I still have a lot of beer left over from last month’s beer baking binge, and I haven’t really been in the mood to drink lately. I think I’m too busy with all these various baking projects, blogger get togethers, and early morning choir performances. Or maybe it’s that I’m watching too much Mad Men – watching people who are always drunk, or hungover, makes sobriety much more attractive.
This weather has also put me in the mood to bake, so I put two and two together and made some Guinness bread this weekend. I was also inspired by my chat with Tiffany MacIssac, the Pastry Chef at Birch and Barley, who’s been incorporating beer into their breads and desserts. I decided to use the basic hearth bread recipe from The Bread Bible, which Rose Beranbaum suggests as a good basic recipe to use for adaptations.
The beer in this bread is a subtle flavoring – it gives it a slightly more bitter, darker flavor, and a honey-colored crumb. To counteract the smoky, bitter flavor of the Guinness, I upped the amount of honey in the dough, which gave the bread a mellow sweetness. You can’t really tell that the bread uses Guinness, but the beer definitely gives the bread a subtle depth of flavor that I liked quite a bit. Because this loaf uses bread flour, which has a higher protein content than regular flour, the bread is satisfyingly chewy, with a crisp crust and light texture.
This bread is good toasted in thick slices with a good slathering of butter and a sprinkling of sea salt. Or top it with goat cheese, arugula, and Prosciutto for a quick open-faced sandwich. And it’s refined enough that you can enjoy a slice with some cheese and a glass of wine. Or your favorite craft brew. Or even a Bud Light, if that’s what you prefer. I don’t judge.
Rustic Guinness Bread
Adapted from The Bread Bible, By Rose Levy Beranbaum
For the dough starter
1 and 1/4 cup bread flour
3/8 tsp instant (i.e., “rapid rise”) yeast
2 tbs honey
3/4 cup Guinness, at room temperature
1/3 cup + 4 tbs water, at room temperature
For the flour mixture
1 3/4 + 2 tbs bread flour
1/2 tsp instant yeast (i.e., “rapid rise”)
For the dough
1 + 1/2 tsp salt
Cornmeal, for sprinkling
Make the dough starter: in a mixer bowl, whisk together the bread flour, yeast, honey, Guinness, and water for two minutes, to incorporate air. Scrape down sides of bowl.
Make the flour mixture: in a medium bowl, whisk together the bread flour and yeast. Gently scoop the flour mixture onto the sponge, covering it completely. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm place to rise, 1-4 hours at room temperature. Do not worry if the starter bubbles through the flour mixture – this is fine.
Make the dough: Place mixer bowl on the elecric mixter and fit with a dough hook attachment. Mix on low speed until a rough dough is formed (about 1 minute). Scrape down any stray bits of dough. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and rest dough for 20 minutes.
Sprinkle the salt over the dough and knead on medium speed for about 7 minutes. The dough should be elastic and smooth, and just sticky enough to cling to your fingers. If it is too sticky, knead in a little flour; if it is not at all sticky, add a little water.
Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled – around 1 hour.
Remove dough from bowl to a lightly floured work surface and give it a business letter fold. Gently round dough and return to oiled bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled – 45 minutes to an hour.
Place dough on a lightly floured work surface and shape into a round ball, approximately 6 inches by 2.5 inches high. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper, lightly sprinkled with cornmeal. Place dough on prepared baking sheet. Cover with a bowl or oiled plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled, 45 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes.
One hour before baking, preheat oven to 475°F. Place one rack in the middle of the oven, and one in the lower portion of the oven. Place a baking stone or baking pan on middle rack, and a cast iron pan in lower rack.
Just before baking, slash the top of the bread with a razor or sharp knife, and gently mist with water. Gently set baking sheet on hot baking sheet in the center of the oven. Toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes into the cast iron pan below and quickly shut the oven door. After 10 minutes, lower heat to 425°F. Bake 20-30 minutes more, until bread is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Remove dough from oven and let cool on a rack.