Beer Bread

Beer bread is a heavy, tasty quick bread that uses yeast in the beer as a levener.  I love beer breads for their versatility as the bread will take on whatever flavor of the beer that you use.  When I make a beer marinade for steaks, I will serve this bread with the steaks as my carbohydrate.  They also make a great snack.  Warm a slice up in the oven or microwave and add a pad of butter, mmm mmm mmmmmmmm…

Who doesn’t like beer?  Mmmmmmm

“dump” style.  Soooooo easy!

I’ve made this bread with light beer, lager, stouts, you name it.  It’s yummy no matter what beer you use.  It’s a “dump” bread, meaning you add everything to one bowl and then dump it into your bread pan to bake.  It does take about 50 minutes to bake so you do need to give yourself time to bake it but if you throw it together when you get home, it will be ready by the time you are done cooking dinner!  You’ll whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar together in a bowl, stir in a bottle/can of beer, dump it into your bread pan, and pour butter over it.  Bake in 375F oven, voila!  Beer bread.  Now devour!

You will have to make the slices for this bread thicker than normal as it is a bit crumbly but it is oh sooooo yummy!

 
Beer Bread
 
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar (I’ve used less)
1 can/bottle – 12oz – of beer (your choice – remember the bread will take on the flavor of the beer)
1/4 cup melted butter
 
  1. Preheat oven to 375F
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl.
  3. Stir in beer of choice
  4. Pour into greased loaf pan.  Pour melted butter over the top.
  5. Bake for 1 hour, let cool for at least 15 minutes.  After 45 minutes check the loaf, if a skewer comes out clean then it’s done.  You don’t want to over cook.  I’ve found that cooking time can vary between 45 minutes and an hour.
  6. Slice and enjoy

Don’t Waste That: Whey (French Bread)

Remember when we made yogurt and after draining the yogurt we ended up with about a pint of whey.  I told you to save it and you’ll be glad that you did.  We are going to use the whey to make french bread.  You can substitute whey for water in any bread recipe.  Whey adds a wonderful understated, deeper flavor to bread.  Once you make bread with whey you will never go back to making bread with just water again.  French bread is the most simple yeast breads to make – it’s just flour, salt, water (in this case whey), and yeast – and it’s a great bread to teach yourself how to bake.  It’s not too terribly finicky and it doesn’t take a lot of time nor a lot of ingredients so if it doesn’t turn out, then you can’t really be disappointed.

If you have never made bread before I suggest you start by using All Purpose flour.  All Purpose Flour is so forgiving.  I have made french bread with whole wheat and a blend of whole wheat and all purpose flour, but you need an extra ingredient called Vital Wheat Gluten.  Wheat flour does not have the same amount of gluten as white flour so if you are not skilled, the bread will not rise.

Start with All Purpose Flour to get your confidence up and once you can churn out consistent french bread loaves, you can start playing around with the wheat flour ratio!
Once you start making your own bread, you will never go back to pre-packaged bread again…unless you really have to.

In a 2 cup measuring cup, measure out 1 1/2 cups of whey and microwave for 1 minute so that it’s luke warm add a pinch of sugar, and then sprinkle in the yeast.  You want this to sit for about 5 minutes to give the yeast time to activate.  You know the yeast is activating when it starts to bubble up.

In a separate bowl, add 1 cup of flour and salt (I prefer sea salt) and mix.  Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and add the whey/yeast mixture.  Using a wooden spoon, mix well until it is smooth.  Add 2 to 3 cups more flour.  You want the flour to be stiff and not wet.  Once the flour is stiff, flour your counter, and dump the mixture out on your counter.  Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, throwing the dough down on the counter every so often.  The action of kneading and throwing the dough will activate the gluten.  Form your dough into a ball.

Lightly oil a bowl (I prefer olive oil), and place your ball of dough in the bowl.  Cover with a towel and let the dough rise for a minimum of 40 minutes; you want the dough to double in size.

