Monday, October 3, 2016

Triple ginger yeast bread -- a reason to get up in the morning

I haven't blogged in ages. For the last couple of years I've been sporadic at best, and in the last six months or so I've just been too busy, schedule-wise, too spent, mental energy-wise, and too boring, life-wise, to have much to say. I debated officially ending my blog, whatever officially ending means, but because I'm lazy and I hate confrontation, I didn't officially break up with it. Also, when I travel I like blogging, so I wanted to keep it around. For those times when I needed it, y'know?

Basically, this blog is my side piece.

But a week ago, after making banana bread with candied ginger and 85% chocolate (really, the only kind of chocolate; no, I am not sharing, nor will I tell you how much of it is currently in my freezer), I thought about what else to do with the candied ginger that I frequently have in my freezer but infrequently use. And then I had a fall-inspired kitchen brain wave: triple ginger bread!

To be clear, this is yeast bread flavored with ginger, not the molasses-filled cookie or cake that I will definitely be eating come around December, which is why the name I settled on included "yeast" between the ginger and bread. Because yes, it's confusing; I confused my mom when I was telling her about it. To be perfectly honest, I confused myself when I was thinking it through, so yeah, the extra descriptor was necessary.

I love bread. Like, so, so much.

This has a lot of fresh ginger, but you only steep the ginger in the milk; your bread will not be studdied with chunks of fresh ginger, which sounds great for fried rice but less good for yeast bread. It will be studded with this stuff, though. 

This takes about four hours, but like all yeast bread, most of that is inactive. Just know when you're getting started that you need that much time.

1.5 cups milk
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped
1 teaspoon dried ginger
1 cup candied ginger, finely chopped
2 tablespoons yeast
1/4 cup warm water
5ish cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 egg

1. Scald milk and fresh ginger (about 8 minutes on medium heat). Turn to low, put the lid on and let it steep for 5 minutes, then take off the heat and let steep for another 15 or so minutes. Strain out the ginger.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine milk, sugar, salt, butter and dried ginger. Mix well. Make sure it's cool to the touch. (If it's too hot, it will kill your yeast. Don't ask how I know. Obviously I've done it.)
3. Dissolve the yeast into the hot water. Let it get foamy and soft, about 10 minutes.
4. Add the yeast to the milk mixture along with 2 1/2 cups of flour and the egg. Mix well. (Pro tip, from an actual pro, not me: Don't scoop the flour. Spoon it out into the measuring cup and level off. You'll get less flour and more air this way, which makes for lighter and better bread.)
5. When that's mixed, add 1 1/2 cups flour and mix.
6. Blend in the ginger with another 1/2 to 1 1/2 cups of flour. Add the flour half a cup at a time so you don't have too much flour, which will make the bread tough. You want it to be moderately stiff, which means not sticky when you touch it and it holds it shape.
7. Put in a greased bowl, cover and let rise until it's doubled in size, probably about an hour.
8. Punch down, turn dough onto a floured surface, divide in two, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. (Yes, it's annoying. No, you shouldn't skip it. You planned four hours. Just do it.)
9. Grease two 8x4 bread pans.
10. Shape each dough ball into a loaf and put into the pans. Cover and let rise until about double. Plan for an hour.

11. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
12. Bake for 35-40 minutes; the bread should be golden on top and sound hollow when you tap it. I went the full 40 minutes because I perennially undercook bread. A foodie friend with whom I shared it commented that it was a little dry (though nothing a nice slab of butter couldn't fix it), so if you like your bread, I don't want to say doughy, but a little softer in the middle, cook it for closer to 35 minutes. 
13. Turn bread out onto cooling racks. You can wait for it to cool completely, or dive into it as soon as it's cooled enough that you can hold it without burning your hands while you slice it. Guys, it's really good bread. I ate three slices, and the foodie friends I served it to both gave me a thumbs up as well. I have a suspicion that it would make excellent toast, though I haven't tried it, and I think it has great potential for a spicy, nontraditional French toast or bread pudding as well.

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