Food Column Jan.12

Amber Gibson

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There is a distinct moment that usually occurs about midway through January. You just slipped in slush for the third time today and your fingers have been numb for so long that you don’t even know if you’ll be able to type that 10-page paper that’s due tomorrow. It’s at this moment that you realize: winter is not going to be easy. Your only hope for survival is the taste of something warm and comforting at the end of your trek through the Evanston tundra.

In college, beer is often the beverage of choice for comfort and relaxation. But if you don’t feel like cracking open a cold one and are looking for some much-needed respite from the mid-January slump, try baking up some beer bread for a warmer, heartier alternative.

This buttery, moist bread is leavened with baking powder instead of yeast, making it a quick and effortless treat that can be whipped up in just under an hour and with minimal ingredients, ideal for frugal students. The malty flavor of the beer balances perfectly with the sugar, while its yeast provides an additional lift, yielding a fluffy yet dense texture that’s perfect for soaking up soup, butter or brown sugar. If your tiny apartment kitchen doesn’t harbor a bread pan, don’t fret; this versatile recipe can be made in any type of pan, from cupcake to Bundt cake. Try mixing in any ingredients you happen to have lying around, like cheddar, dill, garlic or feta, for a savory variation on this classic recipe.

A piece of warm beer bread, with its golden, butter-crusted top and fluffy, dense consistency is almost a meal in itself. Hearty and filling, it’s the food of cozy winter-quarter nights spent hibernating in your room or in a dimly lit Irish pub surrounded by friends. Do yourself a favor and grab that lonely PBR, whip up a loaf and feel the booze-y, bread-y love.

To make one loaf of beer bread, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together three cups flour, three tablespoons packed brown sugar, one tablespoon baking powder and one teaspoon of salt.

Open a twelve-ounce, room-temperature beer of your choice and add it all in at once. As the beer foams up, stir briskly with a whisk until the ingredients are just combined. The batter should be slightly lumpy. Pour into a greased 9-by-5-inch loaf pan (or cake pan, or cupcake pan, etc.) and drizzle with at least six tablespoons of melted butter. Bake until the top is crusty and golden brown and a chopstick inserted into the center comes out clean, or around 35-40 minutes. After letting it cool in the pan for five minutes, transfer the loaf to a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature the day it is made. Cut your beer bread into thick slices and don’t be shy with the butter.

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