Thursday, October 3, 2013

In the Kitchen: Beer bread with a side of Cannelini soup

Over the summer my friend Erin invited us round for an American BBQ feast, which included an amazing beer bread loaf. She had just returned from a US road trip and had picked up a specialty beer bread mix in New Orleans. It was so good, but packed with really naughty ingredients. I had more than I should have and of course, what I loved the most was the underlying sweetness to it. So I decided to modify the recipe and create a healthier and more wholesome version.
Beer Bread 
Makes one small loaf 
  • 1.5 cups of spelt flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup brown rice syrup
  • 3/4 can beer  
  • olive oil butter for tin and for brushing
Beer bread is a yeast bread that is sweet with a subtle beer flavor. It's usually made with white flour, beer and sugar. For this recipe, I exchanged refined sugar with brown rice syrup, which I discovered in a recent wholefoods course. It's more natural and low GI. Beer bread is supposed to be light and fluffy because of the yeast. So I swapped the white flour with spelt flour; an ancient grain that is different from modern wheat but still contains both wheat and gluten. It is still heavier than white flour, but tends to bake lighter than traditional wholemeal flours. Mix in all the dry ingredients, then add the beer. Poor the sticky, liquidity batter into a buttered tin. Bake in a per-heated 200C oven for about 25-30 minutes.

Hearty Cannelini Bean Soup
I decided to pair my beer bread with a hearty bean soup and a side of burrata; the protein and fat found in the beans and cheese balanced the sugar in the bread. As mentioned before, things that slow down the release of sugar into the blood are protein and fat so it's so important for me to have a balance of these at every meal. Although I do find it difficult sometimes and just fail.
  • 1 can cannelini beans or any white bean really
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 vegetarian bouillon cube
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • dried rosemary, oregano and paprika
  • salt & pepper to taste
First sweat the onions and garlic in a little bit of olive oil until nice and soft. Then add two cups of hot water and the bouillon cube. Bring that to a boil and then throw in the remaining ingredients. I don't really measure my herbs, but best to start with small dashes. Then just add as you taste along. Once it's heated through, you are ready to grub. I like to puree half of my soup in a blender then mix it back in with the rest. I find that blending the soup releases more flavor from the onions and garlic, but I also like to retain a bit of chunk.

And voila! The beer bread turned out really nice and the subtle sweetness worked well with the savoriness of the soup. The burrata was absolutely divine and a nice added touch, it's a fresh mozzarella cheese with cream inside. Funny story is that burrata was given as a peace offering from our noisy neighbors. They sell cheese by day and throw house parties by night. A few days earlier they had kept us up AGAIN and after telling them off, they gave us two batches of this cheese. SCORE.

Interesting reads for this post:
What about Spelt?
Thorough brief on Spelt
The skinny on brown rice syrup
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