Article and photo by Lisa Crockett
June is all about dad (Father’s Day is June 16), so I’m always looking for good “man food” to rustle up around this time of year. Starting in June, the grill gets turned on just about every day at our house, so it’s a given that on Father’s Day, meat will be on the menu. Because grilling is such a common occurrence during the summer at our place, celebrations call for special sides to accompany what might otherwise be an ordinary steak, sausage or slab of ribs. It’s also a given that, as much as we love dad, hours in the kitchen are not on the agenda at this time of year when the pool, the golf course and the park are calling. Sides need to taste good but also come together quickly – the perfect set of circumstances for a tasty, hearty quick bread.
Most home cooks think of sweet treats like pumpkin bread, banana bread or even scones when they think of quick bread, but savory versions are just as easy and fit the bill when you’re looking for something tasty that doesn’t belong on the dessert table.
Irish soda bread, leavened entirely with baking soda, is a kind of savory quick bread. Hearty oatmeal bread relies solely on baking powder in order to rise. In both cases, since yeast isn’t part of the equation, the bread comes together without kneading or rising time and can be on the table in just under an hour. The quick bread shared here is leavened with baking powder combined with the fizzy bubbles in a bottle of beer (or any equivalent amount of carbonated liquid), which adds a richness of flavor and a lightened texture. It’s likely that the ingredients you need for this bread are already in your fridge and pantry, but when you put them together you’ll discover something that is simultaneously light and substantial, with a flavor profile that can balance the sweet, saucy richness that is often the hallmark of roasted or grilled meat.
The bread tastes lovely while it’s still warm, particularly if it’s slathered with a generous amount of soft butter. But I like this bread best if it’s left to cool for several hours (or even overnight) so the flavors can deepen and develop. This means the bread can be made first thing in the morning and then served later in the day, so if you grill outside, the house stays cool and calm – perfect for dad’s big day.
Of course, maybe your dad isn’t much of a meat eater after all; this bread is a great accompaniment to lighter fare too. Pair this with a main-dish salad and you’ve got a special meal. When the weather cools down (which could be any day in Colorado’s fluctuating weather), dunk this bread in your soup or stew for a satisfying treat. If your dad is a vegan, simply omit the cheese and you’ve got yourself a tasty “canvas” that can be schmeared with hummus or olive spread.
This bread is perfect for a novice baker, so little helpers can easily be part of kitchen crew. It’s important to note that while the recipe is forgiving, you’ll want to mix the dough quickly once the liquid is added and stir it just until it’s combined (no more) for the most tender and delicate texture. The recipe calls for a mixture of extra sharp cheddar and Parmesan, and I recommend you use these options even if you don’t normally favor such strong flavors because somehow in the baking process, the flavors of the cheese tend to become a bit muted. If you’re feeling adventurous, you might want to try shredded pepper jack cheese for a spicy kick. Shredded Swiss would also make for a nice, nutty loaf.
Serve this bread with something hearty and delicious, or wrap it in plastic and tie it with a ribbon to give as a gift. It’s the perfect thing for Father’s Day, no matter how you slice it.
Easy Cheesy Beer Bread
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
12 ounce beer (any variety)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, garlic powder and sugar. Stir in cheeses until well distributed. Add beer and stir just until all ingredients are combined. Spoon the dough into a greased 5X9-inch loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes in the pan, and then for at least another 10 minutes before serving. Store completely cooled bread in a zip-top plastic bag or wrapped in plastic wrap for up to two days.