Roots in Denmark, adapted to the ZCoB ecosystem
By Ari Weinzweig
This is a very old recipe from Denmark that intrigued me when I read about it a while back. I’ve tried it a fair few times, and to me, it’s terrific. Øllebrød, or “beer bread” is very rich—if you like dark beer, you’ll likely love it. It’s an easy meal for one of those still rather chilly early spring evenings that will inevitably show up here in Southeast Michigan (it will pretty surely snow a few more times). It’s also very tasty for breakfast or brunch—if you like oatmeal or cream of wheat, this is a wonderfully rich, far darker version. Just make it the night before and heat it up in the morning!
How to make the porridge.
To make the porridge, you only need a few ingredients. Leftover dark bread and really good dark beer are the keys. I used Roadhouse bread from the Bakehouse and the RoHo Joe Stout. Each is an exceptional product in its own right. The bread is a classic of American colonial-era cooking—a blend of rye, wheat, and corn that’s sweetened just a small bit with molasses. The stout is a project that we did with Noah and the team at Mothfire Brewing that’s based on the Coffee Company’s Roadhouse Joe. Dark, delicious, and very much a local stout in every sense of the word. You can of course do it at home with other good dark beers!
To make the soup, take about half a loaf of dark bread and tear it into relatively small pieces. If you’re thinking ahead, you can put it into a large soup pot overnight with about a pint of the dark beer and that much again of water. When you’re ready to make dinner the next day, add a little bit of sea salt and a spoonful or so of dark honey—not enough to make the soup salty or really sweet (this is meant as a savory course, not dessert), but enough to round out the flavor and add a bit of depth. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 30-60 minutes until it forms a thick porridge. If you’ve ever made the Tuscan Pappa al Pomodoro with tomatoes and bread, it’s a bit like that. Chunks of soft bread cooked into the beer broth so they almost, but not quite completely, break down.
If you didn’t plan ahead, you can also prepare the soup by soaking for a shorter time but then simmering it longer. In either case, I like to add a good bit of freshly ground black pepper. I’m also intrigued to try it with allspice or clove but haven’t yet. I’ve seen some write-ups that suggest adding orange or lemon zest, but others that dismiss it as not traditional. You can decide as you like.
How to serve the porridge.
When you’re ready to eat, put the hot soup into small bowls. Serve with a spoonful or two of whipped cream, either not sweetened at all or very lightly sweetened (I learned this years ago in Germany—it’s a great way to garnish and round out the flavors of a soup). I’ve also tried just mixing the cream into the soup in the pot (after I’ve turned it off), and that works well too. Garnish, if you like, with caraway seed as well! Enjoy!