Years ago, a colleague of husband Peter's made a copy of this NYT article for me when she found out that I liked to bake pizza. She thought I'd be interested in the recipe for the pepper-crust clam pizza that was mentioned there, but it never appealed to me. I was much more intrigued by the recipe for the chocolate bread, and I happily baked it several times over the years. I wanted to bake another loaf pan bread this week, so I thought this would be a nice surprise for Debbie. Well, to be honest, I was hankering for a slice of this dark, not-too-sweet bread slathered in sweet butter myself. It is a very interesting recipe. Unlike a chocolate quick bread, which is heavy with fat and sugar and tastes much more like a dense cake than bread, this bread does not scream "dessert!" Instead, this yeast-leavened chocolate bread has more in common with challah.
Here is the exact recipe, with my changes noted below. Debbie reported to me that she was forced to share this loaf with her daughters.
Chocolate Bread with Vanilla Butter (from Jane and Michael Sterns' Square Meals)
1 c milk 2 T butter
1/2 c sugar 1 t vanilla extract
1 pkg dry yeast in 1/4 c warm water w/ 1 T sugar 2 eggs, beaten
3 1/2 c. flour 2/3 c sifted Dutch cocoa
Vanilla butter: cream together 1 1/2 sticks butter (12 T), 3/4 c powdered (confectioners') sugar
Beat in 2 T vanilla. (Yes, that's TABLESPOONS!)
Method, Mixing, etc.
Scald milk, remove from heat, stir in butter, sugar and vanilla. When lukewarm, stir in yeast and beaten eggs. Place flour and cocoa in large bowl. Add yeast mixture and stir vigorously. Turn dough out onto a floured board and allow to rest 5 minutes. Clean and butter bowl. Knead dough gently 3 to 5 minutes, adding flour if necessary. Put in buttered bowl, cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours or until doubled in size. While bread rises, make vanilla butter. When bread has risen, punch down and knead again, 8 to 10 times. Shape loaf. Place in well-greased 9 x 5 loaf pan, cover and let rise 45 minutes. Just before baking, pat the top of the loaf with the coarse sugar, pressing it on gently but firmly. Bake in a preheated 350 F oven for an hour. Place a piece of foil over the top of the bread for the last 30 minutes to prevent the crust from burning. Let cool 10 minutes in pan before removing to a rack to cool.
doubled all ingredients for two loaves
cake yeast instead of dry, using 3/4 oz total
added 1 t of salt to the dry ingredients.
used turbinado ("raw") sugar to pat on top of the bread
Placed dry ingredients in the bowl of my stand mixer; dissolved the yeast with a little sugar (2 T) in the water and let it sit for a few minutes. Combined all the rest of the bread ingredients with the yeast mix and added this to the dry. Mixed on low for a few minutes, then changed to the dough hook and kneaded it in the machine for 3-4 minutes. (Held back the last two cups of flour, adding enough until the dough was no longer extremely sticky.) Kneaded it by hand for about a minute more. Followed the rest of the recipe as written, although I took the bread out at 55 minutes.
You can use rum instead of vanilla in the sweet butter. Or experiment as you like. I recall having used Droste Dutch process cocoa in the past as that's what I seemed to have on hand. However, over the years, the cost of Dutch process cocoa has soared. Nor can I recall what the differences are between Dutch process cocoa powder and the "regular" type (meaning Hershey's). I think I remember something about alkalinity. Frankly, I don't know how much it matters in the end with this recipe. For this particular batch, I actually had enough of each to go half-and-half. It would be interesting to bake a batch using each type of cocoa side-by-side to see what the difference, if any, is.
No photos, sad to say. It is the color of dark pumpernickel and has a beautifully high, domed top. And, speaking of pumpernickel, my brother Mark was very disappointed one time when visiting us. I had offered him a piece of this bread, not thinking anything other than that he would assume it was chocolate and who would turn down a slice of chocolate bread? He took one bite and was shocked that it wasn't pumpernickel. Turns out, he'd seen the dark loaf sitting there and was hoping to make a hearty sandwich with ham and cheese and mustard.... That was the only time this bread had not absolutely thrilled someone. But in retrospect, if you had grown up in Erie, PA as we had, eating the best imaginable rye, pumpernickel, bagels, semi-hard rolls, and challah from long-gone Baker's Bakery, you too would still be looking to find something as good. But that's another post for another Sunday's baking.