Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cranberry Raisin Walnut Beer Bread



I’ve been making beer bread for about a year now.  In case you haven’t tried it and are wondering, it’s wonderful.  It’s as easy as can be and tastier than you’d imagine for something that takes such little effort.  The coup de gras of this bread is the butter you put on top.  You see, you melt a bunch of butter (salted is my choice) and you pour it all over the bread before it bakes.  This results in the most fabulous buttery, salty crust E-V-E-R!

The recipe is simple enough and you can find a bunch of results when you search on Google for a recipe for it.  The basis of all of them is pretty much the same.  You will find one with self-rising flour and one without that adds a healthy dose of baking powder to compensate for not using self-rising flour.  There are many variations of this recipe-some savory and some sweet. 

I have no idea if this particular version of this bread is out there, I haven’t looked.  I am sure I am not the first person though to think of putting dried fruit and nuts into this bread.  It seems a good combination.  The tart of the cranberries, the sweet of the raisins, the crunch of the nuts along with that crust…did I mention how amazing the crust is?  Yeah, I am sure I have.

Here is the recipe.  Not sure who to credit it back to, as I said, it’s all over the internet.  So I suppose I can just say:


3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
12 ounces beer
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cups toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped*
1/4 cup salted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat oven to 375 and grease a loaf pan very well.

Put flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into mixing bowl.  Whisk dry ingredients together to incorporate baking powder, sugar and salt into the flour.  Have you ever eaten something and gotten a mouthful of un-mixed-in baking powder or soda?  If not, let me tell you...it’s not good. 

Crack open the beer and pour it right into the dry ingredients…don’t take a sip, you won’t have enough for your recipe.  Mix thoroughly. 

Add all the dried fruits and nuts into the batter and stir until they are evenly mixed in.

Pour all of this into your prepared loaf pan and smooth out the top of the loaf.  Take your melted butter and pour it evenly all over the top of the unbaked loaf.  You may need to get a pastry brush to even it out a little.  Don’t worry if some of it drips down between the batter and the pan.

Pop this baby in the oven for about an hour.  The crust will start to turn a lovely golden brown color and I use the toothpick test to check to see when it’s done…if your toothpick comes out clean, you’re done!  Cool in the pan for a little bit, about 15 minutes or so.  Turn out onto a cooling rack and try to resist cutting into it until it is cool.

*You can toast your nits in the oven or the stove top.  I choose the stove top because I tend to forget when they are in the oven.

To toast on the stovetop:  Put nuts in a skillet and stir over low to medium heat until they are toasted.  It doesn’t take too long and you want to be sure that you watch them carefully as it doesn’t take long for them to start to burn.

To toast in the oven:  Heat oven to 350.  Put nuts on a baking sheet and keep an eye on them, stirring every few minutes.  Again, it doesn’t take too long just make sure you pull them out before they go too far!


Here are my usual notes about what I used:


Sugar

As in the previous post for the pizza sauce, I used Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Sugar.  Their website is finally back up so you can check them out now.  I have not noticed any change in anything I’ve used this product with.  I really am glad I made the switch. 


Butter

I’ve recently switched to Cabot butter instead of buying the BJs brand of butter.  As with the Cabot cheeses I’ve used in previous recipes, I can find this for a good price at a small grocery store nearby.  Cabot is a farm co-op and their farmers pledge to keep hormones out of their milk.


Flour

I usually use King Arthur, as you may know if you’ve read previous baking posts on my blog.  However, with the new Wegman’s in the area, I have been buying 2-5lb bags of their unbleached flour each time we go there.  Until the end of the year they are only $0.99 at this new store.  They limit it to 2 per customer so I will keep buying 2 bags each time we go until the end of the year and will then switch back to my beloved King Arthur flour.


Dried Fruits and Nuts

As much as I would like to say these are all organic, they are not.  Have you seen how expensive nuts are lately?  They are not cheap.  I’ve never even looked for organic nuts but I am guessing Whole Foods has them.  Even so, I have a hard time forking the money over for them at BJs in a club pack so I am quite sure I’d gasp at the price of organic nuts!  As for the dried fruits, I don’t usually pick these out.  I do not like dried fruits to snack on or in baked goods so my husband usually picks out what he wants to put in his nightly snack of a mix of nuts, dried fruits and chocolate chips.  Dried fruit, other than raisins, can get expensive just like nuts can.  I will look into it next time I go shopping and see how it compares.  If it’s not a big jump in price, I may make the switch.

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