Tips: The last raspberries of the summer are almost upon
us! Take advantage of them while they are still present with this
not-too-sweet chocolate bread, spread with lightly sweetened mascarpone
and garnished with chocolate syrup and those selfsame berries. If
you're not familiar with mascarpone, it's the Italian equivalent
of cream cheese, but softer and richer. It's available in specialty
stores and some upscale markets; two domestic manufacturers are
Belgioiso and the Vermont Butter and Cheese Company, or, of course,
you can buy the imported Italian mascarpone. If you cannot find
mascarpone, you can use lightly sweetened, stiffly whipped cream
instead (about 1/2 cup cold heavy cream sweetened with 1 Tbsp. sifted
confectioners' sugar should be plenty).
Make sure your raspberries are in good shape for this dessert!
Discard any that are bruised, moldy, or soft. Rinse the berries
very briefly in cold water, then dry thoroughly on paper towels.
Once the dessert is assembled, it must be served immediately, but
the chocolate bread by itself will freeze nicely; you can also make
the bread in the morning and serve the dessert that night (store
the bread airtight at room temperature). The bread rises rather
impressively in the oven considering the tiny amount of yeast it
contains, so this makes a nice "presentation" dessert.
- 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, stirred before measuring,
- 1/4 cup plus 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar, divided
- 3 Tbsp. sifted unsweetened, nonalkalized cocoa powder
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast (this is less than one envelopeyou
must measure the amount)
- 1/2 cup warm (105 to 115 degrees F) water
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 8 ounces mascarpone
- 2 Tbsp. sifted confectioners sugar
- One carton (1/2 pint) red raspberries, picked over
- Good-quality chocolate syrup (Hersheyís bittersweet is a good choice here)
Make the bread first. Combine 3/4 cup flour (reserve remainder),
1/4 cup sugar (reserve remainder), cocoa powder, and salt in medium
heatproof bowl; whisk well to blend. Set aside at room temperature.
Sprinkle the yeast and the remaining 1/2 tsp. sugar onto the warm
water; beat in well with a nonaluminum fork. Set aside in a warm
place for about 5 to 10 minutes. You should see a film form on top
of this liquid-because there is so little yeast, there will be no
foamy head on top of the liquid as would occur otherwise. Once the
yeast is proofed, add it to the flour mixture, along with the melted
butter and vanilla. With your whisk, stir to combine ingredients,
then scrape bottom and sides of bowl. By hand, using whisk, beat
about 300 strokes or two minutes.
Switch to a large spoon to stir the mixture. Gradually add remaining
1/2 to 3/4 cup reserved flour to make a soft dough; the dough should
be tacky but not sticky (you can force it to stick to your fingers,
but if handled gently, it will not). On a lightly floured board,
knead the dough for about 4 to 5 minutes, keeping the board and
the dough lightly floured as necessary to prevent sticking. Once
in a while, throw the dough down hard onto the kneading surface
(kneading dough is great therapy!).
With solid vegetable shortening or unsalted butter, lightly grease
a medium bowl. Place the kneaded dough into the bowl, then turn
it over so that the bottom is now the top. Cover tightly with plastic
wrap and allow to rest in a warm place for about 50 minutes. During
this time, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, shiny side up,
and lightly grease the foil.
When the dough has rested for 50 minutes (it won't rise much),
punch it down and knead for about 15 seconds to distribute the air
bubbles evenly. Allow dough to rest, covered, for 3 minutes. Place
dough in center of greased, foil-lined baking sheet, and, using
your hands and fingers, flatten it to a round about 10 inches in
diameter, building up the edges of the round slightly and leaving
the inner part of the round flatter. If your round isn't perfect,
it's no big deal, and you don't want to overhandle the dough in
any case. Cover with a dish towel and set aside in a warm place
for about 30 minutes; about halfway through this time, start preheating
the oven to 375 degrees F.
Just before placing the focaccia in the preheated oven, gently
remove the dish towel . Bake the focaccia for 14 to 16 minutes,
turning the baking sheet front-to-back once about halfway through
baking time. When done, the focaccia will be well-risen (it can
be difficult to judge when this is done, but 15 minutes is the ideal
timing in my oven). Remove from oven, then immediately remove focaccia
to a cooling rack with a broad-bladed metal spatula (be careful
doing this; hot bread is always fragile). Cool the focaccia completely
While the focaccia cools, make the mascarpone cream. In a small
bowl, combine the mascarpone cream and confectioners' sugar. With
a spoon, mix until well-blended. The mixture should be of a spreadable
or slightly softer consistency; depending upon the brand of mascarpone
you use, you might have to add a small amount of milk or cream to
achieve this. Don't get the mascarpone cream runny, though. Cover
tightly and store in refrigerator until needed.
Shortly before assembling the dessert, briefly wash the berries
and drain them thoroughly on paper towels. Make sure your focaccia
is completely cool. Have the mascarpone cream and chocolate syrup
at hand. Place the cooled focaccia on a flat serving plate at least
11 inches in diameter. Spread the mascarpone cream in the center
"well" of the focaccia, using it all. One at a time, place
the well-drained raspberries on top of the mascarpone cream, pointed
side facing up (you can make a pattern if you wish, but I think
they look just as pretty placed randomly). Drizzle a little of the
chocolate syrup on top in a tic-tac-toe pattern.
Use a serrated knife to cut the focaccia into wedges. Serve immediately.
Pass the chocolate syrup so each person can drizzle on more if they
Yields: 8 to 10 servings
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