Friday, February 10, 2012

Chocolate Bread

Several years ago, on a day when I was shopping at the original Central Market (still a new store) in Austin, TX,  I came across chocolate bread in their bakery.  At the time, chocolate bread seemed so unique and I wasn't sure what to expect.  Was it going to be rich and decadent?  How is chocolate in the  simplicity of a bread?  I was intrigued so I bought a loaf.  It was delicious.  It was a simple, slightly sweet, intensely chocolate bread studded with chocolate pieces.  A plain slice was as good as one toasted with a smear of butter and strawberry or raspberry jam was a treat.  I have been on a mission ever since! 

Much to my delight I found this recipe in The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger and have tried this bread a couple of times.  I made it as written first (I think this is always a good ideas before tinkering just to get a feel for the recipe and you know what you are working with).  I do recommend that if you go to the trouble of making this bread use the best quality cocoa and chocolate you can find within your price range.  If it is not available locally then try an online search.  Shramsberg and Guiradelli are widely available in grocery stores but I sometimes can actually find Valrhone and Callibut during holidays which I take advantage of and stock up.  The quality of chocolates are not all the same and have flavor qualities that are specific to the type of cocoa beans and who make them into chocolate.  Some are better eaten straight up and some are excellent to cook with. The bottom line is to use what you like.  Discovering chocolates can be a journey just like discovering different wines. Chocolate can have floral, fruity, nutty, bitter and/or acidic flavor qualities just like wine.  In the end it is what you like and how much you are comfortable paying, a lot like wine.  Just because something is expensive doesn't mean that it will be your favorite.  I have been to quite a few wine tastings and trust me, some of the best wines were not always the priciest.  It is a personal choice but I do encourage you to try something other than Bakers or Hersheys if you haven't already.

And now a word about cocoa powders . . . .

All cocoa powders are not the same.  The type or brand of chocolate and whether it is processed or not definitely matters.  

Dutch processed cocoa powders are treated with an alkali such as a potassium solution to neutralize the acids in the beans before grinding to a fine powder.  The Dutch process produces a darker product and mellows the bitter and sour characteristics of natural cocoa.  Dutch process cocoa is usually used with baking powder in recipes.

Natural cocoa is just cocoa beans ground to a powder.  Natural cocoa powder is lighter in color, has a an intense chocolate flavor and reacts with baking soda in much the same way buttermilk does enhancing the leavening in a recipe.

In a pinch, substituting natural cocoa for Dutch will produce acceptable results but not vise versa.  In the case of substituting cocoa powders, it is best to stick to what the recipe recommends just to be safe because of leavening and flavor quality.

Have you ever had a cookbook that you want to cook everything in it? Me neither, at least  not everything, but Beth Hensperger's, The Bread Bible definitely gets my attention. There are plenty of recipes earmarked for trial! I love baking bread whether it is time intensive yeast breast or a quick bread or muffin recipe.  Savory breads are a favorite.  It is one of the reasons why I like this version of chocolate bread because it is not that sweet.  After I made this bread, I made a blood orange curd to go along with it and was delighted with the combination. Fruit curds are just tasty goodness.

Here is the adapted recipe for  Bread with Three Chocolates (which I lovingly call Chocolate Bread) from The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger.  Her recipe was for 2 loaves which I scaled down to one so the following recipe doubles easily for two loaves.  If you choose to make the full recipe,  this bread freezes well.  The last loaf I made, I used a 2 quart Le Creuset french oven without the lid to make a round loaf.  A 9 X 5 inch loaf pan works equally well.  Be creative and have fun, but remember some hand shapes may take less time baking.

