Cider bread

The breads that sustain us: cider bread

This bread is a relative newcomer to our table, but it immediately became a favorite — the crusty loaf we’d been looking for — the first night I served it.

A friend had given me her recipe for lager bread, which I tried with wheat beer (because that’s what we had in the house). We liked the result, and thought the texture was quite good, but I kept wondering what it would taste like if I tried it with hard cider. One evening this fall, Jason brought me home a case of shiny green cans of Jack’s hard cider. He’s a beer connoisseur — even doing some of his own brewing — but my drink of choice is usually a crisp hard apple cider.

Thinking back to the sourdough starter I made a few years ago according to a recipe in 52 Loaves, which extracted wild yeast from apple peels, I wondered about a starter-less recipe made with cider. And the more I looked at the lager bread recipe, the more I thought it could use more than just a third of a cup of alcohol.

So, one night, I dumped about 3 cups of flour into a bowl, mixed in 1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and popped open a can of Jack’s. I poured about 2 tablespoons of the 12-ounce can into a glass and savored it while I emptied the can into the bowl, stirring in the foamy liquid to hydrate the flour mixture. I covered it and left the dough on the counter overnight. After lunch the next day, I kneaded it a bit, adding a bit more flour to make it workable, and formed a boule on a piece of parchment paper, as the lager bread recipe had suggested.

While I take credit for the simple ingredient list of this recipe, I must note that this technique is truly effortless and yet ingenious, and not of my own invention. Instead of allowing the loaf to rise on a towel inside a colander or bowl, as many of the famous “no-knead” recipes have suggested, this recipe simply calls for rising on a sheet of parchment paper, which is used to lower the loaf into the preheated dutch oven — and to take it out again when it’s done baking. It’s seriously the easiest loaf of crusty bread I’ve ever made, and the most flavorful  too.

I preheat the oven to 500 degrees (with my cast-iron dutch oven in it) about 45 minutes before I bake the bread, and I bake each loaf for about 25 minutes with the lid on and 20-25 minutes with the lid off. The exterior is perfectly crisp and bursting with tangy flavor; the interior has a tender, slightly chewy crumb with a sourdough aroma. It’s the bread I’ve been trying to bake for years, and it’s easier than pie.

And this, my friends, is why we are out of Jack’s hard cider.

cider bread

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3 thoughts on “The breads that sustain us: cider bread

    1. Hmmm, sorry. You definitely need a thick-walled, oven-safe vessel of some sort. My advice would be to check out yard sales for old cast iron lidded pots — they’re likely to be cheaper than new, enameled ones and they work just as well. You could even buy a rusty one and rehab it!

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