Last Christmas I presented my craft beer-loving boyfriend with a home-brewing starter kit, a new hobby he approached with the thoughtful research and the detailed nature I expected. What I did not imagine is how much space home-brewing would require of our 700-square foot apartment, how the kitchen would periodically be taken over for hours at a time, or how pleased our neighbors would be with the pungent aromas of all-grain brewing.
Within a month, bottles of his first home-brewed beer, a nut brown ale, were ready for consumption. Since then there have been many other brewing days, lots more bottles, and tons of wonderful brews. But soon there was an over abundance of the nut brown ale, temporarily forgotten in favor of the newer beers. While I usually have to fight to use a bottle of perfectly good beer for cooking or baking purposes, a few weeks ago Mike declared these bottles up for grabs.
As dinner time approached last week, a hearty soup simmered away on the stove, but there was no bread to serve alongside in order to sop up the remnants of liquid - an unusual problem in our apartment. It was a frigid evening and I dreaded facing the after-work crowd at the corner store. I peered over to the box of nut brown ale and quickly researched recipes for beer bread. I was stuck by how simple these recipes seemed and wondered if such a simple method could really yield a hearty loaf. Indeed, as soon as the golden loaf emerged from the oven, sliced and smeared with a pad of salted sweet cream butter, it quickly became a new favorite.
Nut Brown Ale Bread
active time: 5 minutes
total time: 50 minutes
inspired by Epicurious, October 1999
makes 1 loaf, about 8 servings
Creating this hearty, warming loaf could not be easier. No kneading, no rising time, just a beautiful golden loaf emerging from the oven in under an hour. Just before baking, I sprinkled the top of the loaf with a nut and seed mixture, as I love a crunchy texture to my breads. Using what you have on hand, you could come up with your own mixture or omit the topping completely. If you have leftovers, this bread is delicious the following morning, lightly buttered and toasted on a griddle.
The nut brown ale imparts the deep flavors in this bread. I used a bottle of home-brewed beer, but there are many options available commercially. Abita Turbo Dog, Brooklyn Brown Ale, and Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale are some commonly available bottles, but any brown ale you are able to find will work perfectly.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
12 ounces nut brown ale, room temperature
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon brown flax seeds
1 tablespoon Pepita seeds
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
Preheat oven to 375°F. Prepare a loaf pan with non-stick spray and line with parchment paper, allowing an overhang on the sides. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flours, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Pour in beer and stir until just combined; the batter should appear lumpy.
Pour batter into prepared loaf pan, gently pushing batter to all corners of the pan until an even layer is formed. Brush top with melted butter. In a small mixing bowl, stir together flax seeds, Pepita seeds, sunflower seeds, and poppy seeds. Evenly sprinkle the mixture over top of loaf and gently press into the loaf.
Bake until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center emerges cleanly, about 40 to 45 minutes. Allow bread to cool in loaf pan on wire rack for about 15 minutes, then carefully grab the ends of the parchment overhang and remove loaf from pan. Allow bread to continue cooling on wire rack; serve with a smear of salted sweet cream butter when still barely warm.