We don’t generally have beer in our house. I’m not a big fan (in fact, I downright can’t stand it…though I do loves me a good framboise!) and Shake’s kind of picky about his beers. Plus, a six-pack of beer takes up so much room in the fridge, a place that’s already filled with booze—cold cuts drawer? That’s where we keep the PAMA and Aperol. Door? Good luck finding room between the simple syrup (OK, that’s not booze, but it is cocktail related), Maui limoncello, vermouth and assorted bottles of wine. Oh, did you want to put something on the bottom shelf? Figure out how to wedge it between bottles of sake, shochu and a big pitcher of Shake’s Sangria that needs finishing off.
Where was I before I started cataloging the disaster that is our refrigerator? Oh, yeah. Beer. So when I decided that I wanted to make beer bread to go with a dinner salad, it made Shake pretty happy. This is because I like to make this Italian beer bread, which means we have to buy Italian beer. And while Whole Foods is pretty awesome about having all kinds of obscure beers available for single bottle purchase, Peroni—our preference, because it’s the type I need for the bread and Shake also finds it very tasty—is not one of them. This means we must buy an entire six-pack (happily, on sale this past weekend for $8.99) just so I can use one bottle for bread. Shake claims the other five.
Cooking Light had a great recipe for beer bread, and helpfully provided ideas for several variations. One of those was Italian beer bread, which I’ve tweaked to suit my personal tastes.
Something about beer & bread begs for the nostalgic sepia tone look, don’t you think?
You can’t tell from these photos—I cleverly angled the loaf so the weird end faced away—but anything I make in my large loaf pan comes out oddly shaped; basically, my loaves have love handles. I use a silicone loaf pan (which is too gross looking—I’ll explain in a minute—to show you here) that I bought because it was an adorable shade of pink and I thought, “Silicone, cool, it won’t get those nasty rusty bits in the corners and when you scratch it!” Well, here’s the thing: it doesn’t rust, but when you spray it with cooking spray, anywhere the oil is exposed (not covered by dough, or meat, if you’re making meatloaf) ends up developing a disgusting, baked-on grease layer. It’s impossible to remove. You also can’t cut anything while it’s in the pan because it’ll damage the silicone. And because the sides aren’t rigid, whatever you’ve filled the pan with has a tendency to push the sides out, particularly in the middle, resulting in those aforementioned “love handles.” So, no, I wouldn’t buy one of these again. (I also have a silicone muffin “tin” and have the same cooking spray issue, plus you have to place the “tin” on top of a baking sheet (thereby making MORE dishes to wash) otherwise the tray doesn’t lie flat, and your muffins are all slanty-topped.
Italian Beer Bread
- 1/2 cup minced shallots
- 6 – 10 stalks green onion (Shake really likes green onions, so I put a lot in)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced (as always, you don’t need as much garlic as we like)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup grated Manchego cheese (OK, technically, Manchego is Spanish, not Italian. But it’s one of my favorite cheeses. If you want to be very Italian, you can use Asiago, which is what Cooking Light suggested in their version.)
- 1 (12-ounce) bottle Italian lager-style beer (our preference is Peroni)
- 2 – 4 oz. finely chopped salami (Because our entire dinner was planned to be salad and this bread, I used about 4 oz. of salami to make it a heartier meal. I find that those small cocktail party type logs of salami are good for this; you can snack on your leftover salami with your surplus beer. We happened to buy one of those trio packs from Costco for a party, and it turned out that the herb-crusted and the pepper-crusted ones were kind of overwhelming to eat alone; they worked very nicely, though, in salads and in this bread. You can even use the regular thin-sliced salami you find in the cold cuts section.)
- 2 tablespoons butter, divided
- Olive oil
- Cooking spray
Preheat oven to 375° and heat olive oil in a small skillet. Sauté the shallots and garlic until they just start to brown. Set aside.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Stir together with a whisk and make a little well in the center. Add shallots, garlic, cheese, and beer into the well, mixing briefly.
Add the salami and green onions and mix in gently (don’t over-mix the batter), until batter is just moist.
Coat a large (9 x 5 is good) loaf pan with cooking spray and pour the batter in. (Actually, it’s very heavy and a bit sticky; it doesn’t really pour, it kind of just flops in). Melt 1 tablespoon butter in the microwave (takes about 15 seconds) and drizzle it over the batter. Bake at 375° for 35 minutes. Melt and drizzle remaining 1 tablespoon butter over batter. Bake an additional 25 minutes or until deep golden brown and a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes on a wire rack. Remove loaf from pan and cool completely on wire rack.
Eat a slice while it’s still warm. Heavenly. Nothing better than warm bread. Here’s how we had it for dinner, with an Arugula & Asparagus Salad. (If you click on this photo, it will take you to a different gallery than the rest of the Beer Bread photos. If you want to see all of the Bake a Batcha Beer Bread photos, go here.)
I leave you with this parting gift. I mentioned that I can’t stand beer. But whenever I say it, I always announce it, “Beeeeeeeer!” which makes it sound like I’m really excited about it. I’m not. I’m just imitating Mark Dacascos as the Iron Chef America Chairman (wait ‘til 1:48):
Oh yeah. Love it.