Parmesan Pesto Swirled Beer Bread by Chelsea Zwieg

For someone who doesn't like beer, I sure am cranking out the beer inspired recipes lately. There are just some things that are made so much better by beer. Like chili. Mac and cheese. And, of course, beer bread. The first time I made beer bread was because of this recipe from one of my favorite blogs. 5 ingredient bread with no yeast, no rising time and the most unbelievable sweet, yeasty taste and doughy texture. Yes, a thousand times over. And from there I went a little beer bread crazy. I posted this apple cheddar beer bread which is still my all time favorite and most often made. Then I wrote an article about beer bread using local Milwaukee beers. That was a year ago and I'm still not over the miracle that is caramel apple beer bread (make it!). But truthfully, you can never have too many beer bread recipes. So I decided to add another one to the masses by way of pesto swirls and lots of parmesan cheese .

You can use any kind of beer you want, just remember that the darker the beer, the more prominent the flavor will be. If you use a stout, the bread will be dark in color and taste pretty much only like beer. Since my beer enthusiasm doesn't stretch far beyond beer bread , I like to use a mild, lightish variety. For this one I used Oktoberfest because I'm not one to pass up on a limited-time-fall-gimmick. If you could do without the flavor of beer altogether, try using a hard cider. The texture will still be there but the flavor won't knock you off your seat. 

Just don't make my mistake and forget to buy the beer until the morning that you want to bake this. Unless you like going to the grocery store at 8:30am and purchasing nothing but a single bottle of beer. Naturally I had to explain to the cashier (in many, many words) that this wasn't my breakfast, and I just needed it for a recipe and blah blah blah. I don't think she cared or believed me. But really, it was worth it. I will take the stone cold judgement of a thousand early morning cashiers if it means I get to eat beer bread all week. 

Parmesan Pesto Swirled Beer Bread

My forever go-to beer bread base recipe is from the lovely Half Baked Harvest

| Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour
  • 4 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 12 oz. beer (I used Oktoberfest. The darker the beer, the more prominent the flavor will be. So be sure you pick one you like.) 
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup pesto 

| Instructions

Preheat oven to 375. Spray a 9x5 loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside. 

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add the beer and stir until combined. Stir in the cheese. 

Pour half of the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Drop half of the pesto in spoonfuls across the dough. Use a knife to gently swirl it into the batter. Add the remaining batter and top with spoonfuls of the pesto. Swirl again with a knife. To get big, noticeable swirls make sure you are not stirring it around too much. Use the knife to drag the batter up from the bottom and fold it over the pesto pockets, rather than just moving it back and forth which will make the pesto blend and disappear. 

Sprinkle additional cheese on the top of the loaf, if desired. Bake 40-45 minutes until the top is golden brown and the middle is set. Don't bother using a knife to test, it will just come up all pesto. It's worth noting that slightly underbaked beer bread is the best thing in the world, so don't fear that. Err on the side of pulling it a little early. 

 

Pumpkin Ale Mac and Cheese with Pretzel Breadcrumbs by Chelsea Zwieg

Real talk: I have a staub dutch oven that I used all of two times last winter. I won it in a contest (because goodness knows I can barely afford food to cook in it much less the actual pot) and I was so excited about it and so proud to own it that I carefully placed it on a shelf in my pantry (I could never subject it to the cabinet with all of my other rowdy pots and pans) and simply gazed at it all year long. I would give it a little wave when I would reach for my coffee beans every morning. And I definitely showed it to anyone and everyone who happened to come over, whether they were excited about a dutch oven or not (they weren't). But when the time would come to actually cook, I kept reaching for my old dingy pots because what if I got it dirty? Or worse yet, scratched it? Do I sound like a crazy person? Yes. But this is my life. 

Well, it's all good now because I'm over it. The weather is cooling off, I want to eat soup and stews and mac and cheese all day long and it is time to put that little staub to work. So get ready for posts about soup and basically nothing else for the next 4 months. Just kidding. Kind of. 

But before we get all soup crazy, let's talk about mac and cheese. Homemade mac and cheese is my favorite because a) it is unbelievably delicious and b) it is so fun to make. I was researching different methods for making mac and cheese (a favorite pastime of someone who is too afraid to use a pot) and I came across my new favorite base recipe on Food52. Basically for 1 box of pasta, cook 1/2 cup melted butter with 1/2 cup flour. Add 4 cups of milk and 3 cups of cheese. Season like crazy. Add the pasta and bake until it gets that super melty/crusty around the corner action happening. I can handle this. 

But of course, the beauty of a base recipe is that you can customize it however you want. Like if it's pumpkin season and any recipe without that precious word in it seems incomplete. And if you have beer cheese soup on the brain but want mac and cheese. And if salty pretzels toasted in butter sound a whole lot better than beadcrumbs. Well then you end up with pumpkin ale mac and cheese with pretzel breadcrumbs. Aka, the best macaroni and cheese I have had in a long time. 

Pumpkin Ale Mac and Cheese with Pretzel Breadcrumbs 

Serves 4

| Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cup elbow macaroni
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 12 oz. pumpkin beer (or any other beer you have on hand) 
  • 3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (I also used chipotle cheddar because I can't see that brilliant creation in the store and not buy it) 
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • salt, to taste
  • a dash of hot sauce (or a lot of dashes) 
  • 1 cup crushed pretzels (roughly 2 cups of pretzel sticks before being crushed) 

| Instructions

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a shallow baking dish and set aside. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook 2 minutes less than the package directions for al dente. The pasta will cook a little bit more in the oven. Drain and set aside. 

In a heavy bottom pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Add the milk and beer and simmer, stirring often, for 4-5 minutes. Add 2 1/2 cups cheese and stir until completely melted. Stir in the onion powder and black pepper. Add the salt and hot sauce, to taste. 

Once the cheese sauce is seasoned, simmer on medium low for 4 or 5 minutes to thicken it slightly. Add the pasta and stir to coat the noodles. It will seem very soupy, but don't worry. It will thicken as it bakes and even more as it sits. Pour the mac and cheese into the prepared baking dish and scatter the remaining 1/2 cup cheese over the top. 

In a small skillet over medium-high heat, melt a small bit of butter (like 1/2 tbsp.). Add the pretzels and stir to coat. Toast the pretzel crumbs until they are golden and smell very toasty/pretzely, about 2 minutes. Don't forget to stir as they toast. 

Top the mac and cheese with the pretzel crumbs and bake 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling.