I love visiting medieval and historic fairs and always loved researching historic recipes. Today I wanted to share with you a simple bread made with beer, which was popular in Elizabethan times in England. It’s based on a recipe found in ‘Daily life in Elizabethan England’ by Jeffery Singman and I’ve adapted it to suit modern times (and taste!).
Ingredients & substitutions
White flour was expensive and only used in wealthy houses. Most people had only access to whole meal bread flour (made from wheat) and rye flour. You can make this recipe from any flour you like, but wholemeal bread flour (or brown bread flour) works great with this recipe and compliments the flavour of the beer well.
Another option is to use 50% wholemeal flour and 50% white flour, which gives you a good lift and flavour at the same time.
Don’t worry about making your bread alcoholic, it won’t be! Any alcohol still remaining in the bread will be destroyed by the oven temperature when you bake your bread.
Beer was used in the olden times because it was the only way to leaven the bread. Brewers yeast, which can be found in beer, works very similarly to bakers yeast. The only difference is that you need larger volume of beer to contain the same yeast content like a teaspoon of concentrated dry bakers yeast. The other difference is that raising your bread by beer on it’s own would take considerably longer period of time (but it’s not impossible).
In fact, this is how commercial bakers yeast was invented. The brewery was often next to the bread kitchen (oven) as the beer needed warm environment and apparently, somebody added a bit of beer mixture to the bread mixture (by mistake) and the bread grew a lot quicker than without it.
Depending on what beer you use, you might end up with slightly different bread flavour, but that’s part of the fun!
Start with 320 ml (or about 1 1/2 cup) of the beer and add more if the dough feels tight as you knead it. Wholemeal flour soaks up more water, so bear that in mind.
The traditional yeast as we know it wasn’t invented until mid 19 century, so the original recipe relies only on the brewers yeast from the beer to rise your bread. You are welcome to omit the yeast completely and wait until the beer yeast does it’s magic. If you want to do this, I’d recommend that you use about 1 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and mix it with the beer. This will help to speed up the yeast and your bread will rise quicker.
For everyone else who is happy to cheat, just add about 1 teaspoon to your bread mix. This is still considerably less than for normal yeasted bread which is made with just water.
Use any fine salt or let the salt to dissolve in a bit of water before adding to the mixture. You don’t want to dissolve the salt with the beer as this might slow down the yeast.
Your bread will be edible without salt, but I’d recommend to add some for flavour.
What kind of beer is best for beer bread ?
Pretty much any beer is fine to use in this recipe, but I’d stay clear of fruity flavoured beers or beers not made by the traditional method.
Depending on what type of beer you use, your bread might taste slightly differently. For example dark black beers usually have higher sugar content, so your bread will be darker in colour with lovely rounded flavour and crusty bread crumb (the sugar in beer will caramelise on the top of the bread).
Always make sure that the beer is at least room temperature (18-23C) before adding it to the bread flour. If you take it directly from the fridge it will be too cold and the yeast will take forever to start working. You can easily warm up your beer in microwave (make it only slightly lukewarm).
Can you get drunk from eating beer bread?
No, you can’t not! The alcohol will be killed off by the high temperature as you bake the bread, leaving only the flavour of beer in your bread.
What do you eat beer bread with?
Beer bread has slightly darker and richer flavour than normal type of bread, which makes it a perfect company to pate, meats, game and rich cheeses. It’s also perfect with a real butter and a bowl of hot soup!
This beer bread lasts for good few days, but make sure that you store it correctly to prevent getting the bread mouldy or drying out.
More bread recipes
- Black Russian Bread >>
- Wholemeal Soda Bread >>
- Rye Bread >>
- Kentish Huffkins (Large Rolls) >>
- Easy Dinner Biscuits – Scones >>
- Potato Bread (Irish Flat Breads) >>
- Potato Bread & Herbs >>
Elizabethan Beer Bread
- 500 grams whole wheat flour or 4 cups
- 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 320 ml beer 1 1/5 cup (approx)
- Measure out the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.
- Add the dry active yeast and stir in.
- Warm up the beer a little bit (either in a microwave or on the hop). Make it only lukewarm and definitely don't boil or simmer.
- Pour into the flour mixture.
- Bring together and knead for 10 minutes until you get nice and elastic bread dough.
- Let the dough rise for about 45 minutes or until it doubles in size (make sure it's covered and somewhere warm).
- Deflate the dough and shape into your chosen bread shape.
- Cover the bread with a teatowel or another plastic bowl and let it rise until is double in size.
- Preheat your oven to the highest setting and when your bread is ready score the top with a sharp knife before placing in the oven.
- Lower the oven temperature after about 10 minutes, depending on how brown you want your bread to be and carry on baking for another 20 minutes or so.
- Check when your bread is ready by tapping it on the bottom and cool down on a wired rack.