I have dear friend who attends Catholic Seminary, and when he was home this summer he mentioned that they have delicious bacon bread there. He had me at bacon bread. I immediately decided I had to figure out how to make bacon bread of my own, and my first stroke of genius was what if there were actual pieces of bacon in the bread! I decided that a good basis for starting this recipe would be a basic beer bread. First of all, if you have not ever made beer bread, you must. It is special and delicious all on its own; great with soup or for breakfast or just snacking. And it's incredibly easy, even for a quick bread!
So. I began with this recipe for beer bread. It calls for 3 cups sifted flour, 3 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 cup sugar, 12oz beer, and 1/2 cup butter. However, I used self-rising flour (King Arthur brand), so I did not need to add baking powder or salt. Just so you know.
But first, it's vitally important that you cook some bacon. I dice 8-9 slices of thick-cut bacon and cook it in a skillet until it's fairly crispy.
Use a slotted spoon to drain all the pieces and set them aside to cool. I mean, I don't know if they really have to be cool, but they do need to be set aside until the end.
Do not get rid of the bacon grease! Leave all that deliciousness in the pan! Keep it on the stove (with the stove turned off) until it's needed. It needs to stay liquid. This is very important.
Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. As mentioned before, all I am using is the self-rising flour and sugar. But if you are using all purpose flour then you need to add the salt and baking powder.
It was here that I had another stroke of genius. What goes great with bacon? MAPLE SYRUP! So throw in 1/4 cup. It doesn't make the bread overly sweet, just adds a tiny bit of mapley flavor and a more moist texture. I like my bread moist. If you don't, or if you don't like maple syrup, just leave it out! (This is another case where, if you are going to use it, it must be the real deal! No pancake syrup, please!)
Time to add the beer! This is what makes it beer bread. In this case, I used Boulevard Wheat. You can use whatever. I have used darker beers, i.e. Sam Adam's Winter Ale, and I prefer to go as dark as possible. But then again, I prefer to drink darker beers too. So just use whatever beer makes you feel good. Pour the whole bottle in there and panic a little at the way it foams up. Then calm back down. This is totally normal.
Stir everything together! The dough will be very, very thick, and quite wet. And it will. Smell. Incredible.
Then stir in the bacon pieces! Make sure they are well incorporated. You want them all inside the dough so they don't scorch in the oven. It will be hard to stir, but you must persevere! It's worth it. (And frankly, a little arm workout might be in order given the main ingredients we are using here.)
Spread it all out in a bread pan. You will have to use your spoonula to make sure it reaches the corners. This is normal. Just make it look like you want it to look. You are the master of the dough!
Now, remember that bacon grease you were saving? Well, now is the time to use it. This is not for the faint of heart. You are going to use a full 1/2 cup of bacon grease. If this is already giving you palpitations, I'd advise you to cover your eyes for the rest of the post.
Now pour that 1/2 cup of bacon grease over the top of the dough and just let it sit there! No stirring! Now, I always get pretty much exactly 1/2 cup grease from the amount of bacon I used. But if you don't have enough, or if you want to skip the grease altogether, you can supplement with melted butter (salted butter. come on.).
Put this in a 375 degree oven and bake for 1 hour. The bacon grease will keep the bread nice and moist and will create a kind of nice, salty crust on the top of the relatively sweeter bread. It's a phenomenal thing. You'll see.
Remove it from the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes before taking it out of the pan. Then take it out and let it cool all the way, or immediately slice it up and begin eating it!
I am not sure if it is required or not, but I store it in the fridge. Please, please give it a try! It's so good. But share it. One person should not be eating that much bacon grease. No matter how much she may want to.
Happy Fall, again!