Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Artisan Baking- Herby Beer Bread

You cannot claim to be a baker if you cannot bake a decent loaf of bread. You just can't. But the world of bread is so much more than the sliced white sandwich bread we're all used to. Bread baking is a very diverse art form with a skill level for everyone. Today we are going to bake a truly delicious quick bread. I know, "artisan bread" sounds all snooty and high-falutin' and quick bread generally is not thought of as snooty- but believe me, play with the right ingredients and flavor combinations and that is artistry if you ask me.

Beer bread is one of the easiest breads to make- very basic ingredients can be transformed into a warm loaf of deliciousness in just about an hour. No special equipment needed, no expensive mixes required. Flour, baking soda, sugar and a beer. That's it. If you have self-rising flour it's even fewer ingredients! The best thing about beer bread is it's a blank canvas. You can go wild with your favorite flavors and make just about any kind of bread your heart desires. Since we grow so many herbs in our garden, it's so easy to pull a few off the shelf and come up with something to match the meal we're cooking.

Today's bread is going to be a delicious combination of sweet and savory. Sweet caramelized onions and garlic, savory Guinness Extra Stout and thyme will round out the flavors. So let's get to it-

Herby Beer Bread with Caramelized Onions and Garlic

3 c. self rising flour (or 3 cups regular flour and 3 tsp baking soda)
1 tsp salt
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c Parmesan cheese
12 oz can or bottle of Guinness Extra Stout
1/4 c. melted butter (NOT margarine)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4-5 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 tb minced fresh thyme or 2 tsp dried thyme
olive oil, butter
1/4 cup additional butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients in bowl. Set aside.

In medium skillet add a tablespoon of olive oil and a couple tablespoons of butter, when melted add onions. Cook and stir over medium low heat until thoroughly caramelized. Add garlic for the last 5 minutes or so, to just cook the rawness out. Don't let the garlic brown. Stir in thyme.

Slowly pour in beer. Mix just enough to moisten, don't overmix. Add most of the onion mixture. Spread batter into greased loaf pan. Spread the remaining onions over the batter. Pour melted butter over top.

Bake approximately 45 minutes to one hour. Let cool for a few minutes before removing from pan.

Beer bread is a quick bread, a lot like muffins, and is best served fresh from the oven, warm with loads of melty butter. Leftovers make good grilled sandwiches too. I hope you enjoy this version and are inspired to try your own combinations. This one had those super browned bits of onion on top-reminded me of onion buns. Yum!

Today we're bundled up in the house on The Chef's day off, watching movies while the oven warms the house and a big pot of yummy pasta sauce simmers away on the stove. We will be enjoying our warm bread with big bowls of rigatoni tossed with The Chef's delicious pasta sauce and venison- I can't think of a better way to stay warm on a cold winter evening.

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