I decided this week that I didn't feel like staying up past my bedtime waiting for bread to come out of the oven. I waited until Freya went to the basement for some ingredients and made my move on the kitchen. My incursion was much better executed than the Roman invasion of the Teutoburg Forest and far more dangerous. Knowing only seconds stood between success and failure, I chose to make the easiest bread in the world, Beer Bread.
As is the case with all my cooking experience, there's a funny story attached to my introduction to beer bread. I was living in Denver at the time and preparing to celebrate my 25th birthday. I decided to throw a big party and thought it best to get a keg for the event. I'm very picky about beer and this applies to beer in barrels as well as bottles, so I spent big on a full keg of Heineken. I made up my own invitations, cleaned the house, and made up a big vat of gumbo (I should probably write a post about this, one of our all-time favourite foods...eventually). The big moment arrived and passed, but finally the doorbell rang and two people walked in. We drank some beer and ate some gumbo and waited. It became apparent that nobody else was going to show up. I knew there was an explanation because EVERYBODY LOVES ME, don't they? My friend Rocky later told me that everybody thought the invitations were a joke. For future reference, invites should not resemble a punk fanzine.
The next day I was left with a serious dilemma. The keg and tap were on a deposit. If I didn't return them before the end of the weekend I would lose $30. Hey, thirty bucks is thirty bucks, right? As I wasn't up to the challenge of drinking all that beer, and surprisingly neither was Rocky, I had to come up with a solution. My neighbors Skip and Mark (the only two people at the party incidentally) suggested I make beer bread. "Great!", I said, "What do I need?" I headed out to Albertson's and bought twenty bags of self-rising flour and a couple of bags of sugar. Mark came over and we set up a bread making assembly line. I poured ingredients into bowls and mixed them up, Mark turned the dough out onto baking sheets and dusted the tops with flour. The flour on top was needed he claimed to make them "Faabulouss!" We made nearly eighty loaves of bread in just under six hours and while the people who didn't show up for my party weren't deserving, they all got a loaf.
I introduced my mother-in-law to beer bread a few years ago. For the following week I was induced to make several loaves for her work colleagues. It was at this point that I discovered the versatility of the bread. Add some cinnamon, extra sugar, and raisins for a nice sweet variety. Add some olives and cheese for something savoury. If you're not too adventurous it's easy to achieve a variety of results just by using different types of beer. I have tried this bread with a lot of beers, but I find it's best with either a very cheap lager or a bottle of Guinness.
3+/- cups self-raising flour
12oz. beer (I used Fiddler's Elbow by Wychwood this time)
2 tablespoons sugar (4 if you're using brown sugar)
1 teaspoon salt
(This is the simple part! No kneading, no proving.)
1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl until a loose dough forms. The looser the dough the lighter the bread will be, but don't blame me when it expands to fill your entire oven. If you want a denser loaf just add more flour.
2. Place dough on a floured baking sheet, pizza stone, or in a bread pan. Put straight into a preheated oven (400°F/200°C) and bake for 30-40 minutes dependent on thickness of the dough.
You will notice that I have omitted the sprinkling of flour on top, but I don't require my bread to be Fabulous. Feel free to add it back though if you're so inclined.