Chocolate bread is nature’s perfect food. Bread is basic nourishment for the body, while chocolate is nourishment for the soul. Think of pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants) and chocolate toast, which prove that chocolate and dough just go together.
When I was a teenager, I saw Martha Stewart make chocolate bread from Balthazar Bakery. It was real artisan bread, not a muffin, with Valrhona cocoa powder and chocolate chunks. It sounded so naughty, yet so good.
When I moved to New York and finally tried that coveted bread, I was disappointed. While it was carefully crafted, the dough tasted bitter and wasn’t chocolaty enough for me. Fortunately, Au Bon Pain had crusty chocolate-cherry-walnut bread, and Fresh Direct distributed Ecce Panis’ bake-at-home chocolate rolls. When the rolls were fresh out of the oven, the chocolate oozed out of the feathery insides. (Note: Au Bon Pain no longer makes chocolate bread, and Fresh Direct only has chocolate bread pudding now. Boo!)
Since chocolate bread is going extinct, I compiled recipes from reputable sources, such as Balthazar, Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the La Brea Bakery, and the Institute of Culinary Education. I then made a lazy version by throwing cocoa and sugar into Sullivan Street Bakery’s famous no-knead bread recipe.
This is dessert for breakfast. I love toasting this bread, slathering on peanut butter and sprinkling bittersweet chocolate on top. The chocolate immediately melts into sweet lava. S’more sandwiches, filled with graham crackers and marshmallows, are especially good.
I realize that people are trying to eat healthily since it’s New Year’s, but this bread isn’t that bad for you. It’s low-fat, has a fair amount of fiber and has a little more sugar than commercial bread (and fortunately no high-fructose corn syrup).
For more no-knead bread, try my 100% whole wheat variation.
Chocolate No-Knead Bread
The sugar makes this bread chewy and moist, but it’s not too sweet for a good old peanut butter sandwich. If possible, use the metric measurements, as they’re more accurate.
Adapted from Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1 1/2 hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising
2 1/3 cups (287 grams) all-purpose flour, plus 1/4 cup more for dusting
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (143 grams) whole wheat flour (recommended brand: King Arthur)
1/3 cup (31 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably natural process (not Dutch-processed)
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (75 g) sugar
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) instant yeast (or 1/4 plus 1/16 teaspoon active dry yeast*)
1 ¼ teaspoons (8 grams) salt
Scant 1 3/4 cups (387 grams) water
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed
1 tablespoon milk, for brushing
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar, for sprinkling
1. In a large bowl combine the flours, cocoa powder, sugar, instant yeast, and salt. Add the water and stir until blended. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Liberally flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Brush the top of the loaf with milk and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1 1/2-pound loaf.
Double chocolate-cherry-walnut bread: After the first rise, pat the dough into a large rectangle on a well-floured surface. Sprinkle 1/3 cup each of good chocolate chunks; toasted, chopped walnuts; and dried cherries on top. From left to right, fold 1/3 of the dough over like a book. Fold over the other side of the dough and pat down into a tall rectangle. From top to bottom, fold 1/3 of the dough down. Fold the remaining bottom 1/3 to meet the top. Using your fingers or the heel of your hand, pinch the seams closed. Continue on with step 3 and let rise until double (it may take longer than the usual two hours, because of the weight of the mix-ins).
- * If substituting active dry yeast, proof it in 1/4 cup of lukewarm water (reserved from the total water) for 10 minutes. Add the yeast with the rest of the water when mixing it in the dough.
- To make a sandwich loaf, turn out the dough on a floured board after the first rise. Gently pat the dough into a 5-by-9 inch rectangle and roll up the length of the dough. Pinch the seam closed with your fingertips or the heel of your hand. Rock the dough to even it out. Cover it with an inverted mixing bowl and let rise, seam side down, for about two hours. A half hour before baking, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, with a standard 9-by-5-inch loaf pan inside. When ready to bake, brush the pan with oil and generously dust with corn meal or wheat bran. Drop the dough in the pan, seam side up (it’s okay if it looks messy). Shake the pan to even out the dough. Brush the top with milk and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Cover the loaf loosely with aluminum foil (leave room on top for the dough to rise) and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 15-30 minutes more.