Confession: I love craft beer and I’ll drink just about any kind, but I also enjoy eating my suds. No, not in a bowl with a soup spoon, but actually in food. Beer can be used in cooking, much like wine and spirits, to add flavor to dishes. Braising, stewing, poaching — you can really do just about anything in the kitchen with beer. And believe it or not, you can even bake with it.
I was recently looking for a new vehicle in which to enjoy my suds and came across a recipe that uses beer in a bread recipe. Not being an avid baker, I usually steer clear of recipes that require lots of exact measuring and mixing, but this dish caught my eye as it only requires a few ingredients and very little mixing. This beer bread is very similar to Irish soda bread: soft on the inside with a flavorful, crusty exterior. I recommend using a strong-flavored beer for this recipe, like a stout or porter, so that the flavors in the beer can really shine through.
After baking the bread I realized that it needed an accompaniment: beer cheese! Creamy and dreamy with a hint of beer flavoring, this condiment is also incredibly easy to make and the only special equipment needed is a food processor. I recommend using a lighter beer for this one, like a pilsner, wheat beer or low IBU pale ale, as you don’t want the cheese’s flavor to overpower or clash with the strong notes in the beer bread.
My biggest piece of advice when making these recipes: Please, do yourself and your guests a favor and don’t use crappy beer. You wouldn’t use a foul-tasting wine or spirit to cook with, right? (Your answer should be “no”.) Then steer clear of using any macro brews (e.g.: fizzy yellow water type beers).
The Easiest Beer Bread
Makes 1 loaf; recipe adapted from Epicurious.com
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 bottle (12 ounces) beer, at room temperature (preferably a brown or amber ale, stout or porter; I used Shiner Black Lager)
Optional for wash: 1 egg, beaten OR 3 tablespoons butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the beer all at once and mix with a large spoon until the batter is wet and just combined (do not over-mix). The batter will be lumpy.
Pour the batter into a standard size loaf pan, or spray a baking sheet tray and drop dough onto it, form it into a round shape. Brush loaf with egg wash or melted butter. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Beer Cheese Spread
Makes about 2 cups
12 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese at room temperature
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon dry mustard
6 ounces light beer (e.g.: a lager, pilsner or a low IBU pale ale; I used good ol’ Lone Star)
Worcestershire, to taste
Hot sauce, to taste
Salt, to taste
Cut the cheese into small cubes and place them in a food processor and process until the cheese is fine and crumbly.
Add the garlic and dry mustard, then process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. With the food processor running, add the beer, a little at a time. It should be soft and slightly fluffy. Add a few shakes of Worcestershire and hot sauce and blend well.
Taste the mixture and adjust seasoning with Worcestershire, hot sauce and salt (if needed). Serve immediately or refrigerate until use (but let it sit out for at least 15 minutes before serving). To store, keep refrigerated for up to two weeks.