When the dough has doubled in size, dump it out on your well floured counter, punch it down and let the dough rest for 5 minutes.  Once it’s rested, start kneading.  Knead for 10 minutes, cut the dough in half and form into logs. Cover with a towel and let rise again for a minimum of 40 minutes, again waiting for the dough to double in size.
I have a french bread pan but you don’t need a french bread pan to bake french bread!
Preheat your oven to 400F.  Using a sharp, serrated knife, make three quick slices into the dough. Brush with olive oil (or use your misto, like me!).  Throw some ice cubes into the bottom of your oven and bake the bread for 20-30 minutes until the bread is golden brown.  If you tap on the bottom of the bread, it will sound hollow.  Let the bread cool for at least 20 minutes…but I can never wait that long.  I have to cut into the loaf while the bread is still steaming hot!
French Bread
Yield:  2 loaves
Ingredients:
1.5 cups whey
1 scant tablespoon yeast
pinch sugar
3 to 4 cups of all purpose flour
1 tablespoon of salt (I prefer sea)
  1. Warm up whey until it is luke warm, add a pinch of salt, then sprinkle in the yeast.
  2. While your waiting for the yeast to activate, add 1 cup of flour and the salt into a large bowl, mix it well with a wood spoon and create a well in the middle.
  3. Once the yeast is bubbly, pour it into the well and start mixing with a wood spoon until the dough is very smooth.  Add 2 – 3 more cups of flour until the dough is stiff.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and start kneading.  Knead for about 10 minutes, slamming the dough down onto the counter as you knead.  Form the dough into a bowl.
  5. Oil a bowl and add the dough to the bowl.  Cover with a towel and let rise for at least 45 minutes.  You want the dough to double in size.
  6. Once the dough doubles in size, turn it out onto a floured surface, punch the dough down, and let it rest for 5 minutes.  After the 5 minutes, start kneading the dough, about 5 minutes.  Cut the dough in half and form two logs. 
  7. Place the logs on a baking sheet and cover with a towel.  Let rise for a minimum of 40 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size. 
  8. Preheat your oven to 400 and throw some ice cubes in the bottom of your oven.  Using a sharp, serrated knife, quickly make three slashes into the tops of the bread, brush (or spray) with olive oil, and bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown.
  9. Let cool for 20 minutes before you slice and devour!



Soda Scones

What is Soda Bread?  When I first heard of it, I thought it was bread made with actual Soda Pop!  It is not!  Soda bread is a quick, heavy bread made with baking soda as the levening agent. The earliest references of using “baking soda” as a levener are through the American Indians who began using potash in their breads centuries ago.
 
So, how did soda bread became so completely Irish?
 
Soft wheat is the only wheat that is really able to grow in Ireland’s harsh climates and soft wheat does not do well with yeast.  Yeast needs gluten to rise and soft wheat just does  not provide the gluten.  Bicarbonate of soda was introduced to Ireland around the 1840s.  The Irish had discovered that using baking soda instead of yeast and adding an acid, like sour milk, would give them a quick bread. By 1845, the Great Potato Famish was in full swing and it is believed that it spurred soda breads popularity, giving rise to many different types of soda bread.  Soda bread is an easy, quick, and cheap bread to make; all you need is flour, salt, baking soda, and sour milk (modern recipes call for buttermilk), so one can see how it would become popular during the Potato Famine.

I had exactly 1.5 cups of buttermilk in the fridge that was going to go bad and I thought that soda scones would be the perfect way to use it up and since I wanted to spread my marmalade over it, I made the soda scones as plain as plain could be.  This is a very basic recipe so you can add what you want to it.  Sweet.  Salty.  Savory.  Go for it!  Have fun!

 
The first tip I want to give you is that this dough is very wet so you want to use plenty of flour to make it easier to work with so it doesn’t stick to everything.
 

 As you can see, I’ve liberally sprinkled flour over the counter and over the dough

 
Place your scones on a parchment (or silpat) lined baking sheet.  You can brush the tops with buttermilk, cream, or – if your lazy (like me!) – you can spray it with oil from your Misto!  Bake in 425 oven for about 20 minutes.  You can test the bread by dipping a toothpick in the middle and it come out clean or by tapping on the bottom of the bread, it should sound hollow.

mmmmm, can’t wait to dig in!
 

Soda Scones

Yield:  8  scones

3 cups All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt (I used Kosher)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1.5 cups buttermilk (or sour milk if you have some milk that is past the expiration date!)

  1. Preheat oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl.  Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the buttermilk.  Mix with a wooden spoon until you have moist dough.
  3. Flour your work surface well, dump out the dough onto your floured work surface, sprinkle the dough with flour and shape into an 8″ disk.  Cut into 8 pieces.  Scoop the scones onto your baking sheet.
  4. Brush with oil, cream, or buttermilk.
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden brown and/or a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean

mmmm, soda scone with marmalade
 
References:
1.  History of Irish Soda Bread by Abigails Bakery, LLC, http://www.abigailsbakery.com/bread-recipes/history-of-irish-soda-bread.htm
2.  Irish Soda Bread History by Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread, http://www.sodabread.info/Sodabreadhistory/sodabreadhistory.htm
3.  The History of Irish Soda Bread by Food History, http://www.kitchenproject.com/history/IrishSodaBreads/index.htm