RETRO REQUEST: Øllebrød – Beer Bread Soup?

Oddly enough… I have to admit that it has been many years since I even had a nice bowlful of Danish Beer Bread Soup (øllebrød). The last batch I consumed was in the winter of 1981 when I was visiting my family after high school graduation. You see…My grandmother (bedstemor) was an amazing cook – and she was one of those experienced cooks who knew what to do with leftovers. Thus, this request is stirring up memories of low light winter evenings from that time and from those of my earlier youth in Jylland (Jutland).
Our first retro request comes from Giovanna Zivny (@giovannaz) from Portland, Oregon via Twitter as we pursue the lovely goodness of this winter bowl of bread and beer.

For those unfamiliar with this cold season Danish treat, take the scene from the movie Babette’s Feast and imagine old-fashioned goodness versus the expression Babette showed us. Let me guess…anyone unfamiliar with this soup is probably grimacing away right now. But, take a look first at the clip and then, follow through with the recipes provided and I think you’ll be easily converted…especially, if you already like a good bowl of oatmeal.

Since Denmark’s love affair with ‘smørre’ (butter) and ‘brød’ (bread) has yielded their passion for smørrebrød (open face sandwiches), it seems appropriate to share with you something much older to the traditional cuisine of the Danes, ‘øllebrød’.

Øllebrød is a dish that typifies much of the hardiness of its people. Its names are derivation of the two main ingredients of this soup; the word ‘øl’ (beer) and ‘brød’ (bread), which were generally stale or old. Any soup that takes the economy of stale bread and beer and turns it into a happy bowl of seasonal warmth deserves continued play.

Here are two recipes that were interchangeable used over the years by my family with a little change or two depending on the mood of the cook. But, remember it will taste the best when cooked over low heat with much patience.

Know your Danish measurements
tsk=demitasse spoon / spsk=large soup spoon / and measure in metric.

Below you will find recipes translated into English from the Danish original.

:: Here is ‘Frøken Jensens Kogebog’ (1901) version of the country classic.

Frøken Jensen’s Øllebrød (Beer Bread Soup)
4 servings

200 g Pumpernickel Bread – stale
1/2-3/4 liter Water
1/2 bottle Pale Sweet Malt Beer
1/2-1 dl Sugar
1-2 tsk Fresh Lemon Zest

Break bread into small pieces, cover with water and soak overnight. Cook slowly with lid over low heat until it becomes dark – but, stir often as not to let it burn. Whisk hard to eliminate all clumps before bread is cooked down or you will have to strain it or use a blender. If necessary, use more water to cook down the bread. Dilute the soup with the beer, adding sugar and lemon zest to taste. Cook an additional 10-15 more minutes on warm. Add additional water or beer, until there is about 1-1/2 liters of soup.

(optional) In place of the lemon zest, you can also use marinated orange rind or a whisked egg with sugar and two spsk of orange juice into the bowl while holding the bowl at an angle to allow for whisking of the ingredients.

Serve with milk, cream or whipped cream.

:: And from the notorious little paperback cookbook ‘Den Røde Kogebog’ that every Danish housewife has available in the kitchen comes this simpler version:

Den Røde Kogebog’s Øllebrød (Beer Bread Soup)
4-6 servings

350 g Pumpernickel Bread
3/4 liter Water
1 bottle Pale Sweet Malt Beer
50 g Powdered Sugar
1 tsk Vanilla Extract
1/2 Fresh Lemon (zest + juice)

Break the slices into four pieces each, soak in water and cook for 20 minutes. Strain the mixture through a (large wire) colander and return to stove. Add beer to soup mixture and cook about 10 minutes more. Then, add sugar, vanilla, lemon zest and juice to taste.

Serve with whipped cream or cream.

:: And best of all, without the Noma Cookbook at my finger tips, I found their heavenly reinterpretation online thanks to a posting in the kristeligt-dagblad:

Noma’s divine….Øllebrød (Beer Bread Soup)

(four part recipe)
4 servings

Øllebrød- Part 1
500 g Pumpernickel Bread soaked in pilsner beer
120 g Brown Sugar
80 g Sugar
100 g Heavy Cream
½ Fresh Lemon (juice + zest)
1 tsk (Apple Cider) Vinegar Reduction
20 g Dark Chocolate – grated fine

Remove 250 g of the liquid from the wet pumpernickel and blend with the rest of the bread. Cook until thoroughly warm adding the rest of the ingredients while adjusting the sugar and lemon to taste.

Rhubarb Sorbet (Rabarbersorbet) – Part 2
500 g Fresh Rhubarb
½ liter Simple Sugar (from ½ l water, ½ l sugar + 50 g liquid glucose)
2 sheets Gelatin (dissolved in cold water)

Parboil 300g of rhubarbs with the simple sugar. Cook until the rhubarb is broken down and allow it to cool off. Then, mix in the dissolved gelatin. Blend the mixture with the rest of the remaining 200g of rhubarb and strain mixture. Allow it to cool off and then freeze until needed as sorbet using an ice cream machine.

Milk Chiffon/Siphon (Mælkesifon) – Part 3
¼ l Heavy Cream
20 g Pastry Sugar
3 sheets Gelatin (dissolved in cold water)
½ l Whole Milk

Heat the cream up with the pastry sugar. Melt the gelatin in the mixture and mix it up with milk. Pour the mixture on a siphon bottle and allow it to cool down. Give the bottle a new charge….or if you don’t have a manual seltzer bottle with charge, use a hand mixer and whip until fluffy.

Pumpernickel Crumble (Rugbrødcrumble) – Part 4
2 slices Multigrain Pumpernickel Bread
4 spsk. Butter
rock salt

Tear pumpernickel into fine pieces and roast until crisp and golden in butter. Drop and scatter onto a sheet and sprinkle with salt.

How to serve:

Place a spoonful of the hot beer and bread soup at the bottom of four soup plates. Place on top of soup a ball sherbet and the splashes milk siphon/chiffon around it, so that it covers the hot porridge. Sprinkle with crumble and serve immediately.


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