Monday, May 14, 2012

Savory Beer Bread

This bread has a crusty outside and a dense, moist interior. The beer flavor is subtle but noticeable, and the spices can be varied to your own taste. If you want a hint of sourdough flavor, add 1/2 cup of sourdough starter and increase the flour by 1/2 Cup.

1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
4 Cups All-purpose flour (or 3 C white flour + 1 C wheat) plus a little more for kneading
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons dried herbs (like Italian Blend, Herbs de Provence, or make your own blend with any of the following: Sage, Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Tarragon, Basil, Dill, Marjoram, Lavender, etc.)
1 12-oz bottle of Beer (I use a medium-bodied Amber Ale)
Optional: Melted Butter and Parmesan Cheese to top the bread before baking.

Mix the flour with the yeast, stir well. Add the salt and herbs, stir well again. Add in the beer gradually, until the mixture is well-moistened. The dough should be moist but not too sticky. If you need to add a little more flour in order to work with it, add the flour gradually one tablespoon at a time until the dough can be worked.

Put the dough on a floured board and knead it for a few minutes until smooth, soft and no longer sticky to the touch. Put the ball of dough in a greased bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel. Let it rise in a warm area of your kitchen for  60-90 minutes, until it has doubled in size.

When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and form into a loaf (I like to do it free-form on a baking sheet, but you can put it into two small loaf pans if you prefer). Cover and let rise again for 30-40 minutes.

Brush the top with melted butter and Parmesan cheese (optional) then bake approximately 35 minutes. The dough is done when you can knock on it and it sounds hollow. You can also gently press in the center and it will no longer feel soft in the center.   

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