Wednesday, November 14, 2007

NINETY-NINE SLICES OF BEER ON THE WALL...






Several years ago I wrote for a local newspaper that was distributed throughout the North Shore, The Sunshine Coast and The Sea to Sky region of British Columbia. It was a pretty cool gig which gave me complete freedom over what I wrote and made me a bit of a "celebrity chef" in the area. The paper was called THE VOICE and it has since folded, but I thought I would revisit cooking with beer for you today by pulling one of my original columns out of my archives. This is exactly how the piece appeared in the paper complete with a rippin' bear bread recipe that was well known for being too good to resist.

While I was Executive Chef of The Howe Sound Inn & Brewing Company, I developed this recipe to serve to our guests. I later developed an open window bakery where this loaf - and other amazing baked goodies - were offered for sale. This loaf was always the top seller and was the favorite bread of many.

It is a quick bread in that it is raised with soda rather than yeast. That makes it a close cousin of soda bread but in this case, the beer gives it a bit of a boost by raising it as well as giving it a shot in the arm where flavor is concerned.

So...here is the column as it appeared in THE VOICE as well as my Ale and Cheddar Loaf recipe!


Now You’re Cooking!

with Mark Livingston


Ninety-nine Slices Of Beer On the Wall

A few months ago, I was in the LDB in Whistler Village Square searching for the perfect nut brown ale in which to braise some lamb shanks for that evening’s dinner special. Being handsomely clad in my chef’s whites, I guess I appeared to be the only cooking authority present and was approached by two “mature” women with a question about cooking. They wanted to know which type of wine was best to cook with.

This is kind of like asking a librarian to recommend a good book - it just ain’t that easy! But, after a few queries about what they were cooking, I was able to narrow the field to a few varieties that would suit their needs.

Since my cookbook, “Contemporary Brewhouse Cooking” had just hit the book shelves that week, I asked them if they had ever thought of cooking with beer. With eyebrows raised to the ceiling, they came back with an impassioned, "No! You can’t cook with beer!”

The truth is that beer can do as much for food as wine - or any other spirit for that matter - by adding its own unique characteristics to a dish, while bringing out the best in the other ingredients. In Europe, great chefs and cooks alike utilize beer as a principal ingredient in a wide variety of dishes, and as a flavoring agent in others. Many of these dishes have become staples on European menus.

In Canada, the lack of full-flavored, full-bodied ales and lagers has been the principal factor in disqualifying beer as a cooking liquid. Until recently, most beers we have been forced to drink have been little more than insipid fizz in pretty packaging. But thanks to the revolution of hand-crafted, micro-brewed beers, that has all changed!.

Available to Canadian consumers today, is a variety of exquisite, flavorful ales and lagers that are brewed to such a high standard that it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish them from their European cousins. And the good news is that most of these brews can be successfully incorporated into your everyday cooking.

Cooking with beer is quite simple. Add beer to soups, stews, chilis, sauces, pot roasts and any braised meat dishes. For rich, robust dishes, try stout or porter. Seafood, whether steamed or marinated in beer, responds well to a tip of the bottle. Choose a light ale or lager that isn't highly hopped for delicately flavored seafood.

When mixed with flour, beer gives off one of the most wonderful aromas in the food world. For this reason, spill a little beer into cakes, pie dough, sweet and savory batters, and especially, beer bread.

Ale & Cheddar Loaf

This is, without a doubt, the best beer bread you will ever taste. You’d better bake a double batch whenever you make it, because just like Speedy Gonzalez, it’s gonna go quick muchacho!

Ingredients:

3 cups all purpose flour

2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tbsp debittered brewer’s yeast (optional)*

½ tbsp salt

1 ½ cups amber ale (Granville Island’s Gastown Amber is a good chioce)

1 ½ cups grated old cheddar cheese

¼ cup melted butter

*Debittered brewer’s yeast is available at some micro-breweries. It is included in this recipe as a flavoring agent, not a leavening agent.

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350oF. Grease and flour a 8 X 4 inch loaf pan. Set aside until needed.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add ale and ½ of the cheese, stirring until just mixed. (If adding debittered brewer’s yeast, combine with ale prior to adding.)

3. Turn batter out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into an oblong lump. Quickly transfer
to loaf pan. Lightly press batter into pan ensuring even coverage over it’s bottom. Drizzle with melted butter and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. ( Insert toothpick to test doneness.)

4. When baked, sprinkle with remaining cheese and return to oven for 5 minutes. Cool and serve.

1 comment:

Elvina said...

Thanks for writing this.