The Great Beer Bread-Baking Experiment

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Guest blogger Larry checking in. You may remember me from my witty and amusing blog posts from Hudson Valley Restaurant Week 2009.

If you haven’t already seen the posts, check them out:

My DVR is filled up with two types of programming: Anything mixed martial arts and food shows. My girlfriend likes to set my DVR to record the Food Network all day and all night.

One of my favorite shows on the Food Network is Good Eats with Alton Brown. I like the scientific approach he takes to making food, the background story he provides for commonly prepared dishes and tips to avoid pitfalls while preparing those dishes.

I was watching an episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown was showing the television audience unique ways to use wine and beer as food ingredients. At some point during the episode, Alton used a 12 ounce beer as an ingredient to make some cheddar cheese beer bread. My curiosity was immediately piqued. I have never made bread, from scratch anyway, and the instructions on how to make this version were pretty simple.

So simple, in fact, that I was able to adapt the recipe and make my own version:

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The result? Well, I might need your help. Check it out, after the jump.

Here is the recipe from the show:

Ingredients

* Nonstick spray
* 8 ounces all-purpose flour
* 4 ounces whole-wheat flour
* 1 tablespoon baking powder
* 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
* 4 1/2 ounces sharp Cheddar, grated
* 12 ounces cold beer, ale or stout
* 1 to 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds, optional

Directions

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat the inside of a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan with the nonstick spray and set aside.

Whisk together the all-purpose flour, wheat flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and dill in a large mixing bowl. Add in the cheese and stir in the beer just to combine. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the sunflower seeds, if using.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven until the bread reaches an internal temperature of 210 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 45 to 55 minutes.Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer the loaf to a cooling rack for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Now that sounds good, but I wanted to throw a monkey wrench in the plan.

Some time ago, I attended the LoHud Beer and Food Festival. I sampled a lot more then a few delicious micro brews from all over the state. I came across one beer that I fell in love with immediately:  Southampton Pumpkin Ale.  I spent a lot of time at that booth discussing the beer with the owners of the brewery. They apparently somehow make it with vanilla ice cream and pumpkin pie. Sounds heavy and sweet, but it’s really not. It’s a delicious beer and very hard to find around here. I found a beer distributor in Elmsford that carries limited amounts of the beer, so I usually buy their stock out when they get  the shipment.

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I had two of these left in my fridge when I was watching the above mentioned Good Eats episode. It’s a seasonal brew so I won’t be able to obtain it again until fall 2010, but the wheels in my head were immediately turning. Since pumpkin is one of my favorite ingredients, I decided to adjust Alton’s recipe to make some pumpkin bread.

Here is the test recipe I concocted:

Ingredients

* Nonstick spray
* 12 ounces wheat flour
* 1 tablespoon baking powder
* 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
* 1 cup brown sugar
* 1 tablespoon cinnamon
* 1 tablespoon nutmeg
* 4 tablespoons pumpkin spice
* 12 ounces Southampton Pumpkin Ale

Preparation is the same as the above recipe from Alton. I found that 45 minutes of baking time was perfect.

Here are some prep photos:

Some ingredients:

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I decided to sprinkle some oatmeal on the top of the mixture.

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It’s go time.

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Final product

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Time for judging.  Result?

Epic failure. The consistency and moisture was dead on, but the bread had a salty, bitter taste . I think I was a too liberal with the pumpkin spice.

Because the consistency was really nice, I am working on a new and improved recipe for the bread. After three revisions, I think I am pretty close, but i’m still attempting to reach perfection. It was a fun experiment and I will report back when I have a finalized recipe.

Do you all have any thoughts or suggestions? I’d love to hear them in the comments below. Or you can email me here.

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About Author

Larry Vollmer Jr. is a Web programmer for LoHud.com, the Web site of The Journal News. He spends his days staring at thousands of lines of code and his nights throwing highkicks and hitting the mat with submission grappling specialists. After work and training, Larry gets the latest news on the world of mixed martial arts from the fighters themselves while watching and rewatching matches on his DVR.

7 Comments

  1. FOUR TABLESPOONS?!?!? And a whole tablespoon of nutmeg?!?!?!? No wonder it was inedible. I’d start with MAYBE two teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice (a sixth of what you used), and half a teaspoon (or less) of nutmeg – that’s potent stuff. Also, be aware that pumpkin pie spice is mostly cinnamon and nutmeg; using it AND the individual spices is probably overkill.

  2. Hey Larry. Enjoyed your blog. We have been baking our breads with a variety of different beers at Sweet Grass Grill and having a great time. Right now we are making a focaccia with caraway seeds and an amber ale and we also have a dark olive bread made with a stout. I really like both. You should come in try them and speak with Tommy, the chef, or Lauren our baker. I am not much of a baker, but I would eliminate all of the spice since it probably is containted in the beer you’re adding. Another great seasonal beer that you might enjoy and might work nicely in your bread is Fishermans Pumpkin Stout. It is my favorite of all the pumpkin beers I have tried. Good luck.

  3. I am not a baker, but a tblsp of baking powder seems like a lot. Also I’ve heard the baking powder must be fresh in order for it to work properly. Keep us posted.

  4. @Randy – As the title states, it was an experiment. I knew I was being too liberal with the spice, but I am not a baker so I was testing some things out.

    @David – Thanks for the invite. Sweet Grass is one of my favorite restaurants. I had a pumpkin stout at Sweet Grass and really, really enjoyed it. Did you serve Fisherman’s there? It was not a draft, it was a bottle. I don’t recall the name.

    The latest recipe has no nutmeg and less then a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice. I have also replaced brown sugar with regular sugar. I am getting close, but I am still missing something. The experiment shall continue.

  5. Larry – yes, we served it at the restaurant. It is Fisherman’s Pumpkin Stout by Cape Ann Brewing Company in Gloucester, MA.

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