Beer (can be) toast

Let me set the scene for you. It’s a little over a month into my second semester of college and I’m sitting in a hotel room in Houston, Texas, with 10 other people. The sounds of slightly overserved twenty-somethings mix with fragments of Jay-Z and Kanye’s “Ni**as in Paris” pouring out of a jailbroken iPod Touch. I’m wearing a screaming green ballcap from a sorority date night  because one of the boys put it on me and I was too tired to do anything about it. A couple people are swing-dancing in the sitting room-cum-office that meant we were allowed to call the room a suite.

I am 19 years old, and have not yet learned the futility of arguing with drunk people. So when Ross came out with the now-infamous argument that “beer is toast,” I didn’t leave well enough alone.

“What?” I said, putting all the incredulity I could muster into my voice.

“Beer is toast,” Ross said. “Beer is made of wheat. Toast is made of wheat. Therefore, beer is toast”

“No, it’s not,” I said. I then went on to explain all the ways in which beer and toast are different, up to and including the maillard reaction and the fermentation processes that turn the sugars in wheat into ethanol.

“Beer is wheat. Toast is wheat. Beer is toast because reasons” was the reply.

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The argument is ongoing.

The repertoire has expanded into both bread and salad, and despite the fact that bread is probably the closest edible analogue to beer we have, beer is not, nor will it ever be, toast or anything else. Beer is beer. Toast is toast. Drunk arguments, bless them, are drunk arguments.

That doesn’t mean that beer doesn’t make great bread (and, by extension, great toast). Googling “beer bread” turns up 10,400,000 results that range from quick breads to beer-scented yeast loaves.

But if I’m going to turn beer into toast, I have some very specific requirements. One, beer should be prominently featured in the flavor profile. That means the bread should be malty, dark, and maybe just a little bit bitter – which drives me towards the whole wheat end of the spectrum. Second, the recipe better use a whole bottle, because I can’t stand having tail-ends of beer lying around going flat in my refrigerator. It shouldn’t be sweet or cakelike. I’d also like to be able to whip it up in the same amount of time it takes to grab a cold one from the ‘fridge, which pretty much knocks yeasted doughs out of the running.

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I’m pretty sure this hits the spot. It took a little tweaking, but I think I’ve got the balance right – dense and not too sweet, with the pleasant chewiness of whole wheat and a hint of bitter salt from the baking powder. Best of all, it takes about 5 minutes to throw together and goes from thought to table in less than hour. And it makes the house smells amazing.

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Whole Wheat Beer Bread
Inspired by Ali’s Honey Beer Bread at Gimme Some Oven

168g (1 1/2 c) all-purpose flour
170g (1 1/2 c) whole wheat flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp honey
4 tbsp butter, melted
12 oz. (one bottle) beer, preferably something malty. I used an amber my roommate and I brewed a month or two ago.
rolled oats, for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

This is a quick bread, which means that devotees of Alton Brown (like Ross and myself) will be unsurprised to discover that we’ll be employing the muffin method – the wet and dry ingredients will be assembled separately, then wet is added to dry and briefly mixed to combine.

So let’s start with the dry ingredients. Combine both flours, the baking powder and the salt in a medium mixing bowl and whisk thoroughly to combine. You could also sift everything together, but I find that the wheat germ and bran can get stuck in the sifter mesh, which sort of defeats the purpose of using whole wheat flour in the first place.

Melt the butter in a small bowl, then add the honey. If you want, you can microwave the honey for a few seconds so it pours more easily. Mix the two together, then add the beer (if you’re like me, you’ll open it with the back end of a paint key because you lost your bottle opener in the move). If your beer is cold, the butter might solidify again. You’ll be able to tell if the mixture looks a bit curdled. Don’t worry about it – it won’t affect how the bread comes out.

Pour the beer mixture into the dry ingredients and mix them with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until they’re just combined and no dry pockets of flour remain. Pour the batter into a greased 9x5x3 inch loaf pan (or whatever you have around – quick breads are pretty forgiving), and sprinkle the top with rolled oats if you want to.

Bake for 40-60 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the fattest part of the loaf comes out clean. You’re supposed to let the bread cool to room temperature so the proteins can set before you cut into it, but so far I haven’t managed it.

And yes, this bread makes fantastic toast. I love it glazed with orange marmalade or thickly spread with salted butter and honey.

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