Guinness stout has a very distinctive flavour. You either like it or you don’t. I do. My wife could go the rest of her days without another pint and not miss it.
This past Saturday I tried to borrow some of that distinctive flavour for a loaf of sourdough. How? Simply by replacing the tap water in my base sourdough recipe with the contents of a can of Guinness stout.
The first note of that process was simply that the dough was a lot stiffer than my regular recipe. As a bit of lucky timing, I was also short on breakfast bread, and not knowing for sure how if the taste of Guinness sourdough would accompany my morning peanut butter I simultaneously started a batch of white sandwich loafs. I have a pretty good feel for the textures, scents, and proof times of my bread recipe these days, but having an experimental loaf literally side-by-side with a control loaf was an interesting comparison.
In addition to a stiffer dough, the rise time was much longer for the Guinness loaf. Both batches spent the better part of Saturday in the fridge, and overnighted there. On Sunday morning I pulled both out at about 6 am, put the beer bread into a proofing basket and covered, and split my sandwich batch into my two loaf pans. By 5 pm as we were finishing off making our evening meal the sandwich loafs were clearly ready for the oven — almost too ready — and actually starting to creep over the edges of the pans. The beer loaf, on the other hand, needed more time, and I pushed the bake back to almost 9 pm (because I eventually needed to go to bed!) and I think it still could have used another hour of rise.
What is not entirely clear from the photo was that (just like the dough) the baked Guinness bread was darker and richer in colour than the white bread loaves.
And when I sampled this morning my take was actually… meh.
The bread is okay. It’s definitely edible, but my first impression of the taste was that it was a little bitter or even carrying an undertone of burnt coffee.
The crust definitely has an after-taste that lingers. And to be clear, the bread was not burned. In fact, other than only hitting about 80% of what I’d call a good rise, it was perfectly baked and timed out of the oven. The crust was crackly, and the besides cutting through an unfortunate air bubble for my glamour shot, the crumb was not too bad either.
But there was definitely a burnt aftertaste in the crust, and (to a lesser extent) in the softer parts of the bread.
My takeaway from this was to ask myself the simple question: Given that I pay about four bucks for a can of Guinness locally, was it worth the substitution over my basically free tap-water? And sadly, even though I was very excited to try this beer bread this morning, I would have to say …no.
I think I’ll stick to this stout in liquid form for a while longer.