Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Little Something For the Oven: Cheddar Bacon and Onion Quick Beer Bread

I must admit that fall is starting to win me over. So far it has been a very gentle transition into the new season with cooler, but still warmish days, and chilly, sleep with the windows open, nights. I am soaking in every lovely minute before winter comes barging its way in.

 I love hanging out in the evenings with a cocktail, my favorite guy, and the silliest dog in the world. We spend hours watching the wildlife that inhabit our backyard get ready for the winter ahead. I especially love the two big beautiful woodpeckers who have kept us amused with their antics all summer long. Their pecking might annoy some, but we could watch them for hours combing through our grass for worms and bugs.

Then there is that overhead tightrope walking squirrel that will steal anything remotely edible that is left unattended. It is probably my own fault after I left some grapes out in the open for a photo I was working on. He of course stole them, and has been stalking me for more ever since.

Lately Mr. H and our dog, Jack, have been hot on the trail of a raccoon who has been hanging out on our roof by the chimney stack. Said raccoon could have easily gotten away with using our roof as his summer deck had he not left some poop behind which my husband discovered while installing a new chimney cap, and the hunt was on. I don't know what they'll do if they catch him. I don't think they have thought that far ahead. All I care about is that no one gets hurt, including the raccoon.

With all this activity and excitement going on, suppertime seems to sneak up on me every evening. As I said in my last post, I've dusted off the slow cooker, so I'm getting better about advanced planning for our evening meal. To go with our hearty slow cooker dinners, I've been trying out some easy side dishes and quick bread recipes.

One of the recipes that has risen to the top is this recipe for cheddar bacon and onion quick beer bread. I wish I could take total credit for this bread but it is actually an embellished version of a Cooking Light recipe for basic beer cheese bread (for Cooking Light's original recipe, click here). While good as is, in my opinion there is always room for lots of Irish cheddar and bacon. Oh yes I did!

So here you go, one great recipe to support your favorite slow cooker meal, to take to a potluck or maybe even fuel a hungry raccoon hunter.

Cheddar Bacon and Onion Quick Beer Bread

This bread has a pleasantly sweet flavor from the sugar and onions, with a very clear taste of beer, so when making this, know who your audience is. I love this combined with the salty flavors of the bacon and cheddar. There's not much better than a slice with a big bowl of Hungarian Goulash.

5 slices bacon, chopped (mine was the regular sliced from the prepackaged meat case)
1 medium size yellow onion, finely diced
2 medium size garlic cloves, crushed
13 - 14 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3 cups)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 - 3 tablespoons sugar (start with 1 tablespoon and taste batter after each addition until you reach desired flavor)
1 - 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
Coarsely ground pepper to taste
6 ounces sharp cheddar, coarsely chopped instead of grated so you have nice pockets of cheese in the finished bread
1 - 12 ounce bottle of beer (I had a Corona in the fridge so that's what I used)
2 tablespoons butter, melted and divided

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray a 9" loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

Place bacon in a medium size (preheated) frying pan set over medium high heat. Fry until bacon is just becoming crisp. Transfer to paper towels with a slotted spoon to drain; set aside.

Remove all bacon drippings from the frying pan, except about 1 tablespoon. To this, add the onions and saute until they are soft and brown around the edges. Add garlic cloves and saute for 1 minute longer. Transfer to paper towels to drain; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, place the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, sage and pepper; whisk together. Make a well in the center. Place the bacon, onions and cheese in the well. To this add the beer and mix with a wooden spoon just until it is moistened.

Spoon mixture into the prepared loaf pan and spread evenly with the back of a spoon. Drizzle one half of the melted butter over the top.

Place pan in the oven and bake for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle with the remaining butter. Return to the oven and cook an additional 20 - 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out on a cooling rack to cool completely before cutting and serving. If you cut bread before it is cool, it can be gummy in the center, so I advise you wait and heat it back up if you like warm bread.

Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Makes 1 big loaf.

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