Introduction: Ginger Brew Bread
Before we get started I'd like to make perfectly clear what it is we are making here. It is bread made with Reeds Ginger Brew. There is no beer (the alcoholic beverage) involved. This is also not the spice cake nor will it be suitable to make houses out of. It is a semi-sweet gingery flavored bread that is just as suitable to accompany a meal as it is to follow one as a dessert.
This is my adaptation of a very simple no-knead bread recipe. This bread can be made Vegan if you use a Ginger Beer (or Ginger Ale) that does not contain honey. If you choose to make this bread Vegan you will have to deviate slightly from the recipe because Reeds Ginger Brew contains honey.
A quick word of warning before we begin: This bread must be started the day before you intend to serve it because of the long wait time for the first rise.
Step 1: 'Timing' or 'Why to Begin the Day Before'
Prep: 15-30 Minutes
First Rise: 14-18 Hours
Shape: 5-10 Minutes
Second Rise: 1-2 Hours
Bake: ~1 Hour
Total Active Time: 20-40 Minutes
Total Waiting Time: 16-21 Hours
Step 2: 'Recipe' or 'What Goes In'
3 cups - Bread Flour
1-1/3 cups - Reeds Extra Ginger Brew
1/2 teaspoon - Dry/Active Yeast
1-1/4 teaspoon - Salt
1/2 cup diced - Crystallized/Candied Ginger
Flour or Cornmeal for dusting
Some notes on the ingredients:
Bread Flour vs All Purpose Flour - Bread flour is made from hard red "spring" wheat as opposed to AP flour which is made from softer "winter" wheat. Why is that important? Spring wheat contains more of the proteins that create gluten when mixed with water than Winter wheat. The higher protein content allows more water to be absorbed to form gluten and expand into a chewy loaf of bread. If you absolutely must you may use AP flour and I'm fairly sure your loaf will turn out fine if somewhat less satisfying.
If you prefer to measure flour by weight instead of volume (weight is more accurate; but for this recipe it isn't critical) you will want to use 14oz of flour
Reeds Ginger Brew - One of the strongest, most gingery Ginger Beers available commercially. Even if you consider it too strong to drink don't worry the flavor is dispersed throughout the loaf and will not be overwhelming in the final product. If you are a strict Vegan you will have to substitute a different Ginger Beer because Reeds contains honey. Search for the strongest Ginger Beer/Ale you can find and use that instead.
I realize that 1-1/3 cups of Ginger Beer is an odd amount considering that it is typically sold in 12oz bottles. Instead of adjusting all of the other ingredients I choose to drink the remaining ~1.5 oz myself.
Please be aware that standard packets of yeast contain about 3 times as much yeast as is needed for this recipe. I find that buying a small jar of yeast and keeping it in the fridge is much more convenient if you plan to make bread on a regular basis.
Any salt will do. If you plan to use Kosher salt you should grind it up in a spice grinder first because the larger crystals may not dissolve quite as evenly.
Measure after it is Diced.
Sometimes I have difficulty finding crystallized/candied ginger in the supermarket. It can be found in the bulk foods section of some larger grocers as well as many specialty grocers and Asian markets.
If you want a less sweet bread you might try drying your own fresh ginger and substituting that, though I've never tried it myself so can't speak to the results.
Step 3: 'Tools' or 'What You Need'
Measuring Cup (preferably with 1-1/3 mark on it)
Large mixing bowl
Tea towel (not terry cloth the dough will stick to it too easily)
Bowl Scraper or Flexible Spatula
Your clean & dry hands
Bread Board (a large cutting board will do quite nicely)
Extra flour or cornmeal for dusting
Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Heavy Duty Pot Holders (or several layers of lesser pot holders)
Kitchen Timer (or other timing device)
Cooling rack (optional)
Lots and lots of patience
Step 4: 'Mix' or 'Bring It All Togther'
Begin by combining the Flour, Yeast and Salt in your bowl. Add the ginger (you remembered to chop it up right?) and stir until well mixed, it won't take long (less than a minute).
Add then Ginger Beer and mix until everything comes together and all of the flour is incorporated into a slightly-damp sticky ball (about 1 minute). You will likely have to use your hands to mix as it quickly becomes difficult to stir with the spoon.
The next step takes the longest by far: Cover the bowl with your tea towel and walk away. Leave it alone for 14-18 hours.
Step 5: 'Shaping' or 'After the First Rise'
About 3-4 hours before you want to serve your bread it's time for the next step. You will notice that the top is slightly darker and kinda dry; this is exactly what we want to see at this point.
Lightly dust your breadboard with flour. Nearby layout your tea towel and lightly dust with either extra flour or cornmeal.
Using your spatula or your hands gently move your dough from the bowl onto the breadboard. Well okay you don't have to be that gentle just get it out.
Begin rounding your dough ball by pulling the edges up toward the top creating a seem or dip in the middle. Once it's fairly round turn it upside down (the seem or dip should now be down) onto the tea towel and gently cover the dough.
Let your dough rise for another 1-2 hours. After the first hour you should place your dutch oven in your oven and set it to pre-heat to 450 degrees.
You dough is done rising if you poke it and your finger mark stays instead of bouncing back.
Step 6: 'Bake' or 'Where the Magic Happens'
After your dough is finished with it's second rise CAREFULLY remove the (very very hot) dutch oven from the oven and remove the lid. Lightly dust the inside of the dutch oven with either flour or corn meal.
Lift your bread and turn it oven into the dutch oven (now the seem/dip should be up again) being very careful not to touch the sides of the dutch oven with your hand.
Place the lid back on the dutch oven and slide it back into your oven. Set your timer for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes remove the lid of the dutch oven and continue baking for 15-30 minutes more until the crust is a dark golden brown.
Remove the dutch oven from the oven and with a wooden spoon or heat proof spatula move the bread onto your cooling rack.
This part is the hardest: Do not eat it yet! For one thing it is far too hot. Wait at least an hour after baking before eating/serving.
Please note it is normal for the bread to make cracking or hissing noises at first after you set it out to cool, this is steam escaping from inside the bread.
Step 7: 'Eat' or 'The End'
All of your 'hard work' has paid off: it is time to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Ginger Beer bread makes an excellent (relatively) health dessert or it can be served as a semi-sweet side with the main course.
This bread is delicious by itself, with butter or margarine, or my personal favorite Ginger Spread by the ginger people. I've never tried it myself but I'll bet it makes one heck of a good Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich to (though the boule shape is not the most conducive for sandwiches)
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