How many Irish ingredients can you mix into a recipe in the spirit of Saint Patrick's day without seeming totally absurd? I may have crossed the line with this recipe for Cheddar and Chive Guinness Bread, but the good news is, it's not green and you don't need anything particularly Irish to make it work.
Beer bread is one of the simplest quick breads to make. If you wanted to be really rogue you could dump every single ingredient into the loaf pan itself, mix, bake and eat. For this take on beer bread, I add sharp cheddar cheese (if you're looking for an Irish brand, I'm a huge fan of Kerrygold's Dubliner), creamy Irish butter, green chives and a bottle of Guinness. It's practically more Irish than Saint Patrick's Day itself.
My mom used to make this bread a lot. I remember the yeasty aroma filling the house and the way the butter-soaked crust attached to the fluffy middle with a coveted middle section of chewy, slightly bitter dough. When I brought it up last week it seemed a distant memory to her, but she was excited to help me test this recipe and even sent me the above photo of her batch.
Mom claims beer bread was a trend in the Eighties but I'm not so sure why it would no longer be in vogue. If you missed the trend thirty years ago, now is the time to make your first beer bread.
One note on the choice of beer: the darker you go, the more bitter the bread will be. In this case, I like it bitter, especially when offset by something sweet. Toasted with a smidge of butter and honey? Now that's a great snack.
To be honest, I never made it with a "nice" beer until this go. I think when I was a kid, it was probably made with a can of Schlitz. While the ingredients really will shine through, don't feel pressure to be spendy on this recipe. It is, after all, beer bread.
Cheddar & Chive Guinness Bread
makes one 8 1/2-inch loaf
2 3/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 (12-ounce) bottle Irish stout beer
1 cup grated Irish cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/4 cup Irish butter, melted
Preheat oven to 375° F. Line 8 1/2- x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, or coat with butter.
In a mixing bowl, thoroughly whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Pour in the beer and mix until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Fold in 3/4 cup of the cheese and the chives.
Transfer the batter to prepared pan. Pour the melted butter evenly over top of the dough. Bake about 30 minutes then scatter the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese over the top. Return the loaf to the oven and bake 15 to 20 minutes longer or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes.
Turn out and serve warm, sliced.
Related: Recipe: No Time Bread
(Images: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan (1,3) and Karen Gillingham (2))