With the acquisition of our microwave/oven combo, my wife and I entered a new phase of our life in Japan. Prior to our purchase, we would watch The Great British Bake-off and swoon over all the tasty baked goods we saw. We vowed to bake and bake hard once we got an oven, and now that the time has come, I’ve decided to experiment with a classic I fell in love with in Arizona: Beer Bread.
For reference, here is the recipe I have been working with.
Version 1: Suntory Premium Malts Pilsner
This was my first go with the recipe. The first time I made this, I used a tallboy (16 oz) and poured much more than 12 oz into my batter. After adding more flour, pouring the butter on top, and botching it, I came out with a dense loaf with a crispy crust. The flavor was very nice; the balanced flavor of the pilsner really lent itself well to bread making.
Attempting again, I bought a regular-sized can and followed the recipe. I also decided to add the butter into the batter to avoid the hard crust from the first loaf. The bread, this time, was so soft and fluffy, almost like cake. The flavor was great and all seemed right. I was starting to get it. Since I had always enjoyed bitter beers, I thought for the next loaf I’d try an IPA.
Version 2: Coedo Marihana Session IPA
This beer is a less potent, more drinkable IPA. It has citrus hop notes, but with a 4.5% ABV, it’s not going to knock you flat like most IPAs. I thought I’d try this one since it’s not quite as bitter as other IPAs and I was curious to see if the hop taste would make a good match with bread.
After mixing the beer and baking the batter, I took my first bite. Nice and warm, you can definitely taste the bitter of the hops. You get that hint of citrus, but for the most part, it’s the bitterness of the hops that pull through. Not quite as complex as I had wanted but still an interesting taste. After this one, I thought I’d venture into maltier beers, thinking the sweetness and savoriness from malts would make a better match with bread.
Version 3: Hannari Ale Brown Ale
I took a big break between the second and third beers, mainly because it was too darn hot to be baking. Once the air cooled, I decided to try my luck again with two smaller loaves of a nice brown ale. To be honest, I didn’t try this beer before I put it into the bread. It was my first blind beer bread, so to speak. Since I didn’t have any sort of flavor reference to the beer, I didn’t know what to expect with the bread. I figured malts would add a nice richness, so I poured in the can with the usual steps and crossed my fingers.
This variation I didn’t get to eat hot out of the oven. We were hosting a dinner party and I wanted to serve the bread intact to our guests. I sawed through the outside– still a harder exterior despite not pouring butter over the top– and made thin slices. The flavor was very nice; it had a mellower beer flavor and the maltiness gave the bread a really beautiful brownish color on the inside. It balanced nicely with the savory flavors of the dinner. The inside was also nice and fluffy, giving it a good texture balance. It was the hit of the evening, with guests even taking bits home to enjoy! I still can’t speak to the greatness of the beer alone but, mixed with some flour and thrown into an oven, it makes for a nice treat!
My advice is simple, and seasoned bakers will probably roll their eyes at the obviousness of it all: sift the flour. That makes your loaf light and fluffy and it’s worth the extra 5 minutes or so required to do it. Also, cover the loaf and don’t leave it exposed overnight. It stales very quickly if not protected, believe me. I had a few bricks I had to gnaw through after leaving them out and unprotected for a couple days.
Over-mixing the dough will also harden your loaf, so be on the lookout for that. I usually folded the mixture with a rubber spatula until all the dry ingredients were mixed with the wet. From there, I would pour it into the pan (which was greased with some of the melted butter). If it’s a little liquidy, don’t worry! It bakes into a bread loaf; I’m living proof that it does.
The recipe I used is great in its simplicity and I love that. After spending time in Peace Corps with limited resources, having a recipe that is very portable became important to me, and this recipe really fits the bill. The discussions, suggestions, and alternate revisions posted on the recipe webpage are also incredible. I can’t wait to try some different variants to get that perfect loaf!
If you have any other recipes you’d like to pass my way, please leave a comment and I’ll give it a go. Same goes for any beers you’ve tried and think would make a great bread!