Simply food



Beer bread fresh from the oven

Has the world gone crazy? First there was a panic to lay in stocks of toilet paper. Now, I can’t find a packet of yeast anywhere. Flour is also hard to find, but some stores carry a few bags and allow one per customer. Is the whole world home-baking bread in self-isolation?

On my way back from yet another Toronto food store in a vain hope of finding yeast to make home-made bread, I pass a little patisserie. Belle’s Bakery is open for business during the pandemic, and since they kindly ask for my business on a billboard outside, to help them survive, I oblige by stepping inside and buying some fresh croissants and Portuguese custard tarts (pastéis de nata), of which I wrote in Our Portuguese Culinary Journey Begins. The charming young Parisienne behind the counter barely speaks English, which makes me feel even more as though I’m in Europe.

With everyone’s travel plans in abeyance, our own trip to England will have to wait and so will our Portuguese culinary journey. Late in the afternoon, they are out of the bread I want, but I promise to return earlier in future. They make the cakes, tarts and croissants on site, but the bread comes from a commercial baker, so I do not ask them for the loan of some yeast.

Watching BBC World News reveals that flour is also in short supply in UK. I can’t imagine it’s any better elsewhere. Fortunately, here at least, bakers are making enough bread to satisfy demand.


Beer bread, delicious with butter and ginger marmalade

A few steps further along Dupont Street from the bakery, the liquor store beckons and I step in to refresh the wine fridge, the Scotch bucket, and buy a few of cans of beer, with the thought that I might make beer bread which does not use yeast.

It’s been decades since I last made beer bread and my recipes are dusty and crusty. I find a couple and test them out and the recipes and reviews are listed below for all you panicked home baking bods to try!

Our favourite craft brewery is Flying Monkeys in Barrie, which we featured on Escapes with Nigel.  You can still watch my nice little doc on beer making. I have their Freakshow Crush Hazy IPA. “With a bright, hazy body and pliable bitterness under an amusing head of ethereal foam, this unique IPA spectacle is animated by a plurality of succulent hops,” says the blurb. If you can’t access this unique brew, any IPA will substitute.

The result is a loaf that is more cakey than doughy, though not sweet, but with a definite flavour of hops. Delicious with jam.

Beer Bread with Flying Monkeys Freakshow Crush Hazy IPA

Shopping list


Beer bread with India pale ale

  • 3 cups all purpose flour (sifted)
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1⁄4 cup honey
  • 12 fl oz / 350 ml IPA, at room temperature
  • 1⁄4 cup melted butter

Preparation and cooking

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F / 190° Sift the flour into a bowl, that is pour it into a sieve and shake it through. This is a critical step to avoid the flour compacting.
  2. In the bowl, mix in the rest of the dry ingredients. TIP: Check the date for freshness on the baking powder. Pour in the beer and mix well. Add the melted butter and honey and mix well. The result will be a batter-like consistency.
  3. Grease a 9 in by 5 in loaf pan with butter or vegetable spray such as PAM. Pour in the mixture.
  4. Bake for 1 hour, remove from pan and cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes.

Now for a slightly different recipe and another beer, this time Blanche de Chambly Belgian White Beer from Quebec. It has “Notes of dried orange peel and coriander seeds, and is a worthy representative of classic Belgian-style white wheat beers.” The principle difference is that with less liquid in the mixture, it is more doughy. The butter melts on top in the baking process, making a crustier crust.

Beer Bread with Blanche de Chambly Belgian Style White Beer

Shopping list


Beer bread with white wheat beer

  • 3 cups (330g) sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 2 TBSP granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 12 fl oz / 350 ml wheat beer at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick / 122 g) cold butter

Preparation and cooking

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F / 190°C. Sift the flour into a bowl, that is pour it into a sieve and shake it through. This is a critical step to avoid the flour compacting.
  2. In the bowl, mix in the rest of the dry ingredients. Pour in the beer and stir all ingredients until just combined and there are no dry parts. The batter will be thick.
  3. Grease a 9 in by 5 in loaf pan with butter or vegetable spray such as PAM.
  4. Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan and smooth out if necessary.
  5. Cut the butter into chunks (roughly TBSP size) and place equally spaced out on top of the raw batter.
  6. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until the bread is golden brown on top. There should be melted butter bubbling at the bottom.
  7. Allow to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes or until all of the butter in the bottom of the pan is soaked back up into the bread. Turn out onto a rack to finish cooling or eat warm.

Neither of these beer breads are true breads, whatever you might read on the Internet. For real bread dough, you need yeast. But I don’t call the beer bread experiment a total failure. Personally, I liked the second recipe better, but it is all a matter of personal taste. Certainly, I now have two really good loaves for breakfast feasting or afternoon tea.

If you are lucky enough to have some fresh yeast, or some reasonably fresh dried yeast, then a more traditional kneaded bread is possible. Next time, my well-tested recipes for white and whole wheat bread. If I can find any yeast.

IMG_2069 (2)

Featured image: Fresh beer bread, hot out of the oven, cools before tasting

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This is Nigel’s 272nd blog on Gentleman’s Portion. The SEARCH function at the top works really well, if you want to look back and see some of his previous stories. The link to Gentleman’s Portion: The Cookbook is now live, well priced at $9.99 or £9.99.

2 replies »

  1. Very timely, Nigel. Madame, who has never baked a loaf of bread in her life was just yesterday overheard grousing about there being no yeast available!


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