Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Beer Bread - Just Great Flavor (but goes great with beer)

I know what you're thinking. What the point? I mean, why go to the trouble of using the beer if you don't have the alcohol? Well for the flavor!! Let me explain something. I have already written that bread and cake are kissing cousins. Most of the same ingredients but with different proportions and baking times, methods etc. Well, it turns out that bread has few more cousins. And one of them is, believe it or not, beer. At least they both use yeast (but different strains). And, at least for sourdough and pre-ferments, they both require slow fermentation. But no alcohol in the bread, because alcohol boils and evaporates at about 176 F (80 C), and your oven will be around twice that, at 350 F (180 C). So it just evaporates and leaves us the great flavor.

The beer bread has a tang and is especially good for sandwiches with a sharp cheese or deli meats with Dijon mustard. Try it, and you see, it's a keeper.

Here's What You'll Need:
For the sponge:
1 1/2 teaspoon dry active yeast
1/2 cup AP flour
1/2 cup warm water (about 100 degrees)
12 oz bottled beer
18 ounces AP flour (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoon fine salt

Here's What You'll Need To Do:
1. Start with the sponge. Mix the flour and water together then stir in the yeast. Cover and let it stand in a warm place until it becomes bubbly and starts to smell yeasty. That should take about 2 hours or so.

2. Then add in the rest of the ingredients. If the beer is cold out of the refrigerator, it will still be fine. The only difference is that the rising times will be slower. But actually, that improves the flavor. Mix the flour in, one cup at a time, and then knead the rough dough for about 10 minutes at least until the dough is soft and smooth.

3. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat, then cover. Let it rise until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

4. Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface being careful not to deflate it too much. Shape it into an oblong loaf and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet to rest, covered, for at least another 45 minutes. 

5. About 20 minutes before baking time, pre-heat the  oven to 350 F (180 C). Slash the bread with a serrated knife down the center just before placing it in the oven. To strengthen the crust, you can bake with steam.

6. Cool on a rack completely before slicing.