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Yeast Raised Gingerbread paulawalton.com

Instead of cookies, cakes or candies, this year I am baking bread to give for Valentine’s presents.  There is nothing cozier than freshly baked bread to warm a winters day.pear tree in winter paulawalton.com

I wanted to bake sweet yeast breads redolent of 18th century flavors, something delicious that would evoke, but not copy the past.  I began my baking experiments with dark chocolate and coffee, both important beverages in 18th century England and her American colonies.

Chocolate Yeast Bread paulawalton.comChocolate Yeast Bread

This dark dense chocolate bread makes a wonderfully indulgent breakfast.  Loaves keep well at room temperature for several weeks during the winter, or may be frozen.  If by some miracle you have any left long enough for it to get a bit dried out, it makes an amazing bread pudding!

6 cups flour

2 cups warm brewed coffee

1 cup dark brown sugar

3/4 cup Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa

1 cup Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate chips

3 Tbsp. active dry yeast

1/2 cup melted butter

Measure all dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Add warm (110-115 degrees) coffee and cooled melted butter.  Mix by hand with a large wooden spoon or use an electric mixer with a dough hook.  When your dough is completely mixed, shiny and smooth, stir in chocolate chips.  Turn out into an oiled bowl, lightly oil top of dough.  Cover with a clean cloth and set in a warm spot to rise until doubled.  heart shaped chocolate yeast bread paulawalton.comPunch down, and shape into heart shaped loaves on parchment or silpat covered baking sheets.  Chocolate yeast bread in terra cotta heart pans paulawalton.comAlternately shape into smooth loaves and put in heart shaped terra cotta bread pans.  Cover loaves and keep warm to rise.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees, or build a brisk fire and ready reflector oven or dutch oven.

Cross my heart!

Cross my heart!

Slash tops of loaves in an X using a sharp knife.  Bake for 20- 40 minutes depending on the size of your loaves, being careful not to burn.

Chocolate and peanut butter, a classic combination...

Chocolate and peanut butter, a classic combination…

Delicious with whipped strawberry cream cheese.

Delicious with whipped strawberry cream cheese.

Red currant jam, alone or mixed with cream cheese compliment the deep rich chocolate.

Homemade red currant jam, alone or mixed with cream cheese compliments the deep rich chocolate.

After playing with chocolate I turned my hand to yeast raised gingerbread.  I had originally planned to stud my loaves with handfuls of crystallized ginger, but my husband found out that I was making gingerbread and immediately asked me not to put “those chunks” in it…  He knows me too well… I hadn’t even taken the ginger out of the pantry yet!

This recipe makes a soft moist bread,  not overly sweet, with a bite of ginger.  It can be baked into rolls or loaves and would make an outstanding base for cinnamon rolls.

Yeast Gingerbread Hearts paulawalton.comYeast Gingerbread

6 cups flour

2 Tbsp. yeast

1 Tbsp. baking powder

3 Tbsp. ground ginger

1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 cup melted butter

1/2 cup molasses

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups warm Earl Grey tea (I used Earl Grey Extra from Simpson and Vail)

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. orange oil

2 Tbsp. rum

Measure all dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Add warm (110-115 degrees) tea and cooled melted butter, molasses, orange oil and rum.  Mix by hand with a large wooden spoon or use an electric mixer with a dough hook.  The dough will be soft and slightly sticky.

Turn out into an oiled bowl, lightly oil top of dough.  Cover with a clean cloth and set in a warm spot to rise until doubled.

Heart shaped yeast gingerbread paulawalton.comPunch down, and shape into heart shaped loaves on parchment or silpat covered baking sheets.  Or shape into rounded balls and put in a heart shaped cast iron muffin pan. Cover loaves and keep warm to rise.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees, or build a brisk fire and ready reflector oven or dutch oven.

Slash tops of loaves in an X using a sharp knife.  Bake rolls for 15 – 20 minutes. Bake bread for 20- 40 minutes depending on the size of your loaves, being careful not to burn.

Serve with butter and ginger spread or apple butter.

Serve with butter and ginger spread or apple butter.

An Unexpected Yeast Bread…

Mace Shortbread CookiesMace Shortbread

3 cups flour

1-1/2 cups powdered sugar

1-1/2 cups butter

1/2 tsp. yeast

1/4 cup warm water

1 tsp. mace

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

*Proof yeast in warm water for 5 minutes.  Measure flour, powdered sugar, mace and nutmeg into a large mixing bowl.  Add slightly softened butter and mix until all of the butter is worked into the dry ingredients.  Pour proofed yeast/water into bowl and beat until thoroughly incorporated.  Cover bowl with a clean dry cloth and set in a warm place for 1 hour, then chill for 30 minutes.

Roll dough out on a well floured surface to a scant 1/4 inch thickness and cut out with heart shaped cookie cutters.  Emboss the cookies by stamping them with new, washed rubber stamps that have been dusted with flour.   If desired, lightly brush ground nutmeg into the stamped designs before baking.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8 – 10 minutes, until just starting to very lightly brown at the edges.  Cool completely before removing from cookie sheets.

* 18th century shortbread receipts call for the addition of barm (yeast).  I followed this tradition when I developed this recipe.  I love mace and decided to add it, along with nutmeg to the cookies (both spices are part of the seeds of the nutmeg tree).

To see more Mace Shortbread Cookie photos visit my Izannah Walker Journal.

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