Snacking on life, living off snacks.

Posts Tagged ‘bread’

Review: Beer bread mix

In Uncategorized on 10/16/2009 at 5:13 am

I am a newcomer to beer. After realizing that in order to play beer pong you actually have to *gasp* drink beer, I only recently started bona fide drinking it. Maybe the initial hesitance is because when I was four, my dad gave me a small swig of his Miller Lite at my insistence, and I remember it being really, really gross.  I’m pretty sure I spit it up. (Don’t call the cops on my dad, please.)

But 22 years later, I’ve found out that beer isn’t really that bad–and cheaper than girly drinks and wine, to boot. So when I saw this beer bread mix on the New Items shelf at Trader Joe’s, I was intrigued. Perhaps this would be the final stretch to my Bridge to Beer.

The supposed appeal of this beer bread mix is the many permutations you can make. As it says on the label, you can use pilsners, ales, dark beers, light beers, and ciders to alter the taste. And because the bread base tastes somewhere in between sweet and savory, you can throw in nuts, cheese, dried fruits, whatever. Maybe not chocolate.

For my first try, I used Magic Hat. I also decided to make mini-muffins instead of the full loaf, for time and maximum dissemination’s sake.

For starters, this bread is super easy to make. It is literally just mix + beer. And it’s fun to hear the fizzing when they combine. Then all you got to do is pop it in the oven. A thick, warm beer aroma fills the air. My kitchen smelled like a fraternity house on a Saturday night. Minus the marijuana smoke and cheap perfume.

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After you drizzle the muffins (or bread slices) with melted butter, per the instructions, it’s done. I had about 15 people try out my Magic Hat beer mini-muffins, and the general consensus was that they were dense, yeasty, interesting, and “hoppy.” I don’t know enough beerspeak to understand what “hoppy” means, but to me it definitely tastes like solid beer, with a slight bitter aftertaste. It is dense and chewy, and much yummier when warm right out of the oven. Next time I should serve them in red Solo cups.

The concept of a beer bread is a little cannabilistic, or ontologically perverse– since beer is made out of wheat, it’s like liquid wheat being cooked with refined wheat (flour). Its carb-on-carb action. Like a giant SCREW YOU to Dr. Atkins. Or… it also reminds me of that Biblical directive to not cook a kid (young goat) in its mother’s milk, because there is something wrong with blending two of the same thing together in a destructive manner. It is posthumously cruel.

Along those lines, the mini-muffins I made today were the size of ping pong balls (see photo). So if I played beer pong with them, that’s wheat-on-wheat-on-wheat. Truly heinous, no?

Beer Bread Mix: 3.5/5 pelts.

Review: Shepherd’s bread

In review on 09/28/2009 at 3:31 am

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Thanks everyone for your suggestions about what to review next! I will definitely buy and do one of them soon, but in the interim, I will review a product that I bought for general use (rather than for just reviewing, as I have been doing as of late).

Well… “general use” in this case still meant I bought it for a special occasion. It was a friend’s birthday, and we all were supposed to bring small bites/appetizers. I decided to make FlufferNutters (I hope that’s not trademarked) also known as sandwiches with peanut butter and marshmallow creme (Fluff), since the Fluff Festival took place the same day in the neighboring town of Somerville (where Fluff was invented– a crowning achievement of culinary excellence).

I realize that bringing a variation of peanut butter sandwich to a somewhat-classy 30th birthday celebration is the equivalent of bringing a six-pack of beer to a wine tasting, so a few friends helped me cut them into little hearts. Because then you got the whole Valentine’s-Day-celebration-for-3rd-graders thing going on to distract from the fact that it’s a PB sandwich, and it will make birthday boy feel younger to boot.

Anyway.

I wanted to find the perfect bread for the Fluff, peanut butter, and Nutella (plays well with everything, no?). I scoured TJ’s bread aisle with high hopes, as there are roughly a dozen varieties there. More specifically, I was looking for a nice pillowy white bread to nicely complement the sweet stickiness of the spreads.

