Welcome to my first foray into bread baking! I had no idea how simple and inexpensive it is to make bread that tastes much better than most store bought breads. Beer bread isn't a novel idea, but I'd like to share my methods and observations about the process after many trials.
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Step 1: Gather Ingredients & Tools
- 3 cups of sifted flour: I use a mixture of bread flour and whole wheat flour (in this case 2 cups of WW and 1 cup of bread flour). You can also use all purpose flour.
- 1 tablespoon of fresh or recently opened baking powder. Can be regular or double acting.
- 1 teaspoon of salt (more to taste or to help acclimate yourself to homemade bread). I used pink salt.
- 2.5 tablespoons of table sugar you can use up to 1/4 cup if you like.
- 1 12 oz beer (more on this later...)
- Plenty of options here. I've had good luck with half & half or milk and a small amount of melted butter
- Or a whisked egg, but it will waste most of the egg.
- Or for extra richness, try up to 1/4 cup of melted butter!
- chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
- any kind of chopped nut
- shredded cheese (cheddar, asiago, swiss)
- anything you can think of that pairs well with the beer you've chosen.
- mixing bowl
- flour sifter or a strainer (and time for cleanup)
- measuring spoons & cups
- mixing spoon
- 9 x 5 bread pan OR you can bake it in an origami tin foil box (well greased) if you don't have a loaf pan. It will turn out as more of a boule but works well.
- a silicone brush for the bread wash (lacking that, the back of a fork works just fine)
- wire wisk (a fork will work too)
Step 2: Dry Ingredients
For baking amateurs like me, sift your flour before measuring. This is the only part of the process that takes a little time and makes a mess. Then add the sugar, baking powder and salt. Blend with a whisk or a fork.
Step 3: Add the Beer!
- Hops: hops will be the most prominent beer flavor and smell that will come through in the finished product. If you don't like the idea of some bitterness in your bread avoid IPAs and other hop heavy beers.
- Malts: if you choose a big beer with a high alcohol content and lots of malty sweetness, this will come through in the final product.
- Bottle conditioned beers: beer with some wirt in the bottle is nice for beer bread. I like to think the yeast is alive and well and replaces traditional yeast in bread, but I'm not convinced of this for a few reasons.
- Heavy sediment: I *love* unfiltered beer, but if you use one with lots of sediment (a few visible centimeters at the bottom of a still bottle) you may end up with a slightly unpleasant gritty texture on the crust of your bread.
- Don't be afraid to use beer fridge rejects!: I can't stand wheat beers or Belgian styles, but the yeasty taste I don't like in beer works beautifully for bread. I also don't like brown beers or stouts too much, but these make soft & slightly sweet bread.
- Pair the beer with the flour and additives: making cheddar bread with white flour? Try and IPA or pale ale. Making a hearty whole wheat bread? Try a brown ale or stout. Making a loaf with lots of pumpkin seeds? Try your favorite pumpkin brew! Want the end product not to taste much like beer? Try a wheat beer or something neutral like a Shiner Bock.
Step 4: Combine...
Stir until combined, the end dough should look something like picture one. The amount of beer in a 12 oz bottle or can will vary somewhat. If it seems too dry you can add more beer or a little water, but you also don't want it too wet.
Now, cover the dough with a paper towel and go do something else for a while. The longer you let it sit, the more it will grow and when you give it a stir it will have a web-y sort of look. For this loaf, it sat about two hours before baking. This step is optional but worth while. You can stick it in the oven as soon as you combine, but your loaf will be a little smaller and more dense.
Step 5: Pan, Top & Wash It...
Give it a final quick stir and add your dough to a lightly greased bread pan.
If you want to add seeds, nuts, cheese, etc. now is the time. Brush generously with your chosen bread wash after adding toppings.
Give it a little diagonal slash with a knife before you put it in the oven, preheated to 375 degrees. Baking time is about 50-55 mins in my oven, but start checking for crusty top and edges around 45 mins.
Step 6: Cool and Eat
You know what to do with bread... but here are some tasty topping ideas:
- top a cheesy white bread with more cheese or hummus
- for wheatier bread, I like peanut butter and fresh raspberries
- PB2 and crock pot apple butter
- mashed avocado & honey or jam
- A beer bread loaf stored in a gallon ziplock should last 7 days before molding.
- It will be soft enough to enjoy without toasting for 4-5 days
- For the first few loaves I baked, I used raw sugar and my results were very small and dense. Perhaps like kombucha, the yeast finds it easier to eat the refined sugar. I'm not sure at all, but I definitely suggest using white table sugar instead of turbinado sugar.
- The end product is kind of small, so don't expect to make giant sandwiches with it. But it's awesome for little sandwiches!
- I've had equally successful results using fresh beer (bottled within the last month) and beer that's been through summer heat, abused by FedEx, and is many months old.
- You can make the recipe without sifting the flour, but it will be extremely, extremely dense.
Have you made beer bread before? Share your results and ideas with me! :)