Beer Bread in Under Two Minutes

After the presentation demo in January we invited Woody to come with us to Hope for the weekend. We spent the whole weekend cooking and baking. I made him roast duck (he only had it once before in his life), wild Concord grape pie with grapes stored in the freezer since Summer of 1994 (you do the math!) that tasted as fresh as the day they were picked by me, blueberry pancakes with Seville orange curd, and beer bread for his ham sandwich to take on the plane.

I've decided that the time has come to label the sugar and salt antique glass canisters which are so close to identical that I ended up putting sugar in the bread instead of salt. I knew for sure I had put in what I thought to be salt but was puzzled why it rose faster than usual and also had a flat taste. It took several days for it to come to me--it was sugar not salt! This was not a total disaster as the ham was salty and it also led me to reinvestigate the recipe that is in The Bread Bible. It is for a free-form loaf made in the food processor. I thought it would make a great sandwich bread baked in a loaf pan but needed to have a softer crust so I added oil and also my beloved stiff starter for extra moistness and flavor.

This is my personal contribution to the "no knead bread" category. It is both faster and easier to handle and has more depth of flavor from the beer and the starter. If you prefer the same technique can be used replacing the beer with water. I'm not a beer drinker but I enjoy the slight bitterness of the stout. Elliott does not.

It is a fabulous bread with ham, cheddar cheese, and even orange marmalade which I made last week. Call it fighting bitter with bitter!

Edit: A correction has been made to the ingredients for this recipe because oil was missing from the original list.


Oven Temperature: 375°F.

Baking Time:  30 to 35 minutes

Beer Bread Loaf

Makes: An 8 inch by 4 inch by 4 5/8 inch high loaf

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***IF YOU DON'T HAVE OLD STARTER DECREASE THE SALT BY 1/8 TEASPOON. You can moisten some leftover bread to the consistency of dough which will add extra flavor.

Equipment: A 6 cup loaf pan, lightly coated with cookie spray. A baking stone

NOTE: If you are not weighing the beer you will need to allow it to sit until the head subsides to get an accurate measure.

1) Mix the dough

In a food processor bowl with metal blades add the yeast, malt, or sugar, the bread flour, and the whole wheat flour. Process 30 seconds to mix. Pulse in the salt. Add the starter and process for a about 15 seconds until combined. With the motor on the dough cycle, add the beer and oil, and after it comes together, process 45 seconds. (The dough will weigh about 1 pound, 11.3 ounces/ 775 grams with the starter.)  If the dough doesn’t clean the bowl add about 2 tablespoons/0.7 ounce/20 grams of flour and process for a few seconds to incorporate. The dough should be tacky.

2) Let the dough rise

Place the dough into a 2 quart dough rising container or bowl, coated lightly with cooking spray or oil. Push down the dough and lightly spray or oil the top of the dough. Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. With a piece of tape mark on the side of the container approximately where double the height would be. Allow the dough to rise (ideally at 75°F to 80°F) until doubled, 2 to 2  1/2 hours.

3) Shape the dough and let it rise or for extra flavor refrigerate overnight

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter and press down on it gently to flatten it into a rectange. Dimple it with your finger tips to elminate any large air bubbles and let it rest covered for 15 minutes. Shape it into a loaf and set it in the prepared loaf pan. With starter, when pressed down it will be 3/4 inch from the top of the pan. Cover it with a large container or oiled plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until almost doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours and when pressed gently with a finger the depression very slowly fills in. It should be about 1 1/2 inches above the sides of the pan at the highest center point.

4) Preheat the oven

1 hour  before baking preheat the oven to 375°F.  Have the oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it and a cast iron pan or sheet pan on the floor of the oven before preheating.

5) Bake the bread

Quickly but gently set the loaf pan on the hot stone or hot baking sheet and toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes into the pan beneath. Immediately shut the door and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the pan and continue baking 15 to 25 or until the bread is golden brown a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. (An instant read thermometer inserted into the center will read about 200°F.If the sides are pale bake the bread for the last 5 minutes directly on the stone.

6) Cool the bread

Remove the bread from the oven, unmold it from the pan, and transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely, top-side up. It keeps well for 2 days at room temperature, wrapped airtight.

Pointers for Success

Avoid using honey for this bread because the beer darkens the crust so honey would make it too brown and have a tendency to burn.

“Peculiar Ale” made a delicious bread and you can also try your favorite beer to vary the flavor.

Note: the little white specks on the crust are due to the overnight shaped rise.