Basic Ale Bread

Basic ale bread.

As any baker or pastry chef will tell you, baking is a science. It’s best to measure ingredients like flour by weight instead of volume, so you’ll need a small kitchen scale to really master bread.

Kneading your bread dough in a stand mixer may seem tempting, but kneading by hand will often get you better results.

If your dough leans softer and slightly wet, use your best judgment: you may want to coat your work surface with a bit of flour to knead your dough. What you're after is a barrier so your dough won't stick as you work it, so use flour or oil depending on how wet or dry your dough seems.

Yields | 1 loaf |

  • 18 oz bread flour, plus more for flouring work surface
  • 2½ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 Tbsp melted and cooled unsalted butter
  • 1 12-oz bottle pale ale, room temperature
  • olive oil, for oiling bowl and work surface
  • 1 tall unscented kitchen bag
  • 2 to 3 cups hot water (for steam)

| Preparation | In a large mixing bowl, add bread flour. Add salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl on top of flour. Pour in melted butter and beer and use your hands to incorporate liquids into dry ingredients. Continue to work mixture until a rough dough forms; mixture should clean the bowl as you mix.

Rub a clean work surface with olive oil and transfer dough onto surface. Knead firmly, rolling dough from heel of palm and down the lower part of your arm, alternating arms back and forth, for 7 to 10 minutes until dough is smooth and supple; shape into a ball. In a large bowl, rub with oil and add dough ball. Cover with a clean dish towel, set in a warm place and let rise for 1½ to 2 hours.

Lightly flour a clean work surface and line a steel baking sheet with parchment paper. Tip dough out of bowl onto oiled work surface. Fold sides of dough into its center as you press out excess air. Flip over and form dough into a smooth ball; transfer to prepared baking sheet. Slide a large, clean plastic bag around pan and tie to close.

Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Set a lipped sheet pan on bottom rack of oven to preheat. Remove prepared baking sheet with dough from plastic bag and place sheet in oven on middle rack. Carefully pour hot water into lower preheated sheet pan to create steam. Close oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until bread is deep golden and baked through. Loaf should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. Serve.

Shannon Weber is the creator, author and photographer behind the award-winning, and her work has appeared on websites such as Bon Appétit, Serious Eats and America’s Test Kitchen.

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