MARCH 1999
RECIPES

Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate-Coconut Macaroons

Chocolate Bread with Chocolate Chunks and Pecans

My Grandmother's Truffles

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Chocolate Bread with Chocolate Chunks and Pecans

Tips: A not-too-sweet, very dark-colored, wreath-shaped bread, this recipe takes time; I would not suggest it to a beginning baker. If you have some experience with yeast breads, however, this would be lovely for Easter (or any other occasion). I always use a thermometer to measure the water temperature for proofing the yeast. This dough does not rise impressively until it is put into the hot oven. You MUST wait to serve this bread until it is at room temperature (or barely warm), or the melted chocolate chunks can burn you. Nice with apricot or raspberry preserves, good unsalted butter, or the chocolate-hazelnut spread called "Nutella". You'll need two heavy 9" round layer pans, each 2" deep.

  • 1 cup (about 6 ozs.) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chunks
  • 1 cup (about 4 ozs.) chopped pecans
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup warm water, divided
  • 4 squares (4 ozs.) semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 to 6-3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder, sifted before measuring if lumpy
  • 1-1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 pkgs. (1/4 oz. each) active dry yeast

Place chocolate chunks and chopped pecans in small bowl; set aside. With vegetable shortening, grease a 5 to 6 quart nonreactive container (I use a 6 quart stainless steel pot), then set aside. Have ready a kneading surface.

In small, nonreactive pot, combine buttermilk and 1/2 cup water (reserve remainder). Place over low heat; stir often just until warm. Remove from heat and set aside till needed. In small heatproof bowl over simmering water on low heat (water should not touch bottom of bowl), melt the 4 ozs. of semisweet chocolate, stirring often just until smooth. Remove from heat and hot water; set aside.

In large bowl of electric mixer (preferably fitted with paddle beater), combine 3 cups flour (reserve remainder), 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar (reserve remainder), unsweetened cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda. At lowest speed, beat just until combined.

Proof yeast: in nonmetallic container of at least 1 cup capacity, combine reserved 1/2 cup warm water (water should be between 105 degrees F and 115 degrees F for proofing), both packages of yeast, and remaining 1 tsp. sugar. With fork, beat to combine. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes in warm place. Mixture should become frothy and have a substantial "head" on top of it. If it does not, don't use it, as your yeast is inactive.

When yeast is proofed, pour it, the buttermilk mixture, and the melted chocolate (which should still be warm) into the dry ingredients. Beat at low speed until combined; scrape bowl and beater(s) well with rubber spatula. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Gradually add remaining flour, incorporating it 1/2 cup at a time (1/4 cup at a time as dough gets stiffer). You want a dough that is tacky but not sticky to the touch. Too much flour will result in a dry bread. I usually take the dough out of the mixer before all of the required flour has been added; I find it easier to get a "feel" for how much flour is needed by hand.

Lightly flour your kneading surface (keep surface lightly floured while kneading). Knead dough 8 minutes; after the first minute or two, flatten dough slightly, then add about one-third of the chocolate chunks and pecans, pressing them in before continuing to knead. Repeat while kneading to incorporate all of the chocolate chunks and pecans. After 8 minutes, the dough should be smooth and elastic. Place in prepared 5 to 6 quart container; flatten dough to cover container bottom. Remove dough from container and turn over, then replace in container (this greases both sides of the dough with a thin film of shortening, so it won't dry out while it rises). Cover top of container tightly with plastic wrap. Set dough in a draft-free place at room temperature or very slightly warmer (if dough is set in a truly warm place to rise, chocolate chunks in it will melt). Allow dough to stand for 2-1/2 hours. It won't rise much--OK.

After 2-1/2 hours, punch dough down; knead about 30 seconds to distribute any air bubbles. Divide dough into 4 even quarters. Replace quarters in the rising container, but keep them separated. Cover container; allow quarters to stand 10 minutes. During thistime, cut 2 circles of parchment paper to fit the bottoms of two round layer pans, each 9" in diameter by 2" deep. The pans should be heavy. Grease pans with vegetable shortening, place a parchment paper circle in the bottom of each, then grease the parchment paper. Set aside.

Take two quarters of dough from the rising container. Using palms and fingers, roll each quarter into a 24" long rope of even thickness (if dough resists rolling, allow it to stand 3 to 5 minutes, then try again). The chocolate chunks and pecans will cause some raggedness in the ropes--OK. Pinch the two ropes together well at one end, then twist together tightly. Pinch closed at other end. Form twisted ropes into a circle, pinching dough so ends will stay closed where they join. If there are any "breaks" in the dough where nuts or chcolate chunks come through it, try to smooth those over as best you can, but don't worry too much about it. Center a circle in one prepared pan; gently flatten to about 1" thickness (there should be a hole at least a couple of inches in diameter in the middle of the pan). Repeat with remaining dough quarters and other pan. Cover each pan with a tea towel. Let sit 1-1/2 to 2 hours as before, at room temperature or barely above it. Dough will not rise much--OK.

Adjust rack to center of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove tea towels from pans; bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Cover loosely with aluminum foil; bake 10 to 18 minutes longer (total baking time is 30 to 38 minutes). To test, remove one pan of bread from oven. Immediately loosen edges; carefully and gently turn bread upside down onto a cooling rack, as though you were turning out a layer cake. If necessary, peel parchment paper circle from bottom of loaf. Tap bottom of bread with fingertips; if bread sounds hollow, it's done. If not, replace in pan carefully and bake a few more minutes before trying again. Handle the hot bread carefully, as it's fragile. Be careful of any melted chocolate chunks, which will be very hot. Cool loaves right side up on cooling rack. When completely cooled, store airtight at room temperature or freeze.

To toast this bread, do not put it into a toaster! Instead, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line ashallow baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cut as many slices as needed, but make them thick. Stand slices upright on prepared baking sheet. Place another, empty baking sheet under the first one; toast the slices in the preheated oven for 5 to 10 minutes, just until warm. Be careful of the heated chocolate chunks.

2 "wreath" loaves


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