If you’ve been around since the beginning, you’ll remember when this blog was exclusively a baking blog. Eventually, my pants got tight from all the testing, because baking takes a lot of testing. And I got grumpy that my pants were tight. So, I cooled it on all the baking and turned my attention to dinnertime, which was a gaping hole at our house, that and designing our home, which made me really happy. But now that all my pants are all fitted with a stretchy elastic band and the doctor says to eat 300 extra calories a day, I’m bringing back vintage Faux Martha for a second, turning this place into a bakeshop. On the menu this week: Grand Cru Apple Beer Bread.
I used to make beer bread a really long time ago, circa 2009, when leftover beer would remain in the fridge from a dinner party. Neither of us were beer drinkers then, but we had no problem finishing off a loaf of that yeasty, from the beer, quick bread. I took my slice with a shmear of butter and a heavy hand of black raspberry jam, a treat from our local farmers market. Oh, that slice. It tasted like the sweetness of early marriage and the abrupt launch into adulthood, like learning to cook and overcooked smooshy summer squash, like our teeny tiny apartment and our very empty bank accounts. It tasted like vintage Kev and Mel.
With all the good memories, beer bread comes with a couple of unsavory ones too. Like its hallmark tough, tug-a-war crust, the overly dense texture, the bitter ending, and hearing the neighbor’s arguing in the apartment 5 feet across the alley. They probably heard our tiffs too, like the one about painting the kitchen for a third time. Sorry, Kev.
Ten years later, with an extra beer in the fridge that I can’t drink, but who I am kidding, I’d be grabbing for wine aged in bourbon barrels if I could, I’ve decided to tackle the unsavory notes of beer bread. Because a quick bread that comes together quickly is a really good thing to have in your recipe deck during chilly, last-minute-get-together, soup season. It’s a good recipe to have for cleaning out the fridge, too.
How to make really good Beer Bread
Scale back on the flour, which is what you’ll find in the recipe below. Most recipes call for 3 cups of flour to 12 oz. of beer. In my kitchen, that always yields an overly chewy crust with a dense crumb. I prefer 2 1/2 cups of flour to 12 oz. of beer.
Speaking of beer, you want something light in flavor here. A hoppy, bitter beer will taste even more hoppy and bitter out of the oven. Bitter beer bread is a thing, and no one in my house enjoys it. Look for a Pilsner or similar pale lager.
The base of this recipe is simple and foolproof. With that said, take the liberty here to add in extras like cheese, herbs, and fruit. I used an aged Roth Grand Cru, which is a Wisconsin made cheese using classic, Alpine techniques, aging 6+ months in a copper vat. Grand Cru is known for its light floral notes, nutty undertones, a hint of fruitiness. Think gruyere. I took notes from the flavor profile of the Grand Cru, adding in fruity apples, nutty wheat flour, and floral thyme. It creates a harmonious flavor. No one ingredient has a solo in this loaf.
Try not to over mix. Soda breads, which beer bread falls under, naturally yield a hallmark chewy, dense texture. In addition to reducing the flour, try not to over stir. A lot of the lifting work happens in the oven from the bubbly beer and baking powder. When you over stir, you over-activate the gluten in the flour, and it gets anxious and tight. We’re looking for a relaxed flour here.
This is the perfect recipe to add wheat flour. It’s in the beer, it might as well be in the flour too. Feel free to experiment using the ratio below, 2 cups of all-purpose flour to 1/2 cup wheat, spelt, or buckwheat flour. Added nutty flavor is welcome here. Don’t worry, the all-purpose flour, beer, and baking powder will help to take care of the high rise.
I’ve added a couple extra delicious ingredients to the base of this beer bread recipe to change things up. I hope you feel the liberty to take this fool-proof recipe on a spin. Here’s the base ingredients for the beer bread: flour, baking powder, salt, beer, and maple syrup. Go simple or grate in a little extra goodness. You choose.
2 c. all-purpose unbleached flour 1/2 c. wheat flour (or something similar) 1 tbsp. aluminum-free baking powder 2 tsp. fresh thyme 1 tsp. kosher salt, heaping 1/2 c. (6 ounces) grated Roth Grand Cru Reserve 1/2 c. shredded apples*
1 (12 oz.) bottle of light beer, like a Pilsner 1/4 c. maple syrup
1 tbsp. salted butter drizzle of maple or honey
Preheat oven to 375°F. Drape a piece of parchment over an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2″ loaf pan. Set aside.
Prep the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, stir together the flours, baking powder, thyme, and salt. Grate the Grand Cru and apples. This is my favorite grater. Toss the cheese and apples into the mixture and stir to coat.
Prep the wet ingredients. Open the beer and measure out the maple syrup. No reason to dirty up an extra utensil here. Eyeball 1/4 cup in your 1/2 cup measurement. Pour both into the dry ingredients at the same time. Immediately fold the batter with a spatula just until combined, being careful not to overwork the batter.
Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Place in the oven to cook for 45-50 minutes. After about 40 minutes, cover the top of the loaf with tented foil as needed to prevent the crust from over-browning. The bread is ready when a toothpick comes out clean from the top center.
Out of the hot oven, add the optional glaze. Gently shmear the butter over the crust and lightly drizzle with honey or maple syrup. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes before running a thin knife to loosen the loaf. Remove from pan. Serve warm with butter or within a day of making. Best on day one.
*Any apple will work for this particular recipe, but apples suited for baking work best as they tend to hold their shape under the heat of the oven. I used Honeycrisp apples, which I also love to eat.
For an extra pretty presentation, add a couple of thinly sliced apples to the top of the loaf before baking and sprinkle with a little extra thyme.