the “wrong” kind of beer

A few weeks back I came across Cooks Illustrated’s recipe for Improved No Knead Bread (Jan/Feb 2008). No Knead bread has been talked about on pretty much every food blog I’ve come across and I’ve become increasingly curious.

Gavin took one look at the photos and declared “I want to try that!”

A few small problems: we didn’t have a cast iron pot, and the recipe called for beer (to help give the bread flavor).

The cast iron pot was easily rectified, thanks to Dulce and Oma we got a 7 1/4 quart Le Creuset in Flame from William Sonoma; the beer was a bit more challenging.

Yes, both Gavin and I are over 21, but neither of us drink, or know ANYTHING about beer. So a phone call to my father was in order: he claims he had a “well misspent youth.” He also spent time in Germany – and the Germans are known for their beer. He recommended Dinkelacker, or a Bock (?), or “any good German beer.”

Armed with this information and “knowing” the recipe called for a “mild lager” I turned to Gavin and the internet. The picture in Cooks Illustrated was of a bottle of Budweiser, but we weren’t sure that was the right kind of beer. We discussed Heineken, but when I asked Dad, he said that was “the wrong kind.”

Throughly confused I went out and bought a six-pack of Michelobe Amber Bock (?). It was my first time to ever buy beer (or any other alcoholic drink), and I wasn’t even carded. I guess it was because I usually shop there in the mornings and buy “responsible adult” food not just beer. I brought it home and Gavin announced I had “bought the wrong kind.”

Apparently all beer is not the same. The beer I had brought home was indeed a “lager” but it was not a “mild lager.”


A little frustrated by this unexpected turn of events I cursed the Beer Gods and decided to use the “wrong” beer for the recipe anyway. Beer is beer, right? Wrong, Cooks Illustrated seems to think using a “stronger lager” will wreck the flavor. They’re also the ones who obsess over making the “perfect” chocolate chip cookie, so we’ll see.

I whisked the flour, salt and yeast together, then added the water, vinegar and beer. Measuring it was odd, it had a little foam on top so I measured from under the foam. The beer smelled rather awful, but once it was throughly incorporated the smell disappeared.

Out of curiosity I sampled a small piece of the dough. The dough did not taste the way the beer had smelled, so I was relived. The dough will now sit over night (8-18 hours) and tomorrow it will get rolled around a few times and will sit 2 more hours and then bake in our beautiful pot.

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