I chose Shepherd’s Bread (“sweetened with honey and malt”) because it was white and simple, it had minimal sugar, and let’s face it, the picture of the shepherd tending to the lambsies on the packaging tugged at my religio-cutesy heartstrings.

Bad choice. The texture of the bread was heavy and denser than I thought. The bread itself tasted fine, but was a lot heartier, stiffer, and more rustic than what I had desired for my heart-shaped FlufferNutters and NutellaFluffers and NutellaPBers.

So, ratings wise, I’d give it 2.5/5 pelts as FlufferNutter material, and 3.9/5 pelts by itself.

It might be a better complement with hummus and turkey, or just as toast, or even as croutons. But in general marshmallow creme and peanut butter need a softer, gentler crumb that cushions the sticky goodness. It made me sad that eating the many, many scraps became a bit of a chore because of the stiffness of the bread. Maybe I should have just stuck to Wonder Bread.

However, I will be the first to advocate for Shepherd’s bread to be used for communion. Saltines are cool, but the Shepherd imagery just fits in too well.

Challah back young’un

In review on 09/18/2009 at 4:49 am

To honor Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year (which starts tomorrow), I decided to compare challah bread from TJ’s and Whole Foods. Well…to be honest, I stepped into TJ’s today and immediately made a beeline for the round raisin challah on the bread shelf without knowing why it was there. “Oooh, goody!” I thought. “A new kind!”  Challah (and brioche) are my favorite breads ever, as exceptions to my normal whole-wheat-carb-only thing. It was only at the checkout line that I realized it was for Rosh Hashanah, when the cashier mentioned it as I happily, naively, cradled the bread in my arms.

I pretended that I knew what he was talking about and promptly went home to do Google-Wikipedia research: the bread is round (versus traditional braid) on the Jewish High Holidays as a symbol for God’s crown and/or the never-ending cycle of the world. Challah also represents manna, which God provided in the desert in Exodus, and is used as a Sabbath bread. The word “challah” is also in Leviticus 24:5, which automatically makes Leviticus 10x cooler.

So much symbolism for such delectable bread. Challah is an egg bread, and as such is light, rich, and soft. The only taste/texture equivalent I can think of is Asian breads or brioche, with an airy but rich crumb. Since I have become neighbors with Trader Joe’s, I’ve bought four challah loaves and eaten them all pretty much by myself in two or three sittings. I can’t figure out why I wasn’t more vigilant about finding good challah in Manhattan last year aka Jewish Baked Goods Promised Land when I lived there. Well, I’m making up for it now.

To continue this eternal Sabbath, I went to Whole Foods and picked up a $5 raisin challah round to compare with TJ’s. Was it worth the extra $1.20 and 5o calories?

Winner: The Whole Foods challah was better, mostly because it had more butter in it. It tasted a lot like an Asian butter loaf, and the raisins were plump and sweet. TJ’s, by contrast, was not nearly as moist, but also lighter in taste. I don’t know if it’s worth the price difference, however. (3.9/5 pelts)

Real Winner: Me, for the excuse to munch on so much challah. I’ve had it as French toast before, but it’s the best right out of the bag, with a big glass of milk.

I was first introduced to challah in 2006, when I worked for a Jewish bakery in San Diego for one random, challenging month. My job was basically janitor-baker. I arose at 5:30am in the morning to scrub the giant mixer and ovens and mop the floors. One time I brought a sandwich into the bakery, and the owner yelled at me because the bakery keeps kosher. “Oops!!” I said, and then without thinking, threw away the sandwich into the trash can in the bakery. I still remember her glare.

But I digress…

Besides getting into kosher trouble, I rolled bagels, cut dough, weighed flour, and braided challah. I can’t braid my own hair to save my life, but it was fun to braid challah, and more worthwhile too. You can’t eat your pigtails, after all.

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