Adapted from a Gerald Norman recipe
Eilene and Jan wanted beer bread so I found Gerald’s recipe online. After a couple of loaves using his recipe (which makes a really decent bread), it was time to branch out. Beer bread tastes strongly of whichever beer you use as the fluid. It is best to use a beer that you would happily drink warm (pretend you are British). This bread is good with a mediocre beer, but it is great with a good tipple.
One of the goals of my blog for my daughters is to explain not only the ingredients of a dish, but the thought process I go through in creating it and to make explicit the techniques that many experienced cooks do not even think about while they are doing them. Gerald’s recipe shows a good example of this. When he originally posted the recipe his second step was simply “Mix dry ingredients and beer.” Later he adds an update to explain in detail the importance of sifting the flour for this bread. When you measure the flour it gets compacted and sifting fluffs it up so that the liquid can mix in easily. If you do not sift the flour, the compacted clumps become pasty lumps leaving you with a hard brick of a loaf.
When I make a quick loaf I add all of the dry ingredients together and then sift it 2 or 3 times. This does more that fluff the flour, it mixes all of the dry ingredients evenly before you add the fluid. This is premixing is important because you want to “work” the dough as little as possible after you add the beer. For anyone who has made yeasted bread this may seem to make little sense. You knead this bread’s dough for a long time to develop the gluten matrix that traps the gasses given off by the yeast. The bubbles created by the gas gives this bread its structure. Beer bread, on the other hand, is more like a giant biscuit. Its “lift” comes from the baking soda and the gas created in this way cannot push against a gluten sheet (picture a child trying to blow up a balloon). For beer bread the less gluten the better and the more tender the loaf.
Gerald mentions in his post that the ½ cup of butter of the original recipe is a bit much. I have cut this back even further than the ¼ cup he uses. This is a case where less is more. If you want more butter you can always spread it on your own slice.
Jan had a can of Guinness in the fridge, so I decided to use this for my next loaf. However Guinness comes in 14.9 oz. cans, not the 12 oz. of an American beer. I adjusted the measurements of each ingredient to make it work. It made the best loaf yet and I served it with Karl’s Ham and Beans.
Later note: I had been making my beer bread with bread flour. I had a thought that since this bread was more like a biscuit that all purpose flour would be a better fit in this recipe. This was not the case, the all purpose flour loaf had less lift in the rise and a more crumbly texture.
Karl’s Guinness Beer Bread
3 ¾ cups bread flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 can Guinness (14.9 ounce)
3 Tbs. melted butter
1. Mix dry ingredients by sifting them together two or three times into a large bowl.
2. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the beer all at once and with a few gentle strokes mix in the beer. The object is to get all of the dry ingredients moist without over working the dough. Do not spend more than a minute mixing the beer in.
3. Put the dough into a Pam-ed loaf pan and poke it into the corners.
4. Melt the butter and pour it over the mixture. Use a spatula to completely cover the dough.
5. Start heating the oven to 375° and let the loaf rest for 10 minutes. This allows the liquid to completely moisten all of the flour and the baking powder to start creating the gas bubbles that will lift the loaf.
6. Bake 1 hour and 10 minutes.
7. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes.