no-knead barley and beer bread
I like the idea of homemade bread. One day, I tell myself, I’ll morph into the kind of person who regularly emerges from the kitchen, lightly coated in flour, cradling a perfect loaf to feed friends and kin (there are also Disney songbirds braiding my hair in this fantasy). But that’s a lifestyle choice that tends to require things like keeping starter as a pet, and as someone who’s not allowed to touch the household plants*, this seems cruel to both me and the starter. Enter beer bread. Like all quickbreads (read: five minutes hands-on time), it’s less airy and more cake-like than the more de rigueur sourdough, but we can choose to see that as a feature rather than a bug. This is by far the easiest and most consistently delicious bread recipe I’ve ever tried.
Basically, this recipe piggybacks on the—for lack of a better way to put it—bready flavour beer inherently has. The good folks at the brewery have put in the work for us so we can swoop in and enjoy the flavour-enhancing results, like a cool aunt who picks up the kids for two hours and drops them off when it’s time for a manicure.
The beer** you choose will translate to the final product, so I’d recommend starting with something mild—my go-to, readily available in my neck of the woods, is Mill Street Organic. Anything plain and easy on the hops will lend the subtle, yeasty note we’re after. (If you try this with something funkier—pumpkin ales, hibiscus sour or what have you—please let me know how that goes).
The trio of flours I call for here is not strictly necessary. Florence Fabricant’s original recipe called for just all-purpose, but when I tried it that way, it came out a little uninspiring. A one-bowl, no-knead bread already doesn’t have much going for it in the way of complexity; mixing up your flours is an easy way to add a little interest. Plus, barley flour—light, nutty, and a little sweet—is a criminally underrated baking ingredient and I’ll throw it in wherever I can.
*In my house, the unwritten rule is: if you have a face, you’re getting fed/watered with stunning regularity. If not, I will forget you exist for weeks or months despite my best intentions and you had just better hope that my partner, who speaks the secret language of plants and trees, isn’t on vacation. RIP succulents, African violets, and all the other plant gifts friends assured me I couldn’t kill.
**Note that using beer does not, as some sources claim, have anything to do with adding yeast to help the bread rise. Commercially available beer does not (or at least, should not) contain live yeast. Craft brews might, but even in that case, the baking powder does the heavy lifting. Same goes for any other quickbread (that is, something leavened with a chemical agent rather than a biological one, like yeast): muffins, scones, pancakes, etc.
no-knead beer and barley bread
barley flour 1 cup
whole wheat flour 1 cup
all-purpose flour 1 cup
baking powder 1 tablespoon
sugar 1.5 tablespoons
kosher salt 1 teaspoon
bland beer one 12-oz can
butter 2 tablespoons, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
Butter a standard-sized loaf pan. Preheat the oven to 375F.
make the dough
Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
Add the beer, and stir till well-combined. It will bubble. It will be fun.
Pour the mixture into the loaf pan, and let it sit for about fifteen minutes. (This improves the texture and helps it rise). Plus, your oven should be nice and hot by then.
Bake till a skewer comes out clean—start checking at 35 minutes.
When it’s still hot, drizzle the top with melted butter. Wait till it’s mostly cool before removing from the loaf pan and slicing.
Lovely as is, but even better toasted. I like it in the morning, buttered, with a piece of fruit and a hunk of cheese.
This will keep for 3-5 days in an airtight container in the fridge.