The best beer bread has a little cheese added to the dough; and Cheddar is a particularly good match in beer bread rolls. And what type of beer? Easy – unlike with wine, use the ale that you’re not so keen on drinking.
Beer bread is where it started
Using beer in bread making is going back to the roots. After all baker’s yeast is a by-product of beer making and for hundreds of years you had to brew beer or wine first in order to get the yeast to leaven bread. Mankind has always had their priorities right.
I have witnessed a passing passion for beer making at home (or ‘home-brew’ as derogatorily described by friends), when The Weather Man was all hopped up and the house smelled of malt for days on end. The results varied, but clearly that’s one avenue where homemade isn’t superior.
Allegedly you can utilise the residual ‘yeast cake’ – horribly pongy sediment left over after beer filtration – but it was NOT a success. Clearly I’m not a natural born baker who will embrace ancient ways with brio. Clearly I’m resigned to buy my yeast from the shops.
Cheddar + beer = bread rolls
I found this recipe in the invaluable NY Times Cooking but halved the size of the rolls: by the book they would be really little loaves, rather than rolls.
The technique is ridiculously easy: there's no starter, sponge, ferment, whatever. You just mix or knead all the ingredients into smooth dough, provided they started off at room temperature. The dough is a joy to work and it rises just as joyously, unless your yeast was off.
The relatively long rise both times, in bulk and shaped rolls, is due to the rather heavy content - all that cheese needs lifting. If you skip the cheese and make them plain, as one option suggests below, the rising time shouldn't be longer than an hour either time.
They will merge together nicely if you have ideally-sized baking tray: 9 x 13 inch (23 x 34cm). But even if they are only just kissing, like mine, they are still going to be irresistibly tasty.
I have subsequently baked them with no Cheddar topping so they didn’t burn when toasted for a burger. I have omitted the cheese altogether creating a wonderful, fluffy plain bread roll.
I have tried replacing about 25% of the flour with wholemeal, for better gut health. I have also used darker beer, like stout.
What can I say? These are complete winners every time.