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Beer Bread

This is an incredibly quick and easy recipe for homemade bread.  No yeast beyond what’s in the beer, no kneading, no rising, no hassle.  It takes approximately 10 minutes to put together and then another hour to bake.  That’s it.

As easy as it is, I managed to screw it up.  I do not like beer; unfortunately not liking beer means that I’ve never paid any attention to the details that go along with beer.  Details like IPAs are between 40 and 60 international bitterness units, which is a lot.  Naturally I used an IPA (The bottle was pretty!) and made some truly awful bread.  It turns out that I just don’t like hops (the things that make beer bitter) at all, and even if I did, they do not belong in bread.  (Now that I understand what it is that I don’t like about beer, perhaps I can find a beer that I like…or I could just stick to tequila.)

Allow me to help you to avoid my mistakes.  First, do not use an IPA.  Second, choose a beer that is under 25 IBUs.  Third, the fewer hops, the better.  (For bread at least.  Those of you who actually drink beer may enjoy hops, but they do not belong in bread.)

Do you have your beer?  You just wandered over to the refrigerator and pulled out a can of PBR, didn’t you?  Good choice.

Ingredients

  •  2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar (granulated sugar or brown sugar both work)
  • 12 oz. beer (see above)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.  Grease and flour a loaf pan.  (This is important if you want to get the bread out of the pan in one piece.)
  2. Thoroughly whisk together all dry ingredients.
  3. Create a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the beer.  Stir until just combined with a wooden spoon.  Do not over-mix.
  4. Scrape dough into the prepared pan.  Make an effort to smooth it out a bit.
  5. Bake for one hour.  It will have a firm crust and look…rustic.  It will also be tasty.

It goes very nicely with chili or butter.

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Spinach Faux Frittata

Real frittatas require copious amounts of eggs and are closely related to omelets.  I do not like the texture of eggs and prefer my eggs to be hiding in cake, or candying a walnut, or even teaming up with lemons to become curd, so eating a real frittata does not appeal to me.  Fortunately, this is not a real frittata.  It does require a couple of eggs, which combined with the melted butter gives it a certain texture, but it’s still quite tasty.  It can be eaten hot or cold and travels nicely for all your pot-luck needs.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. bacon
  • approximately 7 oz. spinach, rinsed (Frozen spinach can be substituted. Defrost and then chop without blanching.)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • pinch nutmeg (do it)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk or half and half
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • grated asiago or parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Cook bacon.
  2. Preheat oven to 375° F. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.  (You probably have some bacon grease on hand….)
  3. Fill medium sauce pan with enough water to cover the spinach (do not add spinach just yet) and salt generously.  Bring the water to a full boil. Put the spinach in the boiling water and leave it there a minute or two until it becomes soft.  Drain spinach and rinse in cold water, then chop the spinach finely.*
  4. Whisk together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, nutmeg) in a large bowl. Stir in vegetables (spinach, onion, garlic, bacon). Work in wet ingredients (eggs, milk, butter).
  5. Pour mixture into prepared pan.  Sprinkle cheese on top.
  6. Bake 30-35 minutes until the tester comes out clean.

Suggestions and Explanations

  • Bacon has hovered near perfection for years, but now I can finally say that bacon is perfect. The difference? I cook the shit in the oven. I lay it out on a sheet pan and just let it sit there until it is done. No flipping, no grease spatters, no half cooked/half burnt pieces. Just perfectly done little slices every time.
  • You are adding the vegetables to the dry ingredients so you can coat the veggies with the flour mixture. Doing so will prevent them from sinking to the bottom and allow them to be evenly distributed throughout the frittata.
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese is very much like cheese; the stuff in the little green cylinders is very much like sawdust and is not significantly cheaper or longer lasting.
  • *Blanching, the technique of briefly boiling something (usually vegetables) and then arresting the cooking process with cold water, changes the texture of foods and prepares them for further cooking at a later time.  (Like when we bake this.)  Adding salt to the water (think ocean) improves the taste and preserves the color; cooked spinach is undesirable enough without being gray.

Pototoes au Gratin

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs (approximately 6 smaller) potatoes
  • black pepper
  • seasoned salt and celery salt
  • 1 large onion
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 t garlic
  • 1 T AP flour (AP means all-purpose, as opposed to wheat or cake flour.)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup buttermilk (This is cheap and makes it taste much better. Pro-tip: 1 pint = 2 cups, but you can usually find it sold in a 1/2 pint — if not it will keep for weeks.)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1/2 cup parmesan (Again, and always, real cheese. If it comes in a little green cylinder it’s not real.)

Directions

  1. Dice and caramelize onion. (You caramelize with a tablespoon of butter on medium-high heat. Use a saucepan and then you won’t need to dirty another dish for step 3.)
  2. Thinly slice potatoes and season them with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in onions. Place in 9×9 baking pan.
  3. Melt butter and briefly sauté garlic; stir in flour. Add milk and buttermilk. Bring to low boil.
  4. Add cheddar. Simmer, stirring constantly, until smooth and then pour over potatoes.
  5. Bake uncovered at 375* F for one hour. Sprinkle parmesan on top and bake until pleasantly textured, approximately 15 minutes.

Notes

  • The original recipe calls for 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs to be mixed in with the parmesan…possibly worth trying, at least to see what it does to the texture of the cheese.
  • Believe it or not, I’ve never added ham or bacon to this, but there is absolutely not reason not to. Crisp the bacon first and then you can use the bacon fat to caramelize the onions.