beer bread

Mmmm, beeeeeer bread. This savory quick bread goes together lickety-split. Just mix the dry ingredients, stir in the beer, plop it in the pan with some butter on top, and bake it until it’s crusty and fragrant. So good, so simple, so darned fast!

With all these virtues to recommend it, beer bread shows up on our table often, cozying up to soup or salad or frittata, but this weekend you can expect to see it in a simple (and crumbly!) sandwich for the Sandwich Party.

The recipe from Epicurious makes a very tasty loaf of bread with a heady aroma, but I’ve adapted it slightly. A touch less sugar and butter and a heartier mixture of flours brings out the subtle flavor of wheat along with the tang of beer.

beer bread

3 TBS butter
3 cups flour (I use a mixture of white and white whole wheat)
2 1/2 TBS sugar
1 TBS baking powder
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, or 1 tsp standard table salt
~ 12 ounces beer, room temperature

Preheat oven to 375F. In a loaf pan or 8-inch round, melt half of the butter (1 1/2 TBS). Remove from oven and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add beer all at once, pouring slowly to retain carbonation, and stir it into the flour mixture. Be sure to fold in dry ingredients from the bottom of the bowl. Batter will be lumpy and rough; don’t overmix.

Scoop batter into the buttery baking dish and dot the top with remaining 1 1/2 TBS butter.

Bake at 375F for ~30 minutes (for 8-inch round), ~40 minutes (for loaf pan), or until the top is crusty and flecked with dark spots. Between the cracks of the craggy, golden crust, the dough should look damply matte, not wet and shiny.

Let cool a few minutes, then remove loaf from pan and let it sit ten minutes or so before cutting into it. (Cooling for ten minutes allows the quick bread to set and lets you cut neater slices, but I admit I usually hack rough slices off the heel end of the hot bread and serve it right away. It’s crumbly and ugly but irresistably delicious.)

If you’ve made an 8-inch round,you needn’t remove it from the pan or let it rest quite as long. For a round loaf, I bake it in a handsome ceramic dish so I can serve right from the warm pan.

I’ve made this bread with all kinds of beers: light and dark, cheap and fancy, and with whatever was kicking around the fridge. The bread tastes deliciously different each time: sometimes light and faintly tangy, sometimes heavier and darker with a pleasantly bitter undertone. A few days ago, I made it with a long-chilled, lone bottle of novelty porter that neither of us had deigned to drink, and it was still great. Beer bread hasn’t disappointed us yet.

As lightning-fast as this recipe is, I often keep the dry ingredients mixed up and stored in a cabinet, which makes it even faster to toss together. If you decide fifteen minutes before dinner to whip up a pan of beer bread, you can juuuuuuuuust about squeak in under the finish line by spooning the batter into muffin tins instead of a loaf pan. Grease the tins very well (and skip the paper liners), melt the 2 TBS of butter and stir it directly in with the room-temperature beer, then top each uncooked muffin with a sliver of butter before baking for, oh, I’d say 12-15 minutes in a preheated oven. Muffins don’t need to rest; you can serve them immediately.

I’ve thought about varying this bread with additions of sauted onion, rosemary, dill, or grated cheese, but we haven’t tired of the original yet, so I haven’t been tempted to tamper yet.

note: don’t worry if your loaf doesn’t rise this high. The handiest beer was a 16-oz. can, so I made a batch-and-a-third… and I’m glad I did. We can always eat more beer bread!

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