These are the days to cherish small pleasures — like the scent of fresh bread wafting through the house, or the soft ping of ice cubes in your glass.
In the past few months, the sudden boom of amateur mixologists and home-bakers is impressive, if not surprising. From Stephen Colbert sipping bourbon in his boxer briefs to the sheer volume of “anxiety baking” posts on Twitter, our shared embrace of boozing and baking offers much-needed connection, at a time when we’ve been so shockingly torn apart.
It’s hard to know what the supermarket shelves will look like week to week, but chances are, like most Americans, you’ve already stocked up on alcohol and flour. It’s only logical to combine the two. So the next time you’re feeling bored and hungry, why not try Rosemary Beer Bread? This salty-sweet quick-bread goes well with hearty casseroles, soups, or salads; and watching beer bubble up in a bowl of batter will definitely add a little spark to your day.
The alcohol in the beer will mostly burn off in the oven, but it leaves behind a mild, malty flavor that’s hard to resist with fresh rosemary. (You can also substitute dried herbs, and use dill, thyme or another herb instead.) Warm butter melted over the top before baking creates a crunchy, rustic crust that you’ll want to dip in leftovers for days — if it lasts that long.
When it’s time for dessert and you can’t find any vanilla extract, you’ll be thankful for a well-stocked liquor cabinet. Whiskey plays the same role vanilla would in these Butter-Pecan Whiskey Cookies, although the flavor isn’t quite as concentrated so the recipe calls for a little more. Two tablespoons of the hard stuff in a batch of dough won’t get you tipsy, but the of hint of malted grain it leaves behind pairs well with butter and pecan.
Butter cookies are also a great make-ahead option because the dough freezes easily for baking-on-demand (no need to thaw first), and there’s plenty of room for experimentation. Try substituting dark rum or another ground nut like almonds or hazelnuts; drizzle with icing, or even sandwich two cookies with strawberry jam. They’re also delicious served plain with a bowl of vanilla ice cream — and Irish coffee!
Rosemary Beer Bread
Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped or 1 tablespoon dried (sub dill, thyme or another herb
• 1 (12-ounce) can or bottle light beer
• 4 tablespoons butter, melted
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and rosemary.
3. Add in beer and stir until just combined.
4. Pour batter into a greased 8×8-inch baking dish (or line with parchment) and smooth with a spatula. (A regular 9x 5 loaf pan will also work but it will yield less crust.)
5. Pour melted butter over top of the batter.
6. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until top is golden brown.
Butter-Pecan Whiskey Cookies
Time: 35 minutes
• 8 ounces (2 sticks) butter, slightly softened
• ¾ cup sugar
• 1 egg
• 2 tablespoons whiskey
• 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for sprinkling
• 1 cup ground pecans
• Pinch salt
1. Preheat oven to 360 degrees.
2. Cream butter and sugar well in a large bowl. Beat in egg and whiskey.
3. Blend flour, pecans and salt separately and gently mix into wet ingredients until a sticky dough forms.
4. Cover, or wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
5. Roll out cooled dough onto a well-floured surface, until it reaches about ¼-inch thickness. Sprinkle more flour on top if needed.
6. Cut out desired shapes (using cookie cutters or a round glass) and bake on a parchment lined baking sheet until just golden brown around the edges, about 12-15 minutes. The cookies will continue to bake and harden as they cool.
Mimi Sabo is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. Her writing and musings on food can be found on her blog DontLickYourknife.