Marriage – or, chocolate and beer

Bread and butter: it’s like a perfect marriage. Only, unlike a perfect marriage, it is totally real and pretty easy to come by. (And yes, I realize that photo is beer and chocolate, not bread and butter – we’ll get there in a minute).

Like people in marriage, there are myriad ways to combine bread with butter and make a delightful union. There’s certainly no reason that we should all have to butter the same bread, or even that we should all butter our bread the same way. (I am a long-time student of the Butter Battle Book, if you recall!) I believe whole heartedly in everyone’s right to marry whom they choose. I also believe in everyone’s right to equal opportunity buttering.

Since we made that amazing butter the other day (which, by the way, is still being talked about here on the regular by the shorter half of our household) I have been thinking that I owe you a bread recipe. I mean, real butter is lovely on its own (just ask Jacob)- and of course so is good bread –  but (like all truly right pairings) a good bread topped with a smear of real butter – well, that can make you feel alive. Over the last few days I have made a few different bread recipes, trying to decide which way to send you with your butter – and then I realized, I want you to have options. I want to share all three, and then you have a choice about where and how you choose to spread your butter.

But three bread recipes in one post is really a lot. Trust me, I have been trying. So, later this week I’ll share my boys’ favorite Brown Muffins, and a spectacular and prolific challah recipe. But for today, I’ll begin close to home, with a marriage near and dear to my heart.

Anyone who knows me and Kyle knows that we are always well stocked in dark chocolate and hoppy beer. While you ponder which of us is the 70% cacao snob, and which is the Hop Devil, you can make this quick and easy Whole Grain Chocolate Beer Bread. Like the best marriages, it is definitely not perfect looking – but it is surprisingly rich and complex, studded with sweetness, and very forgiving. It can also give you a little buzz if you’re not careful :)

On that note –  this is a grown up quick bread, and not just because the beer-coffee combo makes it technically a highball! It has a deep, bitter, beer-y undertone, and despite a lot of chocolate and a little sugar, it is not at all a sweet bread. Jacob is always slightly disappointed when he takes a bite because while it looks like his favorite chocolate-chunk banana bread, it tastes nothing like it. It is delicious though – especially with a nice smear of cold butter on top.

Whole Grain Chocolate Beer Bread
This recipe grew from the easy beer bread that everyone seems to learn how to make in college (the one that you mix right in the pan, that can also be made with orange soda!). This, though, is better – and not just because I use an actual bottle of beer instead of the dregs of an old keg. I use a chocolate stout here, which my better half would never willingly drink – especially if there were, say, a Racer 5 nearby. I keep a bottle or two in the pantry rather than the fridge – for this bread, or a chocolate cake, or what have you. A Guinness or something similar would also be just fine. That orange soda thing though? Really gross.  

This makes two standard loaves.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dark rye flour
4 cups whole wheat flour (whole wheat pastry flour is fine here too)
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar (brown sugar is good here, too)
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
16 ounces chocolate stout (one pint, or two cups)
8 ounces coffee (one cup)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate chunks (I like to chop up some Scharffen Berger bittersweet with 70% cacao – and not just because it was one of the favors at our wedding!)

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Oil two standard loaf pans. Mix the flours, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Add the coffee, beer, and vanilla extract, and mix everything together. Add the chocolate chunks, and stir them in. Divide the batter evenly between your two pans and smooth the top of the batter. Bake for 50 minutes, or until the top is crispy and it tests done. Cool on a rack.

This bread freezes, wrapped well in plastic wrap and foil. Keep one loaf on the counter for munching, and freeze the other to take out one day when your honey needs a little treat. Things like that help make marriage fun. Don’t forget the butter.

For my favorite Hop Devil :)

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