ANN ARBOR — Beer! You can drink it. You can cook with it. You can pair it with food. And you can even bake with it, too. Who knew?
The pros at Zingerman’s Bakehouse, that’s who. They offer a dizzying array of different baking classes — covering everything from French baguettes to Jewish cookies to Hungarian coffee cakes — and one of them is focused on the fine art (or, more accurately, science) of baking with everyone’s favorite beverage.
On Feb. 27, a guy who last baked in his seventh-grade home economics class joined 11 other students at the Bakehouse to learn the secrets of using beer to make bread, scones, crackers and more. And learn I did, in a crash four-hour course led by instructor Nikki Lohmann, a pastry chef who has worked in kitchens in New Orleans, Toledo and right here in Ann Arbor.
A handy folder provided to each student included four recipes, coupons for Zingerman’s baked goods and cheeses, a list of essential kitchen utensils and equipment and informative materials on flour and other key baking ingredients. We got our hands dirty right away creating dough for Oats and Blonde Ale Bread, which featured Arbor Brewing’s Bollywood Blonde Ale. While we waited for the bread to bake, we tackled Beer Cornbread (also made with Bollywood Blonde), Beer Scones with Apricot (made with the non-Michigan beer Lagunitas New Dogtown Pale Ale), and, finally, Beer and Cheddar Crackers, which featured Bell’s Porter.
Despite my best efforts, everything I mixed turned out delicious in the Bakehouse ovens. For my money, the crackers were the best of the four things we made, probably because they also included cheese, which is almost as awesome as beer. We got to take all our goods home to share with and impress our friends and families, though I kept all the crackers to myself and later used them in some beer chili I made with Wolverine Dark Lager. (It was as yummy as it sounds.)
The cost is $100 and though that sounds somewhat steep, you do as mentioned go home with a big loaf of bread, a tin of cornbread, a dozen scones and a bag full of those crackers. Not to mention some good recipes and newfound knowledge for using beer in yet another area of your life. And yes, there is also a beer and baked goods sampling session before you leave.
The next class is Sunday, May 19, and you can sign up here.