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News / Life / Clark County Life

Stouthearted bread brings comforting taste of fall

This semi-sweet quickbread has oats, stout beer and molasses for a rich flavor and chocolately color

By Monika Spykerman, Columbian staff writer
Published: August 30, 2023, 6:05am
4 Photos
Slather on the butter and enjoy this semi-sweet oatmeal stout bread with a cup of tea or coffee.
Slather on the butter and enjoy this semi-sweet oatmeal stout bread with a cup of tea or coffee. (Photos by Monika Spykerman/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

There are oh so many things that my daughter needs before she moves to Bellingham, where she’ll live during her junior and senior years at Western Washington University’s Fairhaven College. She needs shower curtains, bathmats, bedding and cozy throw blankets for cold winter nights, when she’ll definitely be studying instead of watching YouTube or playing video games. (As if.) She also needs new sneakers because she’s been wearing the same pair since high school and all her jeans have holes, and not the “cool” kind of holes that were already there when we bought them. I will never understand the modern world.

So we’ve been shopping. A lot. And here’s what’s got me good and grumpy: The pumpkins! The candy! The Halloween displays! In August! Summer technically continues until Sept. 23 this year. Until then, I’m offended by anything orange and I want to throw all the pumpkin-scented candles off the shelves with a tremendous, satisfying crash. If I see a single pumpkin spice latte, I’ll … well, I’ll probably buy it, because I love pumpkin spice, but I’ll drink it angrily in a spirit of protest.

Nevertheless, I think the aggressive autumnal marketing must be getting to me, because lately I’ve been craving warm baked goods and thinking about sweaters and socks. I guess I’m a mere puppet in retailers’ hands.

Instead of the usual zucchini bread or banana bread, I wanted something earthier and nicely balanced between sweet and savory. I created a quick-bread recipe featuring three ingredients I love — oats, stout beer and molasses — by mashing up several different recipes I found online. This recipe is a close cousin of Irish soda bread in that it contains no eggs and is leavened with baking soda. It’s similar to some beer breads or barmbrack, another Irish bread made with brewed black tea or Guinness Stout. My oatmeal stout bread was a fun little experiment with mixed results, but worth baking again with some adjustments.

I mixed the flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, I whisked together the stout beer, buttermilk, ¼ cup melted butter and 3 tablespoons molasses. I made a well in the dry ingredients and added the wet ingredients, combining until everything it was moist. I poured it into a buttered loaf pan and sprinkled more oats on top for decoration. I baked it at 450 degrees for 45 minutes.

A note on the beer: I used 11/2 cups of chocolate stout because I thought its sweetness and rich color would enhance the bread, and I was right. However, if you don’t like stout or don’t want stout, you can substitute apple cider, hard cider or root beer. I also used milk with vinegar instead of buttermilk because I forgot to get buttermilk at the store. (You can make the equivalent of 1 cup of buttermilk by combining 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice with enough milk to make 1 cup.)

On the plus side, the bread’s flavor was robust and satisfying, with a lovely, yeasty tang from the beer and toasty, malted notes from the molasses. The texture was relatively dense, somewhere between pumpkin bread and fruitcake with a pleasant, oaty chew. On the negative side, it barely held together when sliced, crumbling into bits unless handled very carefully. There was also a pocket of underbaked dough in the middle of the loaf, though the outer edges were well browned with a crispy-chewy crust. If you want to try this, I’d suggest reducing the beer from 1½ cups (12 ounces) to 1 cup, or 8 ounces. I’d add an egg as a binder (since even some soda breads have eggs) and I might bake the loaf in two smaller pans instead of a one-pound, 5-by-9-inch loaf pan. The aim is to have bread that slices easily and stands up to a lot of butter-slathering, making the journey from plate to mouth without any acrobatics.

Perhaps baking this bread, with its hints of hearty autumn flavor, is an unspoken way for me to acknowledge that fall is on the horizon and our family is about to undergo a big adjustment. The pumpkins popping up here and there are a sign that no matter how hard I resist, the season will change. Golden summer will turn to copper-tinged fall and our daughter will leave. It may feel like an ending to me, but to my daughter, it’s the beginning of a great adventure. I just hope she won’t be too cold with all those holes in her jeans.

Oatmeal Stout Bread

2½ cups flour

1 cup quick-cooking oats

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

8 ounces (1 cup) stout beer, root beer, apple cider or hard cider

1 cup buttermilk

1 beaten egg

¼ cup melted butter

3 tablespoons molasses

Set oven to 375 degrees and generously butter a loaf pan. Combine oats, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together beer or cider, buttermilk, egg, melted butter and molasses. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add wet ingredients. Stir until moistened. Pour into a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, sprinkle with extra oats and bake for 55-60 minutes or until knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Turn out onto wire rack and cool. Slice and serve with butter.

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