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December/January 2008

Beer-Batter Cheese Bread

This quick bread can be on the table in less than an hour. But many loaves taste sour, or have negligible cheese flavor. We wanted an easy, lighter loaf of bread enhanced with the yeasty flavor of beer and a big hit of cheese.

Why This Recipe Works

Quick breads, like our Beer-Batter Cheese Bread, can be on the table in less than an hour. The basic recipe is simple enough, yet our first attempts produced loaves that tasted sour, like stale beer, while others had negligible cheese flavor. And some attempts at this recipe were so greasy that we had to pass out extra napkins. We wanted a lighter loaf of cheese bread enhanced with the yeasty flavor of beer and a big hit of cheese—and it had to be quick and easy. Mild, domestic lagers provided a clean, subtle flavor without any sourness at all. Cutting back the butter from a full stick to half a stick made our Beer-Batter Cheese Bread recipe considerably lighter, while still producing a craggy crust.

Ingredients

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Instructions

Makes one 9-inch loaf

Ingredients

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8 ounces Gruyère cheese, 4 ounces shredded and 4 ounces cut into 1/4-inch cubes
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 (12-ounce) light-bodied beer, such as Budweiser (see note)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

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Instructions

Makes one 9-inch loaf

Insert the toothpick in a few spots when testing for doneness; it may hit a pocket of cheese, which resembles uncooked batter on the toothpick. Strongly flavored beers make the bread bitter, so mild American lagers like Budweiser work best here.

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 9 by 5-inch loaf pan.

2. Combine shredded and cubed cheese, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and pepper in large bowl. Stir in beer and mix until well combined. Pour into loaf pan, spreading batter to corners. Drizzle melted butter evenly over top of batter.

3. Bake until deep golden brown and toothpick inserted into center of loaf comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool bread in pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto rack. Cool completely and slice as desired. (Although this bread can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, after the second day the bread is best toasted.)

Shopping

Swiss Cheese: The Hole Truth

We loved the nutty pungency of Gruyère cheese in our Beer-Batter Cheese Bread. Gruyère is a cow's-milk cheese named after its birthplace, Gruyères, Switzerland. Like many Swiss-style cheeses of various origins ("Swiss" cheeses are produced all over the world), each 100-pound wheel of Gruyère is pocked with holes, or "eyes," that are formed when carbon dioxide gas (created by fermenting bacteria) is released as the cheese is aging. Swiss-style cheeses without eyes are known as "blind" cheeses.