Chocolate Bread with chocolate chunks
Adapted from The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger
Printable recipe

Pinch of sugar
1/4 cup warm water (105º to 115º)
1 1/2 teaspoons of dry active yeast*

1/4 cup white, granulated sugar
2 3/4 to 3 cups unbleached, all purpose flour or bread flour
1/4 cup of Dutch process cocoa powder**
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup warm 1 1/2% to whole milk (105º to 115º)
1/4 cup warm water (105º to 115º)
3 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 large egg at room temperature
2.5 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate pieces**
1 ounce milk chocolate, chopped into small pieces**

Place the 1/4 cup of warm water and pinch of sugar in a bowl.  Sprinkle the yeast over the top and stir until incorporated.  Be careful of the temperature of the water because if it is too hot it will kill the yeast and if it is too cold they will not activate.  Allow to sit for about 10 minutes until a foam forms on the top.  If it does not foam or even bubble up then the mixture is no good because the yeast is not active.  If you think the yeast is still good then try again being careful with the temperature of the water.  If it fails again, try a new batch of yeast.

Starting with 2 cups of flour along with sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder and salt in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.  Add in the 1/4 cup of water, milk, butter and egg into the dry mixture and beat until smooth.  Add the yeast mixture and beat for about 2 minutes until smooth.  Add the chocolate pieces and then add the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and is shaggy looking.  (Hensperger recommends using a wooden spoon to incorporate chocolate pieces and the remaining flour but I found using a paddle and then switching to the dough hook worked fine.)

Change the paddle attachment to the dough hook.  After machine kneading for 5 minutes, the dough should be smooth, slightly tacky and spring back when pressed.  (For best results, remove dough from mixer after 4 minutes and finish the final minute of kneading on a floured board.  This way you will also get a better feel for the dough.)  Alternatively, of course, the kneading can be done by hand and takes the same amount of time.

Place the dough into a greased bowl and cover with plastic or a damp tea towel.  Set in a warm place and allow to rise until double in size, approximately 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Gently punch the dough down and form into a free form loaf or loaf pan or round baking dish.  Allow to rise for about 30 minutes.  Have the oven preheated to 375º and place the loaf into the oven for 40 to 45 minutes.  The bread is done when it had a good crust and when a cake tester come out clean.
*A package of yeast contains 2 1/4 teaspoons or 1/4 ounce of yeast.  If you bake bread more than a couple of times a year, look for the jarred yeast in the refrigerated section of the grocery store so you will not be confined to the packages.  Keep it in you refrigerator and definitely check the expiration date before you buy!

**I used Cacao di Pernigotti which is an Italian dutch processed cocoa powder that I bought at Sonoma Williams for $15.00.  It wasn't cheap but I am loving the flavor in this bread other recipes so it is worth the cost. I used Callibut bittersweet/dark and milk chocolate.  The grocery store that I go to sells it around Thanksgiving and Christmas and I stock up but it definitely doesn't last till next holiday season :-( so I will be on the prowl for more soon.

Notes:  I added orange peel and 1/2 to 3/4 cup of dried cherries soaked in Grand Marnier (any good orange liquor would do).  The orange peel was added with the flour and the cherries after the chocolate pieces.  It had a lovely aroma and the tartness of the cherries was just divine.  A nice combination:  a snifter of Grand Marnier and a slice orange scented chocolate bread!

This recipe doubles easily for two loaves and yes, they freeze well.



  1. Oooooh, this recipe is intriguing! I use a little bit of cocoa powder and caramel color in my Outback copycat bread, and my nieces call it, "chocolate bread!" Your recipe is more of a "true" chocolate bread ~ Thanks for sharing!

  2. Chocolate bread what a wonderful treat for Vday morning, thank you for sharing!

  3. Chocolate and bread?! Oh now that is dangerous...but I love it :)

  4. yum! I would love a slice of this right now!

  5. Gorgeous! I'm with you on using the highest quality chocolate and cocoa for baking-makes all the difference. I have The Bread Bible and also Bread For All Seasons, both are excellent;-)

  6. Patty - I have just gotten started in The Bread Bible considering I want to make almost everything in it. I will have to check out Bread For All Seasons even though I am quite overwhelmed with the stack of cookbooks behind me not to mention the few I have check out from the library. I have a lot of fun trying different cocoas and chocolates. They really are very different. Usually it what I find in the specialty stores close by but they are very inconsistent with type and quality.

    Magic of Spice - Choc and bread is dangerous!

    Thanks so much for stopping by.


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