This recipe is the result of a lot (and I do mean a lot) of trial and error. A couple of years ago, Jessi's aunt and uncle started getting us baking and seasoning mixes from Tastefully Simple. Now, we're generally not box-mix people, but this brand has some awesome products. Some of our favorites are the Key Lime Cheese Ball mix (awesome with graham crackers), the Almond Pound Cake mix (great with a bit of homemade, sweetened whipped cream), and their trio of dip mixers. Our absolute favorite, however, is their Bountiful Beer Bread. It's a dense, hearty bread with a rustic charm that goes with everything from cheeses, to spreads, to dips.
We went through this stuff like water, however, and it started to get a bit expensive. We decided, based on the ingredients, that it shouldn't be too hard to 'clone'. Yeah, we were wrong. About a year (and several failed attempts) later, we've finally got something that, while not exactly a clone, is pretty close and something that we love almost as much as the original. For four mini loaves or one standard-sized loaf:
-2 cups all-purpose flour
-1 cup organic barley flour (we get ours in the bulk section at HyVee)
-1 tsp. baking soda
-1 tsp. baking powder
-1/4 cup white sugar *(brown sugar can be substituted; see note below)
-a dash of salt
-12 oz beer **(see note below)
-about 1-2 tablespoons of butter, melted (optional)
Combine all of the dry ingredients and the beer and blend with a kitchen spoon until combined. The dough will be very thick, so don't worry. Divide into four mini loaf pans or one regular loaf pan. The dough will be lumpy and rustic-looking; don't worry, when baked, this only adds to its charm. Melt the butter (if desired) and pour evenly over the top of each loaf. This will help the top to crisp up nicely in the oven. For mini-loaves, bake at 350 for 35 minutes. For one large loaf, bake at 350 for about 50-55 minutes. It's hard to over-bake this bread (its density keeps it from drying out) but be careful not to burn the crust. When cutting, use a razor sharp, serrated bread knife. The crust is kind of crumbly, and the bread doesn't always cut clearly, but it tastes amazing. Simple, rustic, and satisfying. This is awesome served with beer (of course) and hearty cheeses, honeyed butter (that's a recipe for another time), or a variety of dips/spreads. In the future, we're hoping to do some riffs on this recipe, but a couple of notes below will give you an idea of where to start.
*while white sugar is best with lighter beers, light or dark brown sugar may be used with darker, sweeter beers for a little bit darker, richer bread. You can experiment with different kinds of semi-refined sugars as well.
**a word on beer in this recipe; you can play around with the types of beer you use in this bread, with a couple of exceptions. DO NOT use anything hoppy (i.e. American Pale Ale or IPA), or anything with a particularly strong or unusual flavor. Some of these can come off as a bit funny in the bread. We typically use either a crummy light lager (anything from Budweiser to St. Pauli Girl), a German-style weissbier (Paulaner, similar), or an American wheat beer. Boulevard Wheat is our go-to for this recipe. These types of beers lend nice, grainy flavors to the bread but have a low level of hoppiness. We've also found that Scotch Ales (ex. Belhaven Wee Heavy, Great Divide Claymore, etc), used alongside light or dark brown sugar, make a nice, rich beer bread as well. Again, just make sure you don't overdo it in terms of alcohol or hop rate or, in the case of some Scotch- or Scotch-style ales, smoke character.