I have never enjoyed an ice cold beer. Oh, I've tried one, I just didn't enjoy it. A chilled caramel-colored lager in a frosty mug looks harmless enough, but for me, that's where the appeal ends. Both the distinct scent and the flavor of beer can be found on my "things that I can do without" list, something that my college and grad school friends had a hard time understanding ("What do you mean you don't like beer?")
Some true microbrew connoisseurs have insisted that I obviously hadn't tried the right brands, because there had to be at least one beer on the market suitable for my taste. So, I obliged and took small sips of wheat beer (yuck), stout (double yuck), flavored ale, and even those hard cider versions, which I was told are supposed to appeal to naysayers like me. They didn't--none of them did. So, the ale aficionados failed in their quest to find me a signature brew, but on the upside, they realized that they always had a designated driver when I accompanied them to the pub.
Despite that fact that I will never be able to tell the difference between a Stella Artois and a Shiner Bock, I have finally found one kind of beer that I enjoy: the kind that is used as an ingredient in a recipe. Whether it's a deeply flavored Irish Stout for my St. Patty's Day Guinness Cake or a lager for this apple-cheddar quick bread, baking or cooking the beer seems to emphasize its yeasty or caramel flavors while masking its not-so-attractive attributes. This is a dense, slightly spicy bread, which is perfect for serving with soups, stews, or any entree with a sauce that might need to be mopped up. The lager and the shredded apple help to keep the bread moist, and the sharp cheddar and seasonings add great tangy flavor. Enjoy it with a cold one--or not. Here are my extra tips for this lager-lover's bread:
- If you don't have Sam Adams, any similar lager-style beer would be a fine substitute. You could also use a hard cider, which would pair nicely with the cheddar and apples in this recipe.
- This recipe is very versatile, so feel free to be creative. For example, for a Mexican twist, replace the cheddar cheese with Monterey Jack, replace the apple with a minced jalapeno pepper, and use chili powder or cumin for seasoning. You can also replace the lager with a Mexican beer.
- Store the baked loaf at room temperature, tightly wrapped, for up to two days. If you have some leftover bread, cut it into cubes and toast them in the oven for a unique take on croutons.
- The cayenne pepper may be omitted (or increased!), depending on how much heat you like in your food.
Sam Adams Apple-Cheddar Quick Bread
Makes 1 loaf
1 small Granny Smith apple, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/4 cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
1 (12-ounce) bottle Sam Adams lager, or a similar lager-style beer
2 tablespoons melted butter
Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and shredded apple to the pan and cook for 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the pepper and garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, thyme, and cayenne. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the shallot mixture, cheese, and lager to the bowl, stirring until just combined.
Transfer the batter to a 9X5-inch loaf pan coated with nonstick cooking spray. Drizzle the melted butter over the loaf and bake for 50-55 minutes, until the loaf is a deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean. Cool the loaf in the pan for 5 minutes and then transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely.