OK. I`m ready to share the slightly crazy New Year`s resolution I made this year. At first, I was a little unsure about my
ability willingness to see it through, so I didn`t tell anyone — not even Howard – about it for the first 2 months. In my (general) experience, the more I share about one of my plans with no plan, the less likely I am to succeed.
It`s an energy thing.
Part of my hesitation was the spontaneity and lack of preparation surrounding the whole plan. (I cheated 3 days in — on Jan 3 — and bought 2 hamburger buns from the grocery store in a carb-deprived moment of desperation.) But now that bread baking has kneaded its way into my weekly routine, I confidently renounce store-bought loaves and buns for the remainder of 2011 and, I suspect, beyond.
I`ve learned alot about baking bread in the last couple of months. Experimenting with different formulas, substituting whole wheat for unbleached white and instant yeast for active lend themselves to a steep learning curve, and more than a couple of failed attempts. But as the price of flour is only going up, I figured it`s better to seize the day while I can still afford the wasted flour.
As a result of my experimentations, I can now produce a pretty mean multigrain loaf, a batch of pillowy soft whole wheat hamburger buns, pans of butter-rich brioche and a crusty Vienna loaf that the Von Trapps wòuld have lugged over the mountain pass. Add that list to my favourite foccacia recipe and some killer flatbread, and you`ll see that really we`re not missing anything on the bread front. Plus, the house smells amazing.
This Caramelized Onion-Beer Bread is perhaps my best, most flavourful loaf so far. Feeling creative one day, I opened the fridge and found some leftover crock pot caramelized onions, a dead soldier (in the form of an opened Anchor Steam Beer that went undrunk the night before), and a complete and utter dirth of bread. I turned to Dough by Richard Bertinet for inspiration and found his Gruyere and Cumin Loaf. I switched parmesan for the gruyere, beer for the water, kept the cumin, increased the yeast (he never calls for enough) and added a thick layer of caramelized onions.
The result was deep yeast flavour balanced with sweetness and spice with a little parmesan for punch. I dare you not to take a second slice.
I often bake one loaf right away, but allow the second to ferment in the fridge for up to 3 days before baking. This lets the bread develop more flavour, as well as providing us with freshly baked bread throughout the week. It works with most bread recipes. After dividing, forming and panning the loaves, wrap one of the pans with plastic wrap and store in the fridge. Remove the pan from the fridge at least 4-5 hours before baking.
After the first batch using the anchor steam, I have baked subsequent loaves using Piper`s Pale Ale, and well as the Garibaldi Honey Pale Ale from Howe Sound Brewing. I have avoided darker beers because of their effect on colour, but recently I`ve been imagining a loaf made with Guiness for St. Paddy`s…what do you think?
Caramelized Onion-Beer Bread
Yield – 2 loaves
|Unbleached All-Purpose Flour||3¾ C||18 oz|
|Table Salt||1½ t|
|Instant Yeast||1½ t|
|Beer, flat||1½ C||12 oz|
|Caramelized Onions||1 C|
|Parmagiano Reggiano, finely grated||¼ C||15 g|
|Cumin Seeds||½ t|
|Ground Cumin||½ t|
Oz= ounce C=cup t=teaspoon
In the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle, add the flour, salt and yeast. Mix on low speed until combined. Pour in the beer, then increase the speed to medium and run until it forms a rough ball. Switch to the dough hook, and knead on medium speed for 6-8 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and tacky but not sticky.
Lightly flour the dough ball and cover it with a clean, lint-free dishtowel. Rest for about 1 hour (or until doubled in size).
Grease 2 loaf pans with butter, and line the greased pans with parchment paper.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and flatten into a square about ½” thick. Spread the caramelized onions onto the dough evenly and all the way to the edges. Sprinkle with the cheese and cumin, then press the toppings firmly into the dough using your fingertips.
Using a dough scraper, fold one third of the dough into the centre (like folding a letter), then fold the other third over top. Turn the dough over so the seam is on the bottom, flour lightly, and cover with a lint-free dishtowel and rest it for 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into 2 equal loaves, tuck the filling back in and gently pull and pinch the ends of the dough to hold it all in. Gently place the loaves in the prepared pans and cut 3 or 4 diagonal slits in the top of each loaf with a sharp knife or razor blade. Cover with a lint-free dishtowel and allow to rise for about 90 minutes (or until doubled in size).
Preheat the oven to 450° F for at least 1 hour, and ensure the rack is in the bottom third of the oven. Put the pans into the oven, mist the inside oven walls with water from a spray bottle, and close the door quickly. Reduce the temperature to 425° F, and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top crust is golden brown. Remove the loaves from the pans and cool directly on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing.
It makes a pretty mean grilled cheese, too. And with aged cheese and a beer? It really could save the world.