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