Saturday, 24 January 2009

Beer. Bread.

When I was young, five or so, my favorite aunt was dating someone name Guy. They lived together on the San Juan Islands, in the Northwest corner of Washington, and Guy owned a little cafe. He had big black hair that stuck out all over the place, I remember, and he always had floured hand prints on his jeans from baking things all day long. And although my main memory is summed up in a big waffle cone filled with blue bubble gum ice cream he bought for me, Guy's main legacy is my family's addiction to beer bread.

My aunt has moved on, the cafe has been sold, but little bags of cooking mix are still sold on the island, with a picture of Guy's face on the front, inviting unsuspecting people to buy this addictive, and simple, mix.

When Ian and I were visiting the island last summer, we bought a few packs, I think at about 4 dollars a bag. I made one that afternoon, and within a half an hour, we had polished off the golden little loaf between the two of us. I remember reading the ingredients of the packet (flour, sugar, leavening: add beer) and thinking it must be so simple to whip together, but the thought didn't come back to me until yesterday, when the sky was just a little too grey, and the kitchen just a little too cold for my liking.

I googled. I found. I baked. And thankfully, I succeeded. 
This bread is so wonderful it should hardly be called bread. Buttery and nubbly, sweet and crumbly, salty with that beer tang, it's so many things crammed into one tiny loaf. And it's one of the easiest things I've baked in a long time. No fuss, no special ingredients, no excessive stirring. Simply, soothing, and oh so yummy.

I like to eat mine warm from the oven spread with a little butter, or the next day broiled with some honey.

Beer Bread

3 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 can (12 ounces) beer
1/2 cup melted butter

1) Mix dry ingredients together. Add beer, and mix quickly and gently, taking care not to over mix. A little loose flour is fine.

2) Scoop dough into a greased loaf tin. Don't smooth the top, the crags and raggedy edges are the best part when crisped up. Pour the melted butter over the top.

3) Cook in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of your loaf tin.

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