May 15, 2011

Beer Bread

I own dozens of cookbooks.  Who doesn’t?  One of my favorites is Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef.  The recipes are simple but yield big flavor.  Oh, and the photographs!  So vivid.  So mouthwatering!

I was craving freshly baked bread, warm from the oven.  Jamie’s basic bread recipe with beer sounded great.  Alas, I didn’t have semolina flour in my kitchen pantry, so I had to improvise.  I think the result turned out (almost) as delicious as Jamie’s bread would have.  Almost.  Note that the flour is measured by weight and not volume (pounds instead of cups).  In baking, especially baking bread, exact measurements are key.  Measuring ingredients by weight helps to ensure a more accurate process.  Plus, it is sort of fun to make a mound of flour on a scale.

Beer Bread
¼ tsp active dried yeast
2 tsp honey
2/3 cup tepid beer (preferably a dark, malty beer)
2/3 pound bread flour
2 tsp salt

Dissolve the yeast and honey in the beer and set aside.  On a clean countertop or in a large bowl, mound the flour and salt.  Make a crater in the center of the mound and pour the beer mixture into it.  Slowly mix the liquid into the flour until well incorporated.

Now it is time to knead, knead, knead.  On a clean, flat surface use your hands to roll, fold and push the dough for at least five minutes.  Shape the dough into a smooth sphere and place in a lightly oiled large bowl.  Score the dough (make shallow smooth cuts) on the top, which will help the dough rise more quickly.  Place a towel over the bowl and let it sit in a warm place.  I like to leave it in a closed oven with the oven light on.

After the dough has doubled in size (about one hour), remove the towel and punch the dough for about one minute.  Rip the dough and shape into seven equal sized balls and place them side by side in a round cake pan, with one ball in the middle.  Dust the top of the dough balls with flour and allow it to rest again for another hour.

After the dough has doubled in size, place the bread into a preheated 425 degree oven.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until well browned.  Rip apart and enjoy.  Careful, it’s super hot!

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