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'Tis the Season (For Holiday Baking)!

Happy holidays to all you Keg n Corkers this season, and I apologize for the late entry. I was busy shopping (as we all are) for the ingredients to all those Christmas goodies we promise to bring to holiday get-togethers. Now, don't get me wrong, I love parties as much as the next girl, but sometimes the pressure of bringing a tasty dish makes the experience far less enjoyable. I decided to make my coworkers and friends some home-made goodies this year to make life a little easier (and cheaper!) this holiday season. I hemmed and hawed about which cookies and squares to bake, and when I couldn't decide, I made my everyday beer bread to try and get the creative juices flowing. "Ding!" went the lightbulb. Beer bread...I can make everyone a personalized beer bread this year!

Now, for those of you who have never made a beer bread, you must be far more put together than me. It has got to be the easiest recipe on the planet - just combine flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, and a bottle of beer! Amazing, right? I couldn't believe how easy it was to make delicious, moist, flavourful bread at home with ingredients I always have on hand. Since I discovered beer bread, I can't get enough of experiementing with it. How would using say, a stout, affect the taste and overall look of the bread? I've used lagers, ales, porters, and seasonal brews as well, and have experienced success with every style. I found that the lighter the beer, the more mild the taste (obviously, you say), but what I mean is that it barely tasted like beer at all! It was fluffy, golden, and delicious, but you could enjoy a slice with any topping, and it would have worked. Once I started experimenting with darker beers, I found that they had a "beer-ier" taste, and preferred to pair them with savoury toppings.

My favourite thing about this simple recipe is that you can personalize it to anyone - I chose beers that I thought my friends would like, or ones that they themselves drank often. Then it was just a quick stop at the store for some cellophane bags and mini loaf tins, and the job was done! Plus I got to spend the whole day in a kitchen that smelled of fresh bread. It was the easiest, most unique way to show my friends and family that I knew and love them. Here is the recipe for any of you who want to give it a go - I recommend making a batch for yourself first, to see what you think!

 

Afton's Beer Bread:

3 cups flour (I generally use white flour for gifts, and prefer whole wheat for myself)

4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 cup brown sugar (I would halve this amount if you're making a darker loaf)

1 teaspoon salt

12 oz. (350ml bottle/can) of ANY BEER (Feel free to use weird ones - you never know what will happen!)

Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C), and coat either two loaf pans, or four mini loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray. Mix the dry ingredients until well-combined. Pour in your beer, and stir gently until just combined (just like muffins, you don't want to overmix this dough). Distribute dough evenly into pans, and bake for 50-60 minutes (two regular sized loaves), or 40-45 minutes (four mini loaves). You will know they are done when the top is golden and hard, and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let the loaves cool for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cut and enjoy warm with butter!

 

It's easy to think of other uses for this simple recipe, and I often add a home-made touch to my aunt's AMAZING spinach dip recipe by baking it in a fresh beer bread loaf. You can bake a round loaf byt simply shaping the dough into a round and cooking it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. The next day (after the loaf has had a full day to completely cool), I simply carve it open to make a lid on top (just like a jack-o-lantern), and pull out all the yummy, fluffy bread inside. Leave a small layer of bread inside so that the dip doesn't start oozing out the sides or bottom. Then simply fill the loaf with Auntie Ilona's Easy Spinach Dip, and you're set for whatever holiday potluck/party/hangout you've been invited to. 

 

Auntie Ilona's Easy Spinach Dip

 

16 oz. (2 packages) cream cheese

2 pkg. frozen spinach (thawed and drained)

1 cup light salad dressing (I use Miracle Whip Light)

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

1/4 cup diced onion (optional)

1/2 cup bacon bits (optional)

2 tablespoons fresh parsley (dried works just as well)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat your oven to 250°F (120°C). Combine all ingredients and fill up your beer bread loaf (make sure to set the lid back on top). Wrap the loaf in aluminium foil, and bake for 2 hours (this is to make sure that the dip heats all the way through). Remove from oven and serve immediately. This dip is equally good cold, so don't worry about keeping it at an exact temperature when serving.

 

So, there you have it: two easy recipes to wow holiday guests this year! I hope that you all develop the same (healthy) addictions as I have to these tasty recipes, and  that they are a new treat for your family and friends. Thanks again for reading, and I wish you all the best this wintery holiday seaon.