Monday, October 26, 2009

The Bet - Pale Ale Bread

I lost a bet and ended up at Benihana's at 6pm on a Saturday. In case you're wondering, Benihana's is basically a Chuck e Cheese at that hour.

I had never been before. Lauren summed it up perfectly, "Benihana. Always a salty and interesting experience."

I think our chef was a bit of a hack. Or maybe he was in training. Whatever it was, he failed to catch all the shrimp tails he knifed and tossed in his hat. One tail actually flew over his shoulder and into the bowl of an unsuspecting diner at the table behind us. We clapped obligingly.

So. Now I know. The mystery of Benihana's is no more for me. Would I go back? Sure. If I had several six year old's in tow that is. Although I must admit, I am as impressed as any six year old by truly good knife skills. And grilled shrimp of course.

Rehearsal this afternoon was unexpectedly rescheduled for a later time, which gave me a few hours to work up some bread dough. Weekends are perfect for a newly found bread-making obsession. Make the dough in the morning, let it rise all day, and come dinner time you have fresh bread right out of the oven. Couldn't be easier.

I thought the original recipe could use some tweaking. I couldn't find the exact one I wanted, but I knew I wanted to try one with beer (specifically, pale ale) and vinegar. The final product is good, with a more complex flavor than the basic no knead version. It doesn't have the tang of sourdough, but if you're looking for something similar to french bread, this is pretty dang close.

Pale Ale Bread
adapted from Mark Bittman and several other sources

3 cups bread flour
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 tsp salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup pale ale beer
1 tbsp white vinegar

Mix flour, yeast and salt together in a large bowl. Add the water, beer and vinegar, stir until just combined. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise at room temperature for 4 hours.

Once the dough has risen, lay it out on a lightly oiled piece of parchment paper. Turn it over into itself once or twice. Heat the oven to 500 with a dutch oven inside for 30 minutes, keeping the lid on the dutch oven. Remove dutch oven and carefully place the dough inside with the parchment paper. Turn the oven down to 425, and place the dutch oven back inside the oven with the lid on top. Bake for 30 minutes with the lid, then remove the lid for another 30 minutes.

Remove bread and cool on a rack.


  1. Two things:

    #1: I used to LOVE Benihana. I haven't been there in years though, so it might not be as awesome in reality as it is in my mind. Or maybe the LA one is better? Prob not.

    #2: What if I don't have a dutch oven? Can I use a regular old Pyrex bread pan? Does it have to be covered?

  2. So, you could either use a casserole dish with a lid, or you could double up a piece of aluminum foil over your pyrex and use that as a lid. Just take the foil off for the last half-hour.

    Yes, at some point in everyone's life, there comes a time to experience Benihana. My time was obviously up.