Thursday, September 8, 2011

Basil Beer Bread

As I have noted almost from the beginning of this blog, making your own bread is a super-quick and easy way to save tons of money and have greater control over your food.  This is especially true if you like "artisinal" or specialty breads that may cost as much as $5 a loaf. 

With a sudden chill descending on the Midwest, it is officially time to start baking again.  This recipe uses up some of the fresh basil that is still growing in the garden.  It also uses up some of your extra beer, which is a win for me.

(Yes, I can hear the groans:  "extra" beer?  Mr. FC&G and I are not big beer drinkers.  We typically buy a six-pack at the beginning of summer, drink as much as we want all season, and are left with 3-4 bottles to get rid of somehow.  If you don't have this problem, I can assure you that this recipe works just fine with bargain-basement brands of beer that are purchased specifically for the purpose.)

This recipe for Basil Beer Bread is one of my favorites.  I adapted it from a recipe in Real Simple magazine.  The original recipe called for 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, which sounds yummy, but which I never seem to have at the same time I have basil and beer in the house.  It also called for all white flour, which I think is a missed opportunity to get some whole grains in the diet.  Note that the beer flavor carries over in a definite but not-unpleasant way, so you can change the flavor of the bread by experimenting with different beers.

Basil Beer Bread
3 1/4 cups flour (I use 2 cups unbleached all-purpose, 1 cup whole wheat, and 1/4 cup flax meal)
1 T bread machine yeast
1 1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper (or more to taste)
12 oz. beer (I had Land Shark in the fridge, so Fins Up!)
1 cup chopped basil

Place all ingredients in bread machine and let them mix.  Note that the dough may be a little "gloopy" -- that is OK.  When they are mixed, dump out onto a sheet or pizza pan greased with olive oil, and let sit for about 15-20 minutes.  (I like this step to give the yeast some time to get going, even though it is not in the original recipe.  If it is gloopy, it won't really rise, but it will get going.)

Bake at 400 for 40-45 minutes until lightly browned.  You will be surprised at how much it rises during baking!

The Analysis

Fast:  I figure on an hour and 15 minutes for this recipe, of which about 15 minutes are prep and 15 minutes are "letting it sit."  I made a loaf while I canned something else, so it isn't a high-focus activity.

Cheap:  Your beer is your big budget variable here; everything else should come in at under $1.50, especially if you grow your own basil.  If you contribute a $1.50 beer, you are under $3.00 for this loaf.  Try beating that at the store or bakery.  In fact, try finding this at the store or bakery!

Good:  This is a great bread to go alongside a nice soup, like my Cheesy Potato Soup, or it makes great "dipping" bread alongside an Italian meal or as a snack.
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  1. This sounds yummy! And I also have some basil that somehow managed to survive the summer drought. BUT I don't have a bread machine and am unsure how to adapt recipe. Can you help?

  2. Anonymous: If you don't have a machine, just mix the dough really well in a large bowl, and then plop it out on your greased pan to rise/sit. I really add the bread machine step myself because I'm too lazy to mix the dough (now that's lazy!) and want to do something else while it is mixing. You can do it by hand.

    I typically use my bread machine more as a mixing/kneading device than a rising/baking device, anyway. I'll bet you could even use a stand-up mixer with a bread hook if you want an appliance involved in the mixing. But it isn't necessary.

  3. Thanks for the explanation! I'm going to bake this today. Can almost smell it now.... :)