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The Road to Beer Batter Bread

January 27, 2011

This is why there was no food in our house:

Last week, I decided not to grocery shop, because we would be going out of town on Friday. Yay! Out of town! We were going to see great old friends. We were going to celebrate a milestone birthday of one of them. We were going to have roast lamb, and Peking Duck. We would introduce our children if they had not met, and feed them cake if they were old enough, and while they were eating cake, we would also eat cake, but ours would have sparkling shiraz as a complement to the dark and yet buttery chocolate frosting. What a weekend!

There would be chorizo with eggs. I brought some crazy Italian chocolate sauce with peaches in it. I brought our monthly “cheese of the month club” cheeses as an offering to our hosts. It seemed as if we might all contract gout from overindulgence, but we were going to laugh an awful lot while doing it.

On Friday evening we arrive at the home of the friends we will be staying with.

We admire their excellent baby; they admire ours. They present us truffles on crackers.

Hmm. As it happens, I do not want a truffle on a cracker. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before, except for during the 9 dark months of pregnancy. But this is not that. I finally accept a truffled cracker. I’m about to tuck into it when . . .

“What is that smell,?” I say to our beloved and genteel hosts, who are excellent cooks.

“That’s the chicken cooking.”

The smell is physical evidence of the fact that they are roasting a chicken for us. Roasting a chicken is a divine act: an act of love. The wine is starting to flow. There is a glass of red at my elbow. Our friends are also making a sauce out of some swank chocolate in a waxy paper, to serve us for dessert. But I’m waving my hand in front of my nose, overwhelmed by the smell.

I find myself unable to eat the chicken, or the potatoes, or the Australian feta we brought. My wine goes untouched.

I do manage to eat some chocolate sauce on some ice cream.

Then, we go to bed. They’ve given Henry a bedroom upstairs but Matthew and I are staying downstairs on their white upholstered pullout couch. I go to sleep. I wake an hour later in a cold sweat.

I understand immediately that the flu has come to conquer me. It has come to try and ruin the nice furniture of my friends. The flu is trying to put obstacles between me and my chocolate frosting and sparkling chiraz. It is here to make me suffer physical indignities in a space that is not even mine to collapse in and vomit all over.

The rest of the weekend is pathetic. Cower cower cower, sleep sleep sleep, sick sick sick. After resting as much as possible on Saturday, I realize that things smell good and not bad. I’m starving. That must be a sign. It has been 24 hours since I started to feel awful. Another sign! These things are advertised as taking 24 hours.

I take a bite of potato. I go up in flames. The flames last all night.

At the Peking Duck restaurant on Sunday, I order a bowl of plain broth and try not to cry. The only thing keeping me from crying is how dehydrated I am. That, and the special Italian elixir designed to replenish my flora. I drink the orange elixir, very gently and slowly.

Sunday, I’m well enough to return home. I’m exhausted, embarrassed, dejected, and still sick. My blood pressure is so low from lack of fluids that I can’t carry anything without my heart pounding. I’m unable and unwilling to eat. Grocery shopping is out of the question.

It is on Monday, too. It is on Tuesday. I sit listlessly on the couch watching Freaks and Geeks and thanking heaven that I managed to get a babysitter.

By Wednesday I am better, but I have a lot of appointments I need to conserve my energy for. I will also need to bathe. Plus, it’s snowing. There is no way I can shop.

And then suddenly it is today, and we wake up to 11 feet of wet snow on the ground. I’m ravenous, as are the other two people I live with, and there is no food other than frozen Jello and raw pork in the freezer.

We have no:


You know what? That is only a partial list of what we do not have: the full list is exhaustive. Things we don’t have:

Everything, almost

It is easier to say what we do have:

1 banana to be split 3 ways
1 piece of toast that my husband already ate
Raw pork in the freezer (it’s already mixed into Chinese dumpling filling!)
some tomatoes in a box
apple butter

I can’t get to the grocery store. The car is out of the question, the trains are questionable, and I guess I could walk, but instead I go to the deli down the street and buy what I can:

apple sauce
frozen spinach
frozen squash, just in case of, I don’t know what, Y2K or something

I cannot bear to purchase form of peanut butter that they sell, which is not only processed and sweetened and filled with palm oil, but it is all of these things and then “30% reduced fat!” on top of that.

Nor can I bear the Wonder Bread.

But wait! I can make beer batter bread, which is bread that only uses: flour, sugar, and beer. Also, salt, butter, and baking powder if you use all purpose flour.

My sister used to say she was “afraid” of yeast. The idea of something “alive” sitting and waiting in her refrigerator waiting to be “activated” . . . she found it creepy. I’ve always love the simple and fun schtick of using beer to sidestep both the liquid and the yeast of traditional breadmaking.

Somehow you also get to sidestep kneading and rising. You also get to pour a huge quantity of butter over the top, and it was easy enough for me to make with my two year old, who also loved to eat it.

Make this bread. This version is from Epicurious, adapted from a Stephan Pyles book. He is a famous Texas chef from . . . Dallas I think? I can’t remember. You know what, make this bread even if you aren’t weirdly desperate for bread. It’s great during the winter and the beer thing makes it so much fun. It was a real hit around here today. It’s good with butter, or for toast, but it’s best with stew or chili: something meaty. One editorial comment is that it will take longer to cook than this claims — though perhaps that’s because I didn’t get my beer down to room temperature before making it.


  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bottle (12 ounces) beer, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted


Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Add the beer all at once, mixing as little as possible; the batter should be lumpy.

Pour the batter into a 9-x-5-x-3-inch loaf pan and brush with the melted butter. Bake in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Turn out onto a rack to cool.

One Comment leave one →
  1. frankly manny permalink
    January 30, 2011 10:16 pm

    I loved this post, btw. But I’m not here simply to tell you things you could already surmise on your own. My job here is to ask you why you didn’t make pork dumplings out of the frozen pork dumpling filling? The dough for dumpling wrappers is some silly proportion of flour and water (no salt or anything else, even), and you can roll the dough out with a pasta roller (instead of a rolling pin, which is labor-intensive) and then cut the dough into wrapper shaped circles with a can or cookie cutter (ooooh, ghost shaped dumplings of pork!). That is the thing you should do the next time the thing with the no food happens, please.

    Also, glad you’re feeling better.

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