Nothing says comfort like bread baking in the oven.
But we don't always have time for the kneading, and for letting the bread rise. No problem. I can have a piping hot loaf of bread on the table in less than two hours.
The secret? Beer.
Basic pantry ingredients and beer or some whisky can come together to create a quick bread full of flavor. The yeast in the beer helps the bread rise, and the brews add flavors that get more intense as they bake.
I played around with a couple of beer bread recipes recently, using locally brewed craft beers and a bourbon bottled in St. Petersburg to add some oomph to the quick loaves.
Quick breads are a treat for any meal of the day. I often make sweeter loaves for breakfasts or brunch and savory breads for dinner. I'll be serving a loaf of herb and cheese bread for Father's Day dinner this weekend.
For this loaf, made with Parmesan cheese and rosemary, I used a can of Sunshine City IPA brewed at Green Bench Brewing in St. Petersburg. I thought its tropical flavors might add a little lift to the bread, and I was right.
The rosemary bits gave the slices a little color and texture, and the Parmesan had a nice kick. The beer gave the bread a little sweetness and a citrus aftertaste as well. With salted butter, it will be a hit for dinner.
Celebrity chef Ina Garten gave me the inspiration for the second beer bread. Instead of dark Irish Guinness, I substituted Maduro Brown Ale from Cigar City Brewing in Tampa. According to the company website, the beer has flaked oats in the malt.
The bread recipe also calls for uncooked oats in the batter and sprinkled on the crust. The outcome was a hearty, brown bread with lots of texture and a slightly sweet hint of chocolate.
With bourbon making such a strong showing in cocktails these days, I decided to try a bourbon pecan bread recipe.
I used an 87-proof bourbon distilled in Ohio and bottled by American Freedom in St. Petersburg. The rich, caramel-colored Horse Soldier bourbon was created to honor the teams of green berets deployed immediately after Sept. 11, 2001. One of those veterans and an owner of the business is St. Petersburg's Rob Schaefer, who also recently helped bring the bourbon to Tropicana Field for fans attending Tampa Bay Rays games.
Eating the bread was like savoring a good whiskey. I took my time chewing and appreciating the pecans, woody flavors mingling with hints of citrus from orange zest in the recipe. This was a delicious and hearty bread to share. The recipe calls for drizzling bourbon on top of the loaf after it cools, but I skipped this step because the bread had plenty of flavor without the added booze.
Contact Kathy Saunders at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bourbon Pecan Bread
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 cup sugar
¼ cup butter
2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1 ½ cups chopped pecans
1 cup milk
½ cup bourbon
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons bourbon, optional
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a bowl. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Add orange zest and 1 ¼ cups pecans. Combine milk, bourbon and egg in a separate bowl. Stir well and add to dry mixture.
Stir batter until just moistened. Pour batter into a greased and floured loaf pan. Sprinkle remaining pecans on top.
Bake at 50 to 60 minutes or until done. Let cool completely, then drizzle bread with 2 tablespoons bourbon, if you like.
Source: Adapted from copykat.com
Ina Garten's Irish Guinness Brown Bread
1 cup quick-cooking oats (not instant), plus extra for sprinkling
2 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
2 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 (11- to 12-ounce) bottle Guinness or other stout beer, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for brushing the pan
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Salted butter, such as Irish Kerrygold, for serving
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, flours, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the beer, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the well. With your fingers, stir the batter from the middle of the bowl to the outside until it's well mixed. It will look more like cake batter than bread dough.
Brush a 9- by 5- by 2 ½-inch loaf pan with melted butter. Pour the batter into the pan and sprinkle the top with oats. Put the bread in the oven, immediately turn the temperature down to 400 degrees and bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn the bread out onto a baking rack and allow to cool completely. Slice and serve with salted butter.
Source: Ina Garten
Crazy Easy Quick Bread
2 ½ cups self-rising flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 can or bottle (12 ounces) warm beer
1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
¾ cup grated Parmesan
Salted butter, for serving and for greasing the loaf pan
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Generously grease an 8 ½- by 4 ½-inch glass loaf pan with butter.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, beer, rosemary and Parmesan in a large bowl until evenly incorporated yet slightly lumpy. Transfer to the prepared loaf pan.
Bake until golden and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
Source: Adapted from One Dish at a Time by Valerie Bertinelli