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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Field Lab's Olive Beer Bread

I have never purchased a can/bottle of beer in my life -- until today.  Do you have any idea how expensive it is?!  The price of wine is looking better, and that I should know about.  Mind you -- I have had a few sips of beer here and there -- not much because I don't really care for it.  So what brought about this turn of events . . .

I picked up on John Wells' adventure in sustainable living (aka "The Field Lab") in the Big Bend that first appeared in the New York Times, and was repeated the next day in some Texas newspapers, including our local paper.  Seems that John, a New Yorker, decided at mid-life that he was going to chuck it all to live off the grid in the middle of the far western desert of Texas.  The Big Bend is about equi-distant from Los Angeles and Dallas, so you can see that it is a long ways from anything, let alone New Yawk City.  Curious, I found his website, and was instantly entranced by his 3 year old experiment.  One of the things that quickly got my attention was his solar oven baking of beer bread.  I like to make bread occasionally, too, so I asked for his recipe, and he quickly obliged.

That meant that I must buy a 16 oz. can of Budweiser Chelada beer.  Did you know that you cannot buy just one beer?  I guess this means that I will make this bread 4 times:)  Or learn to like beer.  With clamato juice.   

I mixed the dry ingredients with the Kitchenaid Mixmaster, then added the chopped olives, and mixed it all together.  Finally, I began to pour in the beer, but should have stopped at about 3/4 of the can.  As a result, I had to throw in about a handful more of flour.  Much too wet for dough.  Finally, I put on the dough hook, and gave it a few spins.  Still too wet.  Poured it all out onto the pastry board and added another handful of flour.  I was finally able to handle it a bit although it was still very wet and sticky, but it was definitely too much for one bread pan, but not enough dough for a  2nd  bread pan, so I put the remainder into a bread pot.  For those who are unfamiliar with bread pots, these are for small loaves of bread, but a standard clay garden pot can be used.  Mine is a cute little bread pot that I found many years ago in my wanderings. 

John's recipe makes 1 standard loaf.  (I think I ended up with too much because I dumped all the beer into the batch without gauging the wetness of the dough.)  John cautioned me that his solar oven worked at 275 degrees and took 3 hours to bake.  I experimented at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  The results are very slightly underdone, so next I will try cooking it longer.  The house smells great, and the bread tastes delicious.  Thank you, John!

I have included a pix of the bread pot next to the beer can in order to give you a sense of the pot's diminutive size.  

By the way, John, are we supposed to drink the rest of the beer with the bread? 

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