Beer bread

Beer bread

Leiths How to Cook
1 x 500 g loaf
Peter Cassidy


Quantity Ingredient
30g butter
1 teaspoon soft light brown sugar
175ml brown ale
10g fresh yeast
1 tablespoon warm water
125g wholemeal flour
125g strong plain white flour, plus extra to dust
1 teaspoon salt
1 small egg


  1. Use a little of the butter to grease a 500 g loaf tin, then put the remainder in a small saucepan with the sugar and ale. Place over a medium to high heat, stir to melt the sugar and butter into the liquid, then bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to cool to lukewarm.
  2. Put the yeast in a bowl, add the water and mix to a loose paste.
  3. Sift the flours and salt into a large bowl. Reserve 1 teaspoon of the bran from the sieve for the top of the loaf and tip the rest into the bowl with the flours.
  4. Break the egg into a small bowl and beat lightly, then add it to the flours. Add the yeast mixture and three-quarters of the ale and butter mixture. Mix first with a cutlery knife and then with your fingers, adding enough of the reserved ale mixture to make a soft but not sticky dough.
  5. Turn out onto a very lightly floured surface and knead for about 5–8 minutes until smooth and elastic, using as little extra flour as possible on the work surface to stop the dough sticking.
  6. Place the dough in a very lightly oiled bowl and cover with lightly oiled cling film or a damp tea towel. Leave in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  7. Transfer the risen dough to the work surface and knock it back, kneading it for 2–3 minutes.
  8. Shape the dough into a loaf and place smooth side up in the greased loaf tin. Cover with lightly oiled cling film and leave to prove until risen by at least half its size again. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200°C.
  9. Sprinkle the reserved bran over the top of the loaf and bake in the oven for 30–40 minutes, or until golden brown and it feels light and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.


  • Beer lends a unique, slightly sour taste to bread. The darker beer you use, the darker the bread and the heavier the flavour of the bread will be.


  • Walnut and raisin bread: Replace the wholemeal flour with malted brown flour and the ale with 300 ml milk, brought to scalding point and cooled to lukewarm before using. Knead 100 g raisins and 100 g roughly chopped walnuts into the dough when knocking it back, then proceed as for the main recipe.

    Rosemary and fig bread: Replace the ale with 175 ml milk, brought to scalding point and cooled to lukewarm before using. Knead 200 g sliced dried figs and 1 tablespoon roughly chopped rosemary into the dough when knocking it back, then shape the dough as a flat round or oval loaf on an oiled baking sheet. Place olive oil soaked sprigs of rosemary on top before baking and drizzle with a little honey when it first comes out of the oven.

A note on adding solid ingredients to bread doughs…

  • It is better to add ingredients like nuts, seeds, herbs or dried fruit to the basic dough after it has risen, as if incorporated earlier such additions can slow the rise and break up into the dough. Either knead them in while knocking back the dough or roll the dough out after it has had its first rise, scatter the ingredient(s) over the surface, roll it up like a Swiss roll and then continue to knead. This achieves a good even distribution throughout the final loaf.
Leiths School of food and wine
cookery course
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