I find it funny that everyday, seemingly inconsequential, memories are often those that last. When these moments are peppered with sensory input, especially in the form of aroma, they seem to linger the longest. Perhaps that’s why I distinctly remember making beer bread in the kitchen of my mom’s friend Beth’s home many many years ago (I’d guess I was around 7 or 8). The piquant, yet warm aroma (or as my siblings put it “spicy”) of yeast emanating from the oven as the bread baked was truly intoxicating, and further cemented my burgeoning love for all (OK not ALL) things fermented. To a beige food eating, not quite tween/pre-teen/whatever they’re calling that age group these days, beer bread seemed exotic, mature, and a little bit naughty due to its inclusion of alcohol.
While I’m certain that particular loaf started its life as a humble package of beer bread mix, let me urge you to make this fully from scratch. I’d be hard-pressed to find a simpler recipe for bread, quick or yeast. With a few tweaks, namely the addition of a hefty grind of black pepper and swapping out the granulated sugar for brown, this recipe strays slightly from tradition, but certainly won’t knock you over the head with out there flavors. I imagine even in the pickiest days of my youth I would happily gobble up a slice or two of this craggy bread spread with a hefty pat of butter.
If, like me, you are a bowl/spatula/spoon licker, don’t be alarmed; as much as I generally prefer the flavor of raw batter and dough to the finished product (don’t leave me alone with a mixer bowl full of oatmeal cookie dough) this dough tastes unmistakably funky. I nearly scrapped the whole batch before even baking it, but I’m glad I did not; it emerged from the oven golden brown and springy, aided in part by a drizzling of melted butter pre-baking, and was scrumptious indeed.
This pairs exceptionally well with anything you’d eat with a pint of beer, that is to say most things, but especially soups and cheese. Best eaten still warm from the oven, it reheats exceptionally well, and can always benefit from a swipe of butter and an extra crack or two of black pepper. I freeze leftover bread (well wrapped) and reheat a slice when the craving strikes. A word to the wise if you store excess bread in the freezer: slice BEFORE freezing, I quickly learned this tip when it took me nearly three minutes to frantically saw off a slice from a frozen loaf once…
Adapted from an Honest Fare recipe
Yield: 1 Loaf of Bread
3 cups (15 oz) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ tablespoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 oz beer (cheap is fine)
3 tablespoons melted butter
Preheat the oven to 375°
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, brown sugar and pepper. Pour in the beer and mix gently til combined. Dump batter in a loaf pan and brush/drizzle on the melted butter (this aids in browning).
Bake for approximately 40 minutes (check at 35) or until golden brown and crusty in appearance.