Beer and bread are natural bedfellows – they both need yeast to bring them to life. If you use a beer which still has dormant yeast in it, like many of the bottle-conditioned craft beers around today, you can make bread without additional baker’s yeast. But for our purposes, we went with a recipe which used a leavening agent. This freed us up to pick any beer we liked.
To mix things up a bit, we thought we would split the recipe and try two different beers to compare the flavours. After some deliberation we chose two ales by Bath Ales: Barnsey and Gem. Barnsey (4.5%) is a dark bitter with a distinctive toasted flavour, whereas Gem (4.8%) is an amber ale with more of a sweet/bitter balance. Both are made with English hops – Bramlings Cross and Goldings respectively. So how would these two different ales differ when baked into bread?
We used a Paul Hollywood basic bread recipe from his How To Bake book.
We started by weighing out a mixture of white and wholemeal bread flours.
Add salt, yeast and butter, keeping the salt and yeast separate so the former doesn’t retard or kill the latter.
Next – time for the beer!
Add the beer to your mixture and work it into a dough.
Time to take out some aggression and knead that sucker!
Then prove for a couple of hours until it’s doubled in size.
Now you can knock it back and shape it. We made little tear-and-share rolls.
Those little rolls have to go through their second proving for about an hour. Then we’re ready for the oven!
A little tray of water in the oven to steam and crisp up our crust, and there you have it!
So which beer made the better bread? It has to be said, for us it was Barnsey all the way. The Barnsey dough got a noticeably better rise than the Gem on both proves and it had more flavour when it came out of the oven.
So there you have it – ale bread! We’re definitely going to try some other beers in our bread – seeing how well the darker beer worked we might try going even darker next time… maybe a stout? Worth a shot!
Have you baked bread with beer? What did you use and how did it turn out? Get in touch and let us know!