Friday, July 2, 2010

No Panicking! A Last Minute Treat for the Fourth

Whenever a friend or family member is hosting a shindig, I am only too ecstatically happy to help them out by bringing a treat. Unfortunately, I also can be a bit flaky at times, so if I haven't implemented my super favorite trick of baking and freezing ahead, I tend to realize the night before, or more horrifyingly, the day of, that I forgot to make something. Usually this isn't a horrible crisis; I just end up bringing cookies so fresh, that maybe they're still warm from the oven...

If you've been enjoying the beautiful summer weather and taking a well deserved break, you might now be coming to the violent realization I often do, and remember that you need a hostess gift/present/potluck item for a Fourth of July party. Not to fear - I've got a recipe that is simple yet non-traditional, very tasty, and that uses most everyone's favorite BBQ item - beer! (Although, if you stay away from the stuff, fear not! I'll give you a modification in the recipe below.)

I got hooked on beer bread many years ago, thanks to Tastefully Simple. It's no secret that I almost always stay away from boxed mixes as much as possible, but I have to say, Tastefully Simple tend to be high quality, very yummy, and easy to gussy up and look very fancy. One of those items? Their beer bread. Absolutely delicious. I introduced it to Greg, and he loved it too. And we left it out on the counter once, and Maggie, our faithful dog we had before our three girls, who was always so good about not going near people food, ate an entire loaf off the counter once when we weren't looking. Trust me - if it was irresistible to Maggie, then this must have been good stuff.

That said, we haven't had it in a long time because all of my Tastefully Simple contacts either got out of the business or we lost touch. I have often dreamed of delicious, delicious beer bread, but not really doing anything about it.

Then, I was reading a book written by my new favorite frugal bloggers, Wise Bread, and lo and behold, what was on the list of 21 Things to Do with Beer? Make delicious beer bread. I monkeyed with the ingredients a bit and came up with a foolproof recipe that you can put together in no time with ingredients you probably already have in your house. Bonus: if you are making it at the last minute, it is fantastic hot, so partygoers will be impressed with you (just wrap it in foil, not plastic, when you bring it over.) Beer bread is great because 1) turning beer into bread is kind of novel and people tend to want to talk about it (ice breaker!); 2) it goes well with the BBQ theme; and 3) people will be impressed with you - as well they should.

Beer Bread (adapted from the bloggers at Wise Bread)
Yields: 1 loaf

3 c. all purpose flour
5 tsp. baking powder
Scant salt
1/2 tsp. onion powder + 3/4 tsp. Italian seasoning (Actually, I have this awesome stuff my sister Alison gave me from Penzeys called Sunny Paris Seasoning that I use - but certainly don't run out and buy it just for this recipe)
1/4 c. brown sugar
A can or bottle of beer (Not into alcohol? Just substitute 12 ounces of something fizzy - juice, pop, whatever tastes good to you)

1) Mix together flour, powder, salt, and spices. When well mixed, incorporate brown sugar.
2) Mix in the beer. Keep mixing (either with a mixer or by hand) just until all ingredients are incorporated and a dough ball is mostly formed.
3) Pat the dough into a greased loaf pan.
4) Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45-50 minutes. You will know it's done when you can knock on it and you get a rocking sound (and nothing feels squishy).
5) Cool on wire rack. (If cutting while hot, use a serrated knife.)

**RECIPE UPDATE: Although I found this version to be delicious, Greg thought the spices were weird and didn't reflect the "tasty" of the Tastefully Simple version. When I made it again and left out Sunny Paris Seasoning (or in this recipe, onion powder and Italian seasoning), he loved it. If you're going for a less savory approach, or if you don't like buying spices, I'd go ahead and leave them out.

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