What to CookBeerBread

You Don't Need a Fancy Oven for This Bread. You Need Beer.

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We're pairing up with Breckenridge Brewery, Colorado's third-oldest craft brewery, to bring Vanilla Porter into your meals (and, if there are leftover bottles, your fridge). Stay tuned for different ways to use this versatile ingredient all summer long.

For a long time, I sort of avoided baking bread at home. Which isn’t to say I don’t love bread. I really, really do—I just became snobby about it. I used to work in a bakery, and after years spent devouring the crustiest loaves of bread, fresh from state-of-the-art ovens, I didn’t truly believe those results could be recreated in a home oven.

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Okay, okay—I baked the occasional loaf of focaccia, churned out enriched loaves like brioche pretty frequently, and grilled flatbreads—but I shied away from crusty artisan loaves until recently. The best luck I’ve had so far is with this nifty beer bread. In fact, I've made it four times this week, and each time, I could barely wait for it to cool before I slathered butter on a slice. It's official: I'm over my phobia of baking bread at home, in a big way.

What’s so special about this bread? For one, the flavor. The recipe starts with a base of rye and bread flours to create a simple pre-ferment known as a “sponge.” This pre-ferment begins to produce yeasty flavors and fermentation activity before I even begin to mix the bread. The best part? It only needs about 30 minutes to do its work, unlike others, which need to rest overnight.

After the sponge has done its thing, other ingredients are added to it: more rye and bread flour, salt. I also added dried milk and a little bit of sugar to the dough—these ingredients produce a soft, light interior crumb structure that makes this loaf perfect for sandwiches and toast. Finally, the star of the show: beer. I used a vanilla-flavored porter to flavor and hydrate my dough, which pairs perfectly with the mild, lightly sweet rye flour, and the dark hut produces a lovely loaf. But most of all, I love how the beer adds a yeasty flavor to the bread, without the addition of more yeast. It creates a delicious depth of flavor, all while doing the job of hydrating the dough (a role usually played by regular ol’ water).

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The final dough is quite sticky—a good sign of things to come. A highly-hydrated or “wet” dough is likely to have a crisp outer crust later, especially if baked at a nice, high temperature. But the dough will also continue to gain structure during its first rise, so it will already feel less tacky when you go to shape it. I shaped the dough into a simple loaf by baking it in a 9x5 pan. Baking the loaf at 400°F helps ensure a nice, towering spring, plus excellent browning.

I also added an extra step (one that can be skipped, but produces even better results when used) by throwing about 2 cups of ice cubes onto a baking sheet and placing it in the base of the oven right when I put the bread in. In the heat, these ice cubes melt, producing steam—something the fancy ovens in my former bread shop had as well. This steam produces an even crispier outer crust, which is well worth the extra effort in my book.

Vanilla Porter Rye Bread
Vanilla Porter Rye Bread

The best thing about this loaf is that it’s relatively easy to throw together, and the results are killer. Top it with slices of radish and a sprinkling of salt for an afternoon snack. It’s perfect as sandwich bread (I personally like it most for a BLT… especially since I’m dreaming big time about my favorite summer sandwich). But its greatest iteration, perhaps, is toast: golden, with a little bit of give in the center.

I have beer to thank for a lot of things in my life: helping me understand complex processes like fermentation, being a delicious form of liquid courage for many a first date, and most of all, for reminding me how wonderful and rewarding it is to bake bread at home.

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Vanilla Porter Rye Bread

0fecd8f8 6ef1 4649 9f57 83bf4668f3d0  3572 Erin McDowell
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Makes one 9 x 5 loaf

Sponge

  • 1/4 cup (26 g) medium rye flour
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) bread flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (5 g) instant dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup (118 g) warm water

Dough

  • 1 1/2 cups (155 g) medium rye flour
  • 3 1/2 cups (420 g) bread flour
  • 1/4 cup (35 g) dry milk
  • 1 tablespoon (12 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (6 g) fine sea salt
  • 12 ounces (340 g) Breckenridge Vanilla Porter (not cold)
  • 2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Go to Recipe

We're pairing up with Breckenridge Brewery, Colorado's third-oldest craft brewery, to bring Vanilla Porter into your meals (and, if there are leftover bottles, your fridge). Stay tuned for different ways to use this versatile ingredient all summer long.

Tags: porter, ale, bakery, rye bread