Sunday, April 17, 2011

Beer Bread!

This bread is so good that I no longer buy bread, ever.  It is also well-liked by all and one of my most requested recipes. If you love bread but have been afraid to try baking it at home, I urge you to give this recipe a try.

Commercial bread making ovens rely on steam injectors to develop a nice chewy crust.  This recipe manages to achieve the same result by trapping the steam from a somewhat wet dough by using a lidded dutch oven for baking.  The vinegar gives the bread a nice sour touch and the flavor of the bread is greatly influenced by the flavor of the beer used.  I find that a wheat beer or stout give the best flavor.  In this case I used a very hoppy beer that was given to me by a super awesome lab-mate.  The bread tasted really, really hoppy.  I personally loved this flavor, but it might surprise someone expecting a "normal" bread flavor.  If you are not a big fan of beer, a Guinness or a Heff will give awesome flavor without seeming "beer-y".   

Beer Bread. 
Adapted from Nine Bean-rows.

3 Cups Bread Flour (the highest rated on cooks illustrated is King Arthur)
1 Packet Dry Yeast (I used active dry)
1 tbs Salt
2/3 Cup Warm Water
2/3 Cup Beer
1Tbs vinegar (white, white wine, apple cider, or rice)

1. Mix together dry ingredients, either in a stand mixer or with a whisk.  Add the warm water to the beer and sprinkle over the dry ingredients.  Add the vinegar and mix (with the bread hook or a wooden spoon) until combined. 
2. Place combined dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise 12-24 hrs.  It should rise in a place that is average to warm room temp (65+).  Because it is so cold in my condo that includes turning on the space heater, hopefully this isn't true for you!  It should look airy and slightly wet after rising and should be at least double in size.
3. Lightly flour a piece of parchment paper (not waxed paper, tried that once, no go) and knead the bread around on it until it is easy to shape into a ball.  You may need to add additional flour.  All together this should not take more than a minute or two.  Once shaped into a ball let the bread rise (in a bowl, on the parchment paper) for an additional 2 hours until doubled in size.  This time it should resemble an uncooked loaf.
4. Pre-heat oven to 500F with your cooking pan inside.  This should either be a dutch oven or a large heavy pot that has a lid.  After 30 minutes reduce oven temperature to 425F and add bread (on parchment paper) directly to the pot.  Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes.

5.  Remove the lid and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes until the crust is nice and brown.

If you enjoy the bread there is an entire movement based on this strategy of bread making.  I urge you to try other recipes and let me know how they are!!  There is even a cookbook.  A cookbook that I would love, by the way ;-) ;-)

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