My BFF Chris is one of the most amazing home cooks that I’ve ever met. Really. Every dang that thing comes out of her kitchen is amazing. And she acts as if whatever she cooked was the equivalent of making Ramen noodles. Easy, tasty, but nothing overly exciting. Cooking just comes naturally to her. Girlfriend’s got some mad culinary skills.
However, Chris insists that she is “bread challenged.” She says that no matter what she does, her bread never turns out as it should. She’s been asking me to give her “bread lessons” for years. When we get together, we do a ridiculous amount of cooking, but fresh bread has yet to make it on our menu. I blame it on the fact that she lives in Chicago, so she always has some awesome artisan bread from a local bakery.
In the interest of equity, Chris’ husband Patrick is on the left. He & Bacon Slayer look like twins separated at birth. Funny considering Patrick really is a twin, and that Bacon Slayer looks more like him than his twin does. I think its the hair. Seriously weird.
Right! Back to bread…
I love the smell of fresh bread baking in the oven. I love to take a slice from a warm loaf and smear it with butter. Believe me when I tell you that I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, an authority on bread. I love bread. I bake a lot of bread. I am not an authority on bread.
But I love it. I LOVE bread!
Did I already say that?
I think that anyone can make their own bread. I think that everyone should make own bread. At least once in awhile. Start with this cheesy beer (or soda) bread. It’s a batter bread, so you just stir it all together, and pop it in the oven. No yeast proofing, no rising period, no kneading. And it’s very versatile–I’ll list a couple of variations at the end of the recipe. If you’ve ever used a store bought (or home party) beer bread mix, this is my version of those. Think of this as making your own mix. You can do this–it’s easy stuff.
1 C. whole wheat flour
1 ½ C. all-purpose flour
2 Tbs. granulated sugar
2 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. Herbes de Provence (a blend of rosemary, thyme, marjoram, savory—or use any one of these)
1 ½ C. beer (or club soda)
1 C. freshly shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray the bottom and 1/2-inch up the sides an 8 x 4 x 2 loaf pan with cooking spray.
Pastry Chefs will caution you to weigh all of your ingredients when baking in order to get consistent results. I admit that I will do that on if I am feeling particularly OCD-ish that day, but the majority of the time, like 99% of the time, I just aerate it a bit. Flour tends to compact a bit when sitting in the cupboard. Temperature and humidity can also affect the density of your flour, so before I measure mine, I like to fluff it up a bit. Take the measuring cup and scoop up some flour.
Then pour it back in to the container. Do that a few times.
Then gently scoop up a cup of flour,
and lightly take a finger over the top to level it off. If you are feeling a bit more precise, then level it off with a knife. Repeat this until you’ve got the 2 1/2 cups of flour. Most days I use mixture whole wheat and all-purpose flour, but straight up all-purpose flour also works well. Let your taste be your guide!
Measure the baking powder by scooping out of the container, and scraping the spoon under the lid to level it flat. Be careful when measuring baking powder. Too much, and the bread gets a bit unruly and tastes metallic-y, too little and the bread will be flat. Measure the baking soda the same way.
Add the baking powder, baking soda, granulated sugar, kosher salt, and dried herbs to the flour. Whisk it around a bit to get everything evenly distributed.
Ask anyone that is hovering in the kitchen grate the cheddar cheese. If you can hover, you can help. Grab a beer while they are working. If beer is not your thing, or if you don’t happen to have any, club soda will work, but the bread won’t rise quite as much. The yeast in the beer helps the batter to rise. Club soda works too, because it agitates the baking soda, which causes the batter to rise.
Pour the beer onto the flour and cheese mixture, and stir it until just combined. Think of it like making muffins. If you stir too much, the muffins will be tough. The same goes for batter breads because they are, essentially, giant muffins.
I know it doesn’t look all together appetizing right now, but it will be! Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan, and bake it at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let the bread cool in the loaf pan for 10 minutes, then slice it up and serve it warm. I recommend slathering a slice with butter and chowing down before anyone else realizes that the bread is out of the oven.
Cheesy beer bread goes with everything, but is amazing alongside chili or a hearty soup. Once you’ve got this bread under your belt, you’ll be ready to branch out and experiment a bit. Some variations that I like are:
- Asiago-Rosemary Bread: Substitute 2/3 C. shredded Asiago cheese for the cheddar, and crushed, dried rosemary for the herbs.
- Kicked-up Cheesy Beer Bread: Substitute shredded pepper-jack cheese for the cheddar & skip the dried herbs.
- Chocolate Chip Soda Bread: Use club soda instead of beer. Omit the cheese and herbs, and stir in 1 C. mini chocolate chips into batter.
- Cinnamon Raisin Soda Bread: Use club soda instead of beer. Omit the herbs and cheese, and substitute ½ tsp. ground cinnamon, and 1 C. raisins.
- Plain White Bread: Skip the cheese and herbs.
Now, I’ve heard of people adding regular soda to those silly mixes to make a dessert bread, but I am having a hard time wrapping my head around that one. If you are feeling especially daring, I’ve been told that using a regular Dr. Pepper with a handful of chocolate chips was a big favorite.
Cheesy Beer Bread
2 ½ C. all-purpose flour
2 Tbls. granulated sugar
½ tsp. baking soda
2 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried oregano, crushed (optional)
½ tsp. dried basil or marjoram, crushed (optional)
1 12oz. can (1 ½ cups) beer
1 C. cheddar cheese, shredded
- Grease the bottom and ½ inch up sides of a 9x5x3” loaf pan. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and seasonings (if using). Add the beer and cheddar cheese, stirring until just combined. (Batter will be lumpy.)
- Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Serve warm, or cool completely on rack before slicing.
Make 1 loaf. 16-18 servings? (We usually get about 10 slices.)