I don’t want to get too personal here, but I have something to admit: if I had to pick only beer or wine to drink for the rest of my life, I think I’d pick beer. So beer bread appeals to me for its flavor and slight bitterness–prominent at first, but barely there once it’s toasted and slathered in butter and honey–as well as for the seasonal fact that you may find yourself with a stray can of Guinness in the back of your fridge after St. Patrick’s Day is gone. And a stout makes a very nice beer bread, especially with a few embellishments that we’ll discuss below.
I first learned of beer bread from a fellow preschool mom, who said she made it all the time with her kids by mixing 3 ingredients right in the bread pan before popping it in the oven (3 c. self-rising flour, 1/4 c. sugar, 12 oz. beer, in case you’re wondering–but it’s still only 5 ingredients if you add the baking powder and salt to the flour by yourself). So you see why that appealed to me–one minute to make the bread plus 45 to bake it means you go from the idea to the reality of of a crusty, piping-hot homemade loaf in 46 minutes. Genius.I’ve made a few refinements since then, like mixing the batter in a separate bowl because it’s easier to incorporate all the flour. And I’ve experimented with different beers (each lends its own flavor, so keep that in mind; an IPA is pretty hoppy while a wheat beer, lager or stout can be milder). And I wouldn’t feed a whole loaf to the preschool set, because contrary to popular belief, the USDA says that alcohol doesn’t evaporate entirely when cooked or baked.
One of the beautiful things about baking your own bread is that you can add any savory or sweet flavors you like. Herbs, onions, garlic, cheese. Orange zest, honey, dried fruit, chocolate. Of the five loaves I made this week, my two favorites were both made with stout beer. One was savory, with sharp cheddar cheese and dill. The other was sweet, with chocolate chunks and vanilla. These variations are included below, but feel free to tinker with the basic recipe to your heart’s content.