Sunday, March 17, 2013

Bring out your bread: Ollebrod/beer bread -- it is better than it sounds

I have just started cleaning out my freezer for Pesach and about half of its contents turned out to be bread. This was a good way to use it up.  It is also, believe it or not, one of my favorite desserts.  It is not bad for breakfast either.  It is not bread made from beer, but rather a porridge made of leftover bread.  Think pappa al pomodoro (Italian bread soup with tomatoes, olive oil and basil).  Or think Indian pudding.  I have never had luck with Indian pudding, but this is just as good, maybe better, and very easy to make.

Some background:  you may remember a scene toward the beginning of Babette's Feast.  After washing up in rural Denmark, Babette is enlisted to prepare meals for the local elderly population. Another volunteer demonstrates how it to prepare the local dishes.  One involves dried fish,  The other involves soaking stale bread in beer and water.  This is it.  Despite Babette's look of revulsion, it is really quite good.

Ollebrod (there should be a diagonal slash through the O but I can't get my editor to do it) may be the ultimate Danish comfort food.  Although it is often enjoyed (really) as a hot cereal at breakfast with milk or cream, we first had it at Acme, a "new"  Scandinavian restaurant in the village.  The food in general was quite good, though the service was abominable.  We were the oldest people there and the attitude was along the lines of "hurry up and finish your meal so we can give your table to someone younger, cooler and better looking."  But the ollebrod dessert was really memorable.  There was a pool of the bread porridge, toped with white chocolate foam and salted caramel ice cream.

I couldn't duplicate the chocolate foam at home, but the rest is pretty easy.  It is a great way to use up leftover bread:

Ollebrod/Beer Bread


  • 6-8 slices of  brown bread  (see below)
  • 2-3 cups dark beer
  • Boiling water if needed to cover
  • 2 inch piece orange rind, with no pith
  • spices ( your choice of a combination of 1 cinnamon stick, 2 or 3 cardamom pods, 2 cloves and 1 or 2 allspice berries -- I just use the cinnamon and cardamom)
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries, raisins or dates (I use cherries)
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup dark brown sugar  (the lesser amount only slightly sweet)
  • large pinch salt


  1. If you are taking the bread out of the freezer, toast it lightly.  This is optional if it is stale.  Use of moldy bread is not recommended. 
  2. Put the bread in a 2-3 quart pot and cover with the beer.  Set aside to soak about 1/2 hour.
  3. Add boiling water if needed to cover the bread.  Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer, and cook on very low heat for about an hour, until a puree.  Taste this and adjust for sweetness, adding a bit more sugar if you like, and cook a few minutes more. (This dish holds well in a low oven or on a blech overnight on Shabbat.  It also reheats well in the microwave.)
  4. Serve warm with ice cream (salted caramel best of all, vanilla good, and for a pareve meal, coconut sorbet or soy ice cream acceptable) for dessert or with milk or cream for breakfast.
  5. Serves 4-8 depending on occasion and appetite.
The bread:  I used a combination of old-fashioned hard pumpernickel and sourdough whole wheat.  Sourdough rye (without caraway) or pain levain would also be good.  Almost any brown, dark or whole grain bread will work.  

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