Sunday, September 28, 2008

Beer Bread Recipe

With the proviso that I've only tried recipes I think will be tasty, I have yet to try a bad recipe from the Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library cookbooks. Even when I muck around with it a bit, like I did with this one. It's supposed to be a hearty rye bread but I had no rye. I still wanted it hearty and a bit dark and what I had on hand was some flax seed. Since flax is oily, I didn't do a full substitution for rye. It came out as a hearty bread, a little darker than white bread, and super moist. It makes 2 loaves about 14 oz/440g each. From Bread book ISBN 0-7835-0316-4 page 34 and as I've modified it is:

Scandinavian Beer Bread
WS IngredientsMy Ingredients
1 pkg active dry yeast (2.25t/11.25ml)scant 3T active dry yeast (~13-14ml)
3/4c warm water 110F/43Csame, also 6 fl oz/180ml
1c dark beer like Guiness warmed to 110F/43CSam's Oktoberfest, same vol also 8fl oz/250ml
1t saltsame, also 5ml
2c (6oz/185g) rye flour1/2c flax seed ground. Bought rough ground then reground finer in coffee grinder
3-3.5c unbleached bread flour (500g give or take)4-5c all purpose flour to touch
1/4c (2oz/60g) unsalted buttersame
1/4c (2 fl oz/60g) dark corn syrupsame
1 egg white, beaten for glazedidn't glaze
Mix it up
Heat up the water and test with thermometer or calibrated finger to not exceed 110F. Stir in yeast, let stand 5min, should start bubbling.
Mix together (I sift it) rye flour and 1c of bread flour OR the flax and 2c white flour. Stir in warm beer and yeast mixture. Cover and keep it warm for 1 hour.
Melt butter and add corn syrup. Low heat on stove recommended. Cool to 110F then add to yeast/flour mix.
Stir 1.5-2c flour into mix and start to knead. Add more flour if too sticky. They say to cover and let it rest for 30min before really getting into the big kneading set, but I didn't.
Knead by hand about 15 minutes adding flour as necessary to keep dough smooth and elastic. Or 10 min by machine. I knead my bread in the mixing bowl.
Clean out a bowl (say, the mixing bowl), and lightly grease it with oil or butter. Toss the dough ball around in it to also coat it. Cover and let rise until doubled, 60-75min.
Punch down dough and kneed for 2 minutes or so. Divide in half and form each piece into your favorite shape. Grease/flour pans or sheets and put the bread in/on. Cover with towel or plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 45-60 min.
Preheat oven to 350F/180C during 2nd (3rd) rise. Optionally brush loaves with glaze and/or slit tops.
Bake until browned and loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottoms, 35-40min. Wrap in kitchen towels to promote a soft crust and place on wire rack to cool.

I'm always tempted to do a bread tutorial whenever I pass along a recipe. Many people are intimidated by bread in these modern times, when in past generations nearly everyone made bread. There are varying degrees of success, sure, but it's hard to really mess it up. Your basic bread, like beer, needs 4 ingredients: flour, water, yeast, and salt. That's it. Anything else is to make it taste or feel or look a little different so is therefore optional to the whole concept of bread.

Here's how to not muck up your bread:
  • Don't kill the yeast with heat - hence the 110F repetition. Don't go over 115F and you'll be fine. If you can keep your finger in the water, it's probably fine.
  • Use fresh flour. The best bread I ever made was from the flour I bought from the King Arthur VT mill the day before. The worst was a bitter nasty thing from two year old flour and that failed french business last week. If your flour tastes bitter, get new flour.
  • Mix in flour gradually. 1/2 to 1 c at a time when liquidy, 1/4 when dry-ish. Don't mix in too much flour like I did with my failed french loaf. I didn't measure then mixed it all in at once, and got a texture resembling crumbly pie dough, which I knew was a problem. Had I added it in 1 c at a time instead of 4+ at once, I would have been fine. I eventually added enough extra water, and put in more yeast, but I must have mixed in something unclean, or the milk ingredient didn't like sitting out overnight, to put the final nail in the coffin.
  • Less flour is almost never a problem. I tend to knead dough until it starts to get past "smooth and elastic" and get sticky again, then stop to let it rise. If this happens too early in the kneading, add a 1/4c of flour and keep going.
  • If you're in a rush or the kitchen is chilly and drafty, heat the oven briefly then turn it off. Let the dough rise there where it's warmer.
  • Cover when rising. Use whatever is handy - clean towel, saran wrap, platter. Keeps the surface from drying out. But if it does, mist it with water and knead back in.
  • How do you know if it's doubled? It looks significantly bigger and poofier rather than just a little bigger. And if you poke it with a finger it doesn't rebound very fast. If you think it isn't rising, wait another 20-30 minutes. If you're right, mix in more yeast. Most likely, it just needed more time. Not all yeast rises at the same rate.
  • What if I let the second rise go on too long and the dough gets so distended it starts to deflate? No problem, just punch it back down, reform, then re-rise only use a timer this time.
  • Make sure your hands and nails are clean and your kneading surface is clean.
Go make good bread! If you're not up to beer bread, mix 1c warm water with a package of yeast. Let it stand for a few minutes while you sift 2c of flour with 1t of salt. (aha! all our bread ingredients already) Mix yeast water with flour and stir. Keep adding 0.25 to 0.5 c of flour until stirring is hard, then knead. Knead 'til smooth adding 0.25c flour when sticky. Rise for an hour. Punch down. Form into 2 loaves, rise for 45 minutes. Bake at 350F until it turns golden brown and starts to smell good. Easy peasy.

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