Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wednesday I Spent with Nana Kate, Beer Bread

Simple pink knitting on single-ended needles.Simple pink knitting on single-ended needles. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Wednesday, I was with Nana Kate. Unlike Biji’s bejeweled home. Nana Kate’s apartment did not look like a party. It looked like boot camp. It was very utilitarian. The only thing that was a constant spot of bright happy color was her knitting bag. Nana Kate made beautiful sweaters, in fanciful patterns, for her real grandchildren, who lived in southern California. And even though she knew that her grandkids would probably never get a chance to wear the hot wool, that didn’t stop Nana Kate’s needles from clickety-clacking whenever she had a spare minute. Nana Kate took the adage, “idle hands are a sinner’s tool,” to heart. Her fingers were always busy.

Nana Kate was from Nebraska by way of Minnesota. She was a good, steady, no nonsense kind of woman with a steel-colored bun on the top of her head and a solid Lutheran upbringing. She taught me how to make the all-American foods that find their way, nightly, onto middle class tables. She made meatloaf, fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits, mashed potatoes with gravy, and pie. She taught me to can fruits and vegetables, make jams and jellies and how to frost beautiful Wilton birthday cakes. On most days, Nana Kate fed her family from the four food groups - good old fashioned, tried and true, patriotic menus. But every once in a while, Nana Kate got a touch of the devil in her and she’d pull out her Julia Child “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” cookbook. Then we would revel in cassoulet and chocolate mousse, baguette, and tart tatin.

One of the staples in my quick kitchen arsenal is Nana Kate’s beer bread. It’s kind of weird that Nana Kate even knew how to make beer bread. She doesn’t drink alcohol, even beer, and doesn’t like it in her house. She thought that it would end up being one of Satan’s insidious tools pulling her from her perch of righteous living. On days we made beer bread, Nana Kate would call next door to Abuela Rosa’s and have someone bring over a Corona.

Beer Bread

3 cups Self-Rising flour (best if you sift this)
3 T sugar (Yes, you have to use real sugar. It’s a chemistry thing)
1 can beer.

*Mix flour and sugar. Make darned sure you have Self-Rising flour or you’ll just be making bricks. Yes. I know that from experience. But if you don’t have Self-Rising add 3 tsp. of baking powder and a tsp. of salt.
*Mix in beer
*Pour into a greased bread pan
* Stick it in an oven preheated to 375, for one hour.
* When the top is hard and craggy take it out of the oven. Let it sit for ten minutes, then remove pan.

I think this is best when its cooled to warm, not eaten too hot or you don’t get the rich grainy flavors from the beer. This tastes particularly nice on a chilly fall day with some apple cider and beef stew (and lots of melty butter!)

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