Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Severe pain and quick beer bread

If you have never experienced extreme pain, count yourself lucky. It's absolutely mind-boggling how much pain a human body can create. I had the bad fortune of getting to know severe pain when I had a rather bad bout of back pain a few years ago. In fact it got so bad I actually fainted twice. Once on a bus stop and another time at the pharmacy, picking up painkillers (how's that for irony). For a few weeks, my life consisted of nothing but timers. I had to get up every 20 minutes to walk, as my physio told me I need to keep the back moving. When the timer went off, I got out of bed, which took several minutes, then walked to the kitchen and back. When I got stronger I walked across the kitchen, first once, and then forcing myself to walk across the room twice and three times. The other timer was counting down to when I was allowed to take another dose of painkillers. Sometimes I just stared at that timer, willing it to go faster. Which of course it wouldn't. Nights were a waking nightmare as I couldn't sleep, and it felt like time would pass even slower. I can remember the joy and relief when the pain started to let go, and I was able to go outside for a walk in the park around the corner from where I lived. I walked slower than the old ladies with their walking sticks and bent backs, but I was able to walk outside without fainting. I still feel a bit freaked out when I walk past the bus stop where I fainted. The feeling of helplessness when you realise what's about to happen but you can't do anything about it. I was lucky nothing happened, and two ladies in the store right next to the bus stop helped me lie down on the floor of their store while waiting for a taxi to come and pick me up. 

I was reminded of the whole fainting from pain experience as I've been suffering from a rather sore neck for the last few weeks. Just like the back pain, I have no idea what set it off. I'm extremely lucky that the neck is only sore during the night, during the day when I move around, it's only stiff and uncomfortable. But oh my how it stiffens up during the night. This morning when I woke up and carelessly turned my head while trying to get out of bed the pain just shot right through my head, and I would probably have fainted if I wasn't already lying down. So currently I'm back to staring at the timer counting down to the next dose of painkillers. I was hoping doing some exercise would help, as the pain goes away when I work out, but I realised it comes back worse afterwards. So today I decided to skip my morning bootcamp. Well, it wasn't so much a decision as a realisation that I'm physically incapable of getting out of bed. Instead I had to lie still until the painkillers kicked in. So I thought maybe I should skip pump in the evening as well. So I came straight home from work for the first time in ages, and was faced with the problem what to do. No way I could just go to sleep or park my ever expanding behind on the sofa as that would stiffen up the neck. So I walked off to the grocery store to get some ingredients for baking, one of the few things to do that are guaranteed to make me forget about the pain. Oh, and I have the newest episode of Great British Bakeoff to watch as well. 

Earlier today I was browsing through my pins trying to decide what to bake (yes, of course I was listening during the telecon I was participating in. I can browse recipes and participate in a meeting at the same time. Women are good at multi-tasking!). My worst craving currently is bread. It has certainly surpassed chocolate as the object of my sinful food daydreams. There is one recipe that keeps fascinating me. Beer and cheddar bread. I've wanted to bake it ever since I saw the recipe. I was going to save it for some lazy Saturday or Sunday morning. But I'm miserable and in pain. So I thought, what the hell, why not go for it. Actually, I have pinned two beer bread recipes, one of them was a beer and cheddar bread and the other was a beer and butter bread. In the end I settled on the cheese one. I stumbled upon the recipe on Pinterest, and it's from a blog called Dine&Dish, and I used it with just some minimal modifications. The other beer bread I was considering, from the same blog in fact, is here in case you want to try it out.

Beer and cheddar quickie loaf:
3 cups flour (I used 1 cup whole wheat and 2 cups all purpose)
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup grated cheddar
1 bottle (0.33 l) beer

The howto:
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C. Mix all the ingredients apart from the beer. Add the beer to form a sticky dough, put in a loaf pan and grate some cheese on top. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean.
The verdict:
The most important thing to start with is a disclaimer. I hate beer. I never drink it. I think it's disgusting and vile and I absolutely cannot understand why anyone would choose to drink it while there is any other drink available. Yet for some strange reason the beer bread recipes caught my attention and I felt like pinning them on my board "Bread, biscuits and scones". I guess the first thing that caught my attention was the beautiful picture of the bread on the blog. I was certain my bread would not turn out nearly as pretty. You know, that's what always happens, you see a great picture of a food, and then your version turns out to look like a mutated blob. But it didn't! It turned out so pretty, probably the prettiest bread I ever made. And it was super quick to make. No proofing, no messing around with yeast, no waiting around. Just give the ingredients a quick swirl with a spoon, and off into the oven it goes. Talk about fast food. 
The bread does have a distinct flavour of beer. But interestingly, I didn't find it bad at all. In fact, the flavours were really nicely balanced. I did use a strong cheddar. I also think blue cheese would go really well with the beer. Next time I will add in some bacon and onion as well, I think those will go perfectly with the beer and cheese. Or maybe just serve this with a slice of bacon. The bread also had the most amazing crisp crust but was nice and soft inside. It is of course not as fluffy as a yeast dough bread would be, but I'm surprised at how nice and light it turned out. I managed to inhale a quarter of the loaf in one go. Well, everyone knows bread is best straight out of the oven, so you got to enjoy it while it's hot. I had to try it again when it cooled down. It's very good cold as well. It still tastes like beer, but in a good way (talking about words I never thought would come out of my mouth). The only problem with the bread is that it didn't seem to cure my neck pain. Have to see if my chocolate and roast strawberry muffins would be more helpful. More about them in my next post. 

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