Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Beer Bread

Tues 7 Oct 2008

This week's Root Source Challenge is lager. Hmm, how easy that would be if it were all about drinking it. Of course, it's not, and while my first thoughts were along lines of pork and chicory braised in lager I had to take a reality check. I'm currently enjoying the cold which appears to not only be doing the rounds of my office but also of Leeds in general, so I had to make do with what was to hand.

Which was, predictably, flour and yeast.

Beer bread. Not something I've made before but not exactly out there either. Only recently, the Hairy Bakers made a really tasty looking ale and cheese bread ... but I wanted something where the lager was the focus.

After a bit of a google and a peruse of my cookbooks I was tired of looking at recipes where I was to use self raising flour, a ton of baking powder and just knock up a dough that goes straight in the oven. I've got the time and eventually I got fed up and made up a recipe based on a couple I'd seen and my usual bread mix.

So, I took about 30g of unsalted butter and melted it. When the butter was just melted I added 12 fl oz of lager (Kronenberg) and allowed it to warm. This was very quick because the lager was at room temperature. I poured this mix into the mighty KitchenAid, added 1 tsp of dried yeast and gave it a quick stir.

About 10 minutes later I was starting to worry because it didn't really look like there was a lot of yeast action. But it was also hard to tell, because of the butter in the beer - it was starting to form what looked like a bit of a cap. Was it too cold? Had the beer and butter been too hot when I added the yeast? Should I have added some sugar? Or should I just stop worrying, walk away and leave it for a bit?

I chose the last option and returned probably about 10 or 15 minutes later when I convinced myself that the yeast looked like it had been activated and then dumped in 500g of strong white flour. I then left the machine to do the work and it formed quite a nice dough: not stiff, but good and elastic and holding together nicely. I covered the bowl with a tea towel and walked off again.

Half an hour later - a bit more panic. It didn't look like it was rising AND I realised I had forgotten (as usual) to add salt. Oh, wait! I didn't forget to add salt! I want to know what effect the beer has on the bread's taste ... silly me ...

After another half an hour or so I decided that the dough had risen (although probably not quite doubled) and that it was time to knead it and shape it into a loaf. It's funny how as soon as you start kneading dough you know whether everything's OK or not. The dough was still lovely and elastic and had plenty of air in it. What a relief!

I was going to bake it in a loaf tin, but we find the resulting bread awkward for sandwiches, so I reverted to a round loaf. Another hour, sitting on the bench and it was ready for the oven!

from this ...

And the verdict? The flavour was really good. I tried half a slice neat and half a slice with salted butter. With the neat slice I didn't miss the salt at all and the bread has quite a distinct flavour - but not beery, at all. I suspect that's because Kronenbourg is a relatively neutral flavoured bee - dry and crisp, but not overwhelmingly hopp or citrussy. I suspect that making the bread with a stout will call for some wholemeal flour at the least! The crumb was fine and soft and the crust was ... crusty. Very good.
... to this

All in all, quite a result. I'll definitely experiment with other beers (and additional flavourings) in future - I really like the fact that I didn't add any sugar, although I appreciate that that might have to change on a beer by beer basis.

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Want to drink your beer instead? Try my every day white bread, a plain wholemeal bread, or a bread made with potatoes!
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