I have never been a big beer fan. I prefer a fruity cocktail or a nice glass of Riesling over a cold Bud Light. My husband can go for a couple of cold brews, but we hardly ever buy it. It's usually a Friday-night-at-dinner type of thing, even for him. Despite this, somehow we recently stocked our fridge with three or four cases of various beers: Miller Light, Coors Light, Budweiser and Bud Light. And no, we aren't having a party on Saturday night.
Despite the fact that my parents are convinced that my husband and I have gone to the dark side and regularly "pound back" beers after work, in reality neither of us had even thought about opening one of those cans in months. So, when I discovered the concept of beer bread, I realized I might have just found a way to regain my fridge space, without causing liver damage.
Going online to search for a recipe, I was surprised to find that beer and bread have been closely entwined since, literally, the dawn of mankind. Reputable historians believe that early Sumerians settled in Mesopotamia for the nutrient-rich soil that easily bore grains. (Snore.) However—and this is where things get a little interesting—they speculate that these nomadic people wanted the grain not for bread, but for … beer. Speculation, remember, but still an interesting possibility.
No one is completely clear on how beer was invented or discovered. It's easy to think, though, that somehow a chunk of bread was immersed in water, left out for a couple days, and then someone (some guy who either wasn't smart or was being tortured) drank the water. And I'm sure we all know what happened after that.
One of the main purposes of leavened bread in the early days of brewing was to make beer. Instead of hops, brewers used dates and honey to add flavor. In some regions, beer was actually safer to drink than fresh water, something that savvy travelers still count on today.
You may not be able to request your wages in beer, but in many ancient cultures (especially Rome), workers and soldiers would get rambunctious if they didn't receive their fair portion of beer. Even religious folk were serious about it. Monks in several monasteries brewed beers as an extension of herbal cures. Many monks in Europe carry on the tradition today.
So, whether you are a soldier, a worker or a priest, or just have enormous amounts of beer stockpiled in your fridge, you will enjoy this recipe. And I admit that I drank a cold beer while baking this bread, but can you blame me?
By the way, this bread is excellent with soup or stew. The crust is fairly hard and crunchy, but when you pour gravy or broth over a big slice, it's delicious. It's a good thing that the alcohol bakes out of the dough, because the loaf I made the other day disappeared faster than a keg at a fraternity house on a Saturday night.
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 12-oz can beer, at room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil
Mix all dry ingredients together. Slowly pour the can of beer over the flour mixture. Stir gently, and as the dough becomes thicker, start kneading it with your hands, just for a minute or so. Transfer it to an oiled pan (use a bread pan, if your have one; I just used a small cake pan). Bake at 375° for 1 hour. Remove from oven; brush the top with olive oil. Let cool 15 minutes before slicing.