February 18, 2009

Beer Bread Experiments and some Bean Salad

I've been baking a lot of bread lately. There have been plenty of baguettes from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, countless variations on banana bread, applesauce bread with nut milk pulp and quite a bit of beer bread. I was curious about how much the quality of the beer will effect the quality of the beer bread, so I started to play around. A recipe that simply calls for 12 ounces of beer leaves a lot of interpretation to the reader. Should I just go get a Bud Lite or is it worth it to use better beer? For the sake of experimentation, my latest beer breads have been made using some microbrews my parents brought back for me from Pittsburgh and the quality and flavor of the beer does make a big difference. I was particularly inspired by the microbrew called Stoudt's Fat Dog, an Imperial Oatmeal Stout. I love the dog on the label. It looks just like my father-in-law's black lab Max, who is quite the emperor of their house. ("Imperial" stout: "emperor"--get it?) I'm usually not a huge stout fan but I enjoyed my sampling--at 8am when I was making the bread, which felt naughty but I only had a taste! It had the more meal than drink appeal of good stout and a sweet molasses flavor that seemed perfect for bread.

I've been using a beer bread recipe I found on the site Zesty Cook. I like that it uses half whole wheat flour and the brown sugar in the dough adds just enough sweetness. The best part is the melted butter (Earth Balance margarine for us) that you pour over the top of the dough before baking. It makes the best tasting crunchy crust! I make my beer loaves in mini loaf pans and that gives you even more crust to savor. The day of my Fat Dog bread experiment I also made a bean salad. Inspired by a mock tuna salad recipe from The Daily Spud, I made some changes according to what was in my kitchen. I swapped cannellini beans for chickpeas, kale for parsley, home dried tomatoes for fresh, and some mashed avocado instead of mayonnaise. Though it deviated greatly from the original intent of mimicking tuna salad, it was a delicious, nutrient dense cross between bean dip and guacamole. And it was great on the beer bread! I think it would work equally well on other hearty breads, pita or just eaten with corn chips.

Here's is a link to the Beer Bread recipe from Zesty Cook. For the Fat Dog stout bread, I replaced a half cup of the all-purpose flour with oat flour, in honor of the oatmeal that went into the stout. My flour measurements were 1 1/2 cup whole wheat, 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup oat flour. It made the bread a little softer inside but didn't change the taste much. The real change in taste came from the beer. I plan to keep playing with other brews and maybe other beer bread recipes to see what I like best. I'd love to hear about your adventures in beer bread. What beers have you tried? Any favorite recipes for the beer bread? If you'd like to try it, here's my bastardized (but yummy) bean salad that I think is great on beer bread.

Bean Salad/Dip/Spread
Inspired by Mock Tuna Salad recipe on The Daily Spud who got the recipe idea from The Nomadic Gourmet, there is nothing like a viral recipe.
Makes ~2 cups

2 sundried tomatoes (I used home dried tomatoes from this summer)
2 large leaves of kale
1 (15 oz) can of cannellini beans (For canned beans I buy Eden Foods organic beans, they're a Michigan company)
1/4 cup diced onion
1 stalk celery, diced
juice from 1 lemon
1/2 small avocado, mashed
salt and cayenne pepper to taste

-Soak the dried tomatoes in just enough hot water to cover them for 5-10 minutes. Drain and dice.
-Wash the kale, remove and discard the stem and chop the leaves.
-Drain and rinse the beans. Place them in a bowl and mash a least half of them.
-Add the rest of the ingredients, stir and taste for seasoning. Add more salt and/or cayenne pepper to taste.
-Serve on bread or with chips.

Crunchy crusted beer bread made with Fat Dog StoutStoudt's Fat Dog Imperial Oatmeal Stout, so you can see the great label.

*I have one last site recommendation. If you are looking for a new banana bread recipe try this site. The number of different recipes seems endless and I'm addicted to watching the ingredient cloud on the side bar spin. It's like playing banana bread roulette!

I'm adding this to Bookmarked Recipes, an event started by Ruth of Ruth's Kitchen's Experiments. Visit the new Bookmarked Recipes site for the roundup of other bookmarked and tested recipes.