Thursday 9 December 2021

"Oh, Look! We Have Unexpected Company!" Quick Bread

My husband was really bad about inviting people to dinner and then forgetting to tell me about it until our guests pulled into the driveway. Seriously. Thirty four years of marriage never broke him of the habit. After so many years of magically conjuring dinner for four, or six, or eight out of ingredients planned for just the two of us, I'm really good at it. 

One of the things I learned very quickly about stretching meals is that carbs are your friends. Having a few good quick breads in your repertoire can be a great help when unexpected company arrives at dinnertime.  

Served before dinner, hot from the oven, with butter or with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, a quick bread can buy you some extra time to prepare the rest of the meal. It can help take the edge off appetites too, which means main course protein servings can be smaller and the meal can be more heavily weighted towards vegetables that are quick to prepare. 

Your guests don't have to know any of that. You can keep mum and let them be impressed with what a special treat they're enjoying. They'll love it.

You don't have to re-invent the wheel either. Learn to make a basic quick bread like this beer bread. Beer bread's been around forever because it's easy to make and it tastes really good. 

Almost all beer breads call for self rising flour: a pre-mixed blend that also includes baking powder and salt. It's not an ingredient commonly called for in recipes from this region so I don't go through it quickly enough to use up a bag before it's past its "best by" date. When I bake a recipe that calls for self rising flour I make this substitution:

For every cup of self rising flour called for in a recipe, I use 1 cup of all purpose flour, 1-1/2 teaspoons of baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. 

I've already done the math for you in this recipe, then adjusted so it's less salty and there's no aftertaste from the baking powder.

You're welcome. 😊

To make this bread, you'll need:

  • 2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of onion powder, granulated garlic, ground dry rosemary, oregano, and basil
  • 1 12-ounce bottle of beer (I use a lager)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl and use a whisk or a fork to stir them together. (A whisk or fork won't compact the flour. A spoon would.)

Add the beer and then the olive oil. Stir until combined but don't over-mix the batter. Lumpy is okay.

Spoon the batter into a buttered or oiled  9 x 5-inch loaf pan. It'll take about 45 minutes to bake at 375F. 

If you portion the batter into smaller containers you can shorten the baking time. Half pint/125 ml Mason jars work perfectly. The smaller loaves cook in about half the time it takes to bake a 9 x 5-inch loaf, and they're easy to present in a bread basket; no slicing required. 

Beer bread is always best served hot from the oven. If you have leftovers and want to reheat them, you can slice them and toast the slices or you can wrap the leftovers in foil and reheat them in a 350F oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

Now, go forth and fear unexpected company no more. You've got this!

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