COCO'S BEER BREAD
This recipe rules because you can mix everything up before you go to bed, and wake up ready to rock. If executed properly, you'll have your very own sourdough-ish homemade bread that will yield incredible toast, because toast is the best thing ever.
First of all, you know I don't measure things, so you should give this jam time for trial and error. It's really all about feeling it out, because I don't know your oven, your altitude, what kind of beer you're using, the texture/flavor you prefer, etc. I'll give you a general recipe and some pointers to direct you this way or that. And off you go!
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
- an enameled cast iron pot with lid (Le Creuset and Staub make fancy but good ones)
- parchment paper
- plastic/cling wrap
- a fork!
- a knife!
INGREDIENTS (all approximate)
3 cups all-purpose OR bread flour
1 packet active dry yeast
1 beer (lagers are good for lighter loafs; porters and stouts for darker, maltier bread)
vinegar (my go-to is red wine vinegar, but white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, rice wine vinegar... all good)
1. Pour/dump/shake the 3-ish cups of flour into a large non-reactive mixing bowl
2. Add about 2 teaspoons of salt to the flour
3. Add packet of yeast to the flour
4. Whisk dry ingredients together with fork
HAVE YOUR WET INGREDIENTS AT THE READY! (that's what she said)
5. Add about 1/4 cup vinegar to the flour
6. Add half of the beer
7. Add warm/hot water until dough is the consistency of wet sand/cooked oatmeal*
8. Stir and mix completely with fork until fully blended
* The dough needs to be wet enough that it won't hold together on its own on a flat surface, but not SO wet that it's a runny liquid mess (this will make a difference later). A moist and shaggy ball of somewhat held-together goo, that's what you're looking for.
COVER BOWL WITH PLASTIC WRAP AND LET PROOF IN A WARM-ISH PLACE OVERNIGHT (like the top of yo' fridge or something)
INT. NEXT DAY
1. Remove plastic wrap and stare at your dough for a sec
2. Generously flour a clean surface and turn the dough out onto it (the dough should "pour" and not "plop", but grip to the sides of the bowl)
3. Flour the dough and slowly incorporate some of the flour to begin firming up the dough's consistency
4. Knead and shape the dough just until it feels like your lover's butt cheek when they're asleep (you don't want to bring in TOO much flour at this point or your bread will be too dense)
LAY OUT TWO PIECES PARCHMENT PAPER ON A PLATE AND POUR EQUAL PARTS (2 teaspoons each? I use "dollops" and "dashes"?) OLIVE OIL AND VEGETABLE OIL ON IT. SMEAR IT AROUND THE PARCHMENT PAPER WITH YOUR HAND, AND THEN PAT THE REMAINING OIL ON THE DOUGH AS YOU TRANSFER IT TO THE PLATE.
LIGHTLY COVER DOUGH WITH PLASTIC WRAP AND LET REST FOR TWO HOURS.
5. Place enameled cast iron pot WITH lid in oven and set to 500 DEGREES (si, the pot and lid heat IN the oven as the oven heats)
6. When oven/pot are ready, remove pot and lower the dough into it (careful!) using the parchment paper as a cradle (the parchment paper will also help your dough not to burn)
7. Score an "X" across the top of the dough with tip of knife
8. Replace lid and return entire thing to oven
9. LOWER TEMPERATURE TO 400 DEGREES
BAKE WITH LID ON FOR 20-25 MINUTES, CHECKING THEN TO SEE IF THE BREAD IS FORMING AND LOOKS FULL AND CHEWY (THE CRUST WON'T HAVE DEVELOPED YET)
Once the bread looks like it has reached its full volume (it's baking AND steaming in that lidded pot, you see) REMOVE LID and bake for another 20-25 minutes, checking then for crust and color (don't let it get too brown; mind the peaks of the crust)
When bread is done, remove pot from oven, and remove bread (via your parchment paper sling) to place on rack to cool. Check it out.
It might take a few tries (or not, maybe you'll get it right off the bat) but once you feel out all the variables (the flour, your oven, your cookware, etc.) you'll be able to throw this baby down weekly, chucking in things like chopped rosemary, roasted garlic, olives, peppercorns, try different beer/vinegar combos, whatevs. And it'll be better than any "rustic" bakery bread in your town, I'm tellin' ya.
PS - Nerdly alchemical pointers below
- While this "recipe" might seem tedious and imprecise, it's actually the best method I've found for making consistently good bread at home, especially for transient people like me who are CONSTANTLY in different kitchens; you have to be able to adapt. If only "this" flour is available, or "that" beer or vinegar, you can still get the job done. You just have to be fair with the variables.
- The consistency of the dough at the beginning is very important to the whole shebang. I'll post pictures soon of what it is visually that you're looking for, but you want a wet dough when you set that thing to proof overnight. Wet, but not liquid.
- When adding wet ingredients, know that the vinegar is what will give your bread its tang, beer will give it its yeastiness, and the warm/hot water will help the yeast itself develop, and tie the entire thing together. So that's what your wet ingredients do. So, it's up to you, considering your preferences in what you like best in your bread's flavor profile.
- The combination of beer and vinegar is very responsive. A fun game to play (and a necessary one, if you want your beer to be awesome-to-the-limit) is to line up all of your vinegars and select a beer. I started making this bread with PBR, so clearly, you can start anywhere.
Your beer has its own flavor profile and certain elements of it will jump forward as soon as you smell/taste it, even if it IS just a PBR. So smell/taste your beer and then smell each of your vinegars in turn. It's all about their interplay. Some will reveal themselves to be a potentially interesting mate for your beer; the ones that don't really "go" will present themselves RIGHT away.
This combo is important because at the end of the baking process, both ingredients' flavors will be distilled and you want everything to harmonize, flavor-wise. When your bread is in the oven (especially after the lid is off) the alcohol and the bite of vinegar will cook off, and you'll be left with really bready flavors. And that's what you're after, yo.