Baking for Beginners: Beer Bread

Laura: How much beer does it say to use?

Twelve ounces. A bottle.

A whole bottle? The whole thing? Then what do I get to drink?
One of the key missions of Casual Kitchen is to take away the mysteries and perceived difficulties of cooking, and make cooking simpler and easier for everyone. As a result, I've traditionally considered baking generally, and breadmaking specifically, as just a bit too complicated for this blog.

What a fool. It turns out I'm perceiving "difficulties" that aren't even there.

The truth hit me when I stumbled on a beer bread recipe (it was posted in a recent CK links roundup) that was simply too easy not to make. In fact, it was so easy that I've created a new tag, laughably easy, to go along with this blog's most popular tag: laughably cheap.

Better still, this simple bread recipe is like a blank canvas that cries out for variations and modifications. Recipes like this are tremendously satisfying because they can bring out your inner creativity in the kitchen without taking up too much of your time and effort. This beer bread may be easy, but it will never become boring.
Beer Bread
(adapted from Farmgirl Fare)

3 cups flour
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 12-ounce bottle of beer

Optional spices (see below for more modifications):
2 teaspoons dried dill
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
fresh ground black pepper

1) Preheat oven to 375F (190C).
2) Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add beer, and stir until batter is moistened and well-mixed.
3) Spread the batter evenly in a greased 8" or 9" loaf pan.
4) Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown.
5) Let pan cool for 10-15 minutes, then remove bread from pan and let cool for another 10-15 minutes. Serve warm.

1 loaf serves 4-5 as an appetizer or side dish.
Recipe notes:
1) Regarding loaf pans: You can find these for very little money at any discount department store. Get one that's sturdy and non-stick. And if you would like to put a little money into my tip jar by ordering one from Amazon, here's an extremely inexpensive metal non-stick pan from Silverstone for only $5.99, and here is an even less expensive one from Chicago Metallic for just $4.25.

2) After you add the beer and stir all the ingredients together, the dough will be very thick. I mean break-the-spatula thick. Don't think that you screwed up the recipe.

3) A few thoughts on seasonings. Don't go crazy and add too many types of spices the first time you make this recipe. Remember our first rule of recipe modification (do it one time by the book), and also keep in mind that typically just one or two creative spices can make a dish amazing, but adding a third or a fourth often adds little incremental value. Sort of a reverse 80/20 rule for spices I suppose.

4) Farmgirl Fare has a her own list of potential beer bread modifications that you can try--her garlic/herb and her rosemary/feta cheese variations sound particularly delicious. Let me also suggest my own personal variation: Spicy Beer Bread (add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne or chipotle pepper as well as 1-2 chopped jalapeno peppers to the batter).

5) A word on even deeper modifications. This recipe has nearly limitless flexibility--all sorts of variations are possible. You can use any type of beer, from light beer to the heaviest, richest dark beer you can find. You can add fresh herbs to the batter (basil, parsley, dill). You can add veggies (corn, scallions, onions), nuts (chopped almonds, sunflower seeds, coarsely chopped peanuts), and fruit (dried or fresh) to the batter.

You can substitute a modest amount (say 1/2 cup) of oats, wheat flour, even cornmeal in place of an equal amount of the flour (although note that you do not want to change the fundamental ratio of dry to liquid ingredients--thus for any added dry ingredient you must reduce the flour by an equivalent volume). Once again, make this recipe by the book first. After you understand the look and feel of the basic batter under normal conditions, you can start experimenting.

6) Finally, if you'd like to see each step in greater detail, see below for photos of the making of this recipe.

Related Posts:
How to Modify a Recipe, Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3
How to Tell if a Recipe is Worth Cooking With Five Easy Questions
Invigorate Your Cooking with Fresh Herbs
The Greatest Chocolate Mousse in the World

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Flour mixture:
Adding the beer (we used Yuengling Lager, a classic Pennsylvania beer):
The "batter" is so thick it comes out in one giant clump:
Spread it evenly in the pan:
Baked and cooled bread out of the pan:
Slices of heaven:


Anonymous said...

Mmm , I love Beer Bread. I've only made it from the "Tastefully Simple" mix. I'm excited to try it without the mix- I'm sure it will be cheaper and most likely more healthy. Thanks for the post :).

jessica said...

What a coincidence - I JUST made this for the first time this weekend and absolutely loved it! In fact, I had it with bean soup for dinner. I got it into my head that I wanted - no, NEEDED - to make bread this weekend and then I went and killed my yeast by putting them in boiling water [oops]. Luckily my friend had mentioned beer bread in passing months ago. It was perfect.

Amanda said...

Yes! This is exactly the beer bread recipe that I use--fantastic, isn't it? And so easy, too. Enjoy!

Karen said...

Beer bread is always a treat - and so easy :)

The Funky Junkie said...

Hi there! I made this recipe yesterday for St. Patty's Day and it was fabulous! I featured it on my blog today and of course linked it back to yours, but I just wanted to let you know that this was great. Have a fantastic day!

Daniel said...

Hi FJ, thanks for the feedback and the linkback! I'm always happy to hear about another satisfied reader.