Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Beer and Onion Rye Bread

It must have been at least ten years ago that I got excited enough about trying new bread recipes that I set up a nice journal to record my adventures. It turned out to be a short-lived project. I wanted to move on to new thing after new thing and when too many recipes needed tweaking or improved skills, my enthusiasm kind of fizzled.

I didn’t stop making bread, though. I kept making loaves and doughs that worked well (like this sandwich bread and this baguette and this pizza crust), improving my skills and improving recipes. Now, when I try a new bread recipe, I shift it a little bit to match the way I know bread works for me. In other words, I take the new flavors and make them into bread my way.

I did this recently with a Beer and Onion Rye Bread. I used my usual method of making a sort of mini starter (at least that’s how I think of it) to let the yeast ferment a bit and let some good flavor develop. I find that this step somehow makes bread rising more predictable. I use a Kitchen Aid stand mixer to do my kneading, and I only add as much flour as I need to make a stretchy, still fairly tacky dough.

But theory is nothing without flavor, and this bread has lots of good stuff in that department. I used a brown ale in the bread, which gave it a pleasant, dark bitterness, which was complemented and nicely balanced by the sourness of a bit of vinegar and sour cream. The classic additions of onion and caraway with rye flour add even more great flavor. That rye flour (I used some good, stone-ground flour) makes the bread soft, but it’s still hearty and rich. Really delicious stuff!

This loaf is a bit larger than my usual sandwich loaves. I shaped it into an oval loaf, but it’s still big enough around to make slices for sandwiches. I recommend roast beef, ham, or a really awesome grilled cheese. It’s just fine all on its own, too.

Beer and Onion Rye Bread
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup finely chopped onion
¾ cup brown beer or ale
1 teaspoon sugar
4 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast (2 envelopes)
½ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup stone ground rye flour
2 ¾ cup bread flour, divided
1 ½ teaspoons salt

1. Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and just beginning to brown, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from the heat.

2. Warm the beer to 100 F to 110 F. Pour the warm beer into the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir in the sugar and yeast. Let stand about 5 minutes or until the yeast is bubbly.

3. Stir in the sour cream, white vinegar, caraway seeds, and egg. Add the rye flour and 1 cup bread flour. Stir together using the paddle attachment until a thin, batter-like dough forms. Cover and let stand about 30 minutes.

4. After 30 minutes, the batter should have risen lightly and have a puffy, slightly foamy appearance. Add the onions, salt and about half the remaining bread flour.

5. Fit the mixer with the dough hook and knead the dough on medium-low speed for about 10 minutes, kneading in as much of the remaining flour as the dough will take while still remaining soft and slightly sticky.

6. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and shape into a smooth ball. Spray a large bowl with cooking spray and place the dough ball inside. Spay the dough ball with cooking spray and place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on top. Cover the bowl with a towel and let stand about 1 – 1 ½ hours or until doubled in size.

7. Gently deflate the dough and shape it into an oval 8-10 inches long. Place the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Cover with a towel and let stand about 30 minutes or until roughly doubled in size.

8. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 F. When the dough is ready, take a very sharp knife and cut several slashes in the top of the loaf. Bake at 400 F for 30 minutes or until golden brown and the bread tests done. (The bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom or when an instant read thermometer reads about 200 F.)

Makes 1 large loaf.

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