Can anything beat a cool beer, or freshly-baked loaf? Try combining the two. Francesca Gosling signs up for a Beer Bread masterclass with the Fabulous Baker Brothers
When it comes to home cooking, there is nothing quite like the smell and taste of freshly-baked bread.
But - as my own experience confirms - making bread from scratch can be an arduous process that can go wrong at pretty much every stage.
Thankfully, help is at hand in the form of a masterclass with TV’s Fabulous Baker Brothers, aka Tom and Henry Herbert, to try my hand at easy ways to make a range of perfect loaves - all with a rather special twist...
The brothers, who bake at the family-run Hobbs House Bakery in Chipping Sodbury in the Cotswolds, are experienced in pretty much every area of baking; what they don’t know about the humble loaf is probably not worth knowing. But they faced a new challenge when they embarked on a project with brewer AB InBev, to create an exclusive range of ‘Beer Bread’ - bespoke bread recipes to match different beers.
“Both bread and beer were developed at the same time thousands of years ago by the Egyptians,” says a thoroughly excited Tom - the older of the sibling duo by 10 years. “They share key ingredients, so they’re natural bedfellows.”
“It took us about six weeks, from start to finish, to learn everything and come up with six individual products,” Henry chimes in. “Though in that time, we probably got through more beer ourselves than anything. We’re used to drinking them, but now we’ve learned so much more about beer brewing. It’s been really interesting,” he adds.
It’s not long before I’m getting stuck in and having a go at making a pineapple soda bread (designed to perfectly compliment a chilled bottle of Stella Artois). Possibly one of the simplest types to bake, soda bread uses baking powder - rather than yeast - to rise, so it doesn’t need proving, meaning there are fewer stages in the process to mess up.
Instead of using regular flour, we start off with a base of spelt. “It’s a great source of fibre,” says Henry, “and has a low GI, so it’s quite good for you - and can even help prevent bowel cancer.”
We mix it with buttermilk, pineapple and a splash of Stella, before getting our hands in to knead and squeeze it together. Messy, but oh-so satisfying.
After shaping our loaves into slightly flattened ‘boules’, cutting crosses into the tops to allow the heat through, and baking for about half an hour, we brush them with a glaze made from reduced Stella and pineapple juice, then sprinkle them with barley.
“This bread is like eating a pina colada cocktail,” says Tom. “It’s like a summer holiday, but with something more solid and grounding underneath.”
While there was nowhere near enough time in the masterclass to try our hand at baking all the recipes the brothers have developed, we are given a limitless supply to taste.
My favourite is the apple, walnut, barley and malted wheat seeded loaf, designed to accompany a cold bottle of Beck’s Vier. Because of the bread’s strong and chewy texture, the dough needs to be left a good few hours for the yeast to get to work - but it’s absolutely worth the wait.
It’s one of Henry’s favourites too. “Becks is a brew with real authority, so you need a solid bread to match,” he says, and recommends topping the macho slice with smoked mackerel and dill yoghurt.
However, the clear winner in the room is the light and fluffy Hoegaarden-inspired brioche, flavoured with spiced orange and coriander. A perfect base, Tom suggests, for a warm pulled pork sandwich with spicy relish.
Class over, we’re sent home clutching our very own soda bread loaves. And, in case you were wondering, mine turned out to be an unexpected success, and barely even lasted the journey home!
In ‘knead’ of some beer and doughy goodness? Here’s one of the Fabulous Baker Brothers’ star Beer Bread recipes to give a go at home...
SPELT AND BARLEY PINEAPPLE SODA BREAD
(Makes 1 loaf)
300g wholemeal spelt flour
50g tinned pineapple, chopped
50ml pineapple juice
30g malted barley, plus an extra pinch for the top
30ml Stella Artois
3tsp baking powder
1tsp sea salt
Preheat your oven and baking stone (or sheet) to 210C.
Place all of your ingredients, except for the pineapple juice and beer, into a bowl and mix together. A mixer is ideal for this, but the mixture can also be combined by hand.
Mix until you have fully combined the ingredients into wet dough. Once fully combined, place into a round tin - or shape it into a round yourself - cut a deep cross across the top, and sprinkle a pinch of malted barley on top.
Pop into the oven and bake for 35 minutes.
While the bread is baking, reduce the pineapple juice and beer in a pan until it has a thick and sticky consistency.
Remove your baked bread from the oven, and paint your pineapple juice onto the top while the loaf is still hot.