough, witnessing the regenerative power of sizzling crumbs and learning that carbs consumed standing up and in good company are not ones to be counted.

Whole Wheat Beer Bread
from a recipe from Farmgirl Fare

When I first made beer bread I used all-purpose flour and included chives, caramelized shallots, sundry herbs and sharp cheddar cheese. The result was nothing short of delicious, but after trying out this whole wheat version I think that the hint of beer that lingers in the bread weds more successfully with the darker wheat flavor than with regular flour. A note about the beer: though recipes recommend using an Irish Pale Ale, I used a darker brew. The resulting taste is definitely heavier on the beer side of things so if you would prefer something that has a better chance of skating by unnoticed on the AA buffet table, use a lighter beer. Also, this bread has a tendency to get a bit soggy after being wrapped in foil. This can be countered either by toasting individual slices or popping the whole loaf into the oven at 200 degrees for a few minutes until the top dries out. Finally, a layer of cheese on the top of the loaf pre-baking can't hurt.
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbl granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
1 Tbl baking powder
1+ cup grated cheese of your choice, sharp cheddar works well
14 ounces beer (or 12 ounces beer & 2 ounces water)
Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine flour, sugar, salt, herbs and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Slowly stir in beer and cheese and mix just until combined.

Spread in a greased 8-inch loaf pan, brush with egg glaze and bake about 45 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool 10 more minutes.


1 comment:

Blake said...

I'm so doing this.

As a tactless baker, these words are music to my ears:

"requires practically no effort or baking talent and acts as a stellar vehicle for whatever fixins for which you might be jonesing"