Thursday, May 31, 2012

Chocolate bread

There's this place in St. Paul called Bread and Chocolate that I've always wanted to go into but never have, mainly because I'm almost never in St. Paul, and if I am we're already going to Cafe Latte to eat. I mean, really, though I obviously don't have my priorities straight, if their name is anything to go by, the Bread and Chocolate people clearly do. 

In general, I'm almost never in St. Paul because my parents live in Minneapolis, where I went to high school, and when I visit them most of my Minnesota world is within the Minneapolis city limits. And Minneapolis has some of its own versions of bread and chocolate (chocolate chip shortbread, pain au chocolate, etc.), one of my favorites being the fully combined version that is chocolate bread. Though I'm not going to pretend to have done any in depth research (though if I still lived there I absolutely would have, like, this morning), my experience with chocolate bread in Minneapolis has revealed two general camps: 1. chocolate bread that could also probably be called chocolate cake or, in its denser variation, chocolate pound cake, baked into a loaf pan and thus gaining itself the name "bread" as opposed to, you know, cake. 2. chocolate bread that is recognizably bread: not too sweet, with a sandwich bread-like crumb amenable to slicing. Even though this kind of chocolate bread has chunks of chocolate throughout, no child would ever accept a slice of this bread as "dessert". Now, I'm cool with both kinds, though I find the second more bread-y type more interesting (if I wanted the first, I'd just go eat chocolate cake, and probably a flourless one to boot). Turtle Bread, which is as well known neighborhood bakery in Minneapolis as you'll find (and which was a couple of blocks away from my high school), sells the second kind of chocolate bread, both in loaf and roll form, and every now and then the rolls would end up in the 1/2 off day old bin there, to my utmost delight (based on what I ate back then, I have no idea how exactly I survived high school-- if you think the chocolate rolls were an accompaniment to a well balanced meal, you'd be, uh, really wrong). 

At any rate, when I came across this recipe for chocolate bread, I was hopefully suspicious that the resultant bread would be along the Turtle Bread chocolate roll lines, and I'm happy to say that I seem to have been right. I say seem to because if I'm being honest I haven't had the Turtle Bread rolls in probably 10 years so who really knows; what I can tell you is that it's a damn fine recipe and a great morning or afternoon bread, spread with butter or olive oil or (Felipe's choice, how I've brainwashed him!) peanut butter. The recipe is originally from Balthazar in New York, giving it instant cred anywhere; the Balthazar version has coarse sugar sprinkled on top, which I left off in the desire to preserve the "breadiness" of the bread (and in homage to the Turtle Bread version, which does not have sugar on top), but you can certainly do whatever you please.

Chocolate Bread
     adapted from Balthazar Bakery

For starter:
1/4 tsp. active-dry yeast
1 c. warm water
5 oz. all-purpose flour

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.  Stir in the flour until completely incorporated.  Cover loosely and let sit 4 to 6 hours at room temperature.  (After this time, you can store the starter in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)

For dough:
12 oz. all-purpose flour
1 c. warm water
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (I used non-alkalized, that is to say not Dutch-processed)
1/3 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast (or 2 teaspoons active-dry yeast)
1/4 c. bread starter (1/4 c. of the starter you've made above; discard the rest or keep it in the fridge for other baking)
1 1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, in 1/4" pieces (about 3/4 cup)

If you have a stand mixer, combine the yeast, flour, cocoa, sugar, water, and starter in the stand mixer bowl.  Using the dough hook, mix on low speed until a rough dough forms. Cover the bowl, leaving it on the mixer, and let rest for 15 minutes. Uncover the bowl.  Add the salt and butter in pieces, mixing at medium-low speed, until the dough develops a sheen, about 10 minutes. Add the chocolate, and continue mixing on medium speed until incorporated, about 2 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat all sides.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
If kneading by hand (if you are, like me, woefully stand mixer-less), in a large bowl beat yeast, flour, cocoa, sugar, water and starter together with a wooden spoon until you have a rough dough. Cover the bowl and let it rest for 15 minutes. Uncover the bowl. Add the salt and butter in pieces, using your hand to work the dough (it will be messy and sticky, just keep working it until it smooths out); once the butter is incorporated, transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and continue kneading, until the dough develops a sheen, about 10 minutes. Add the chocolate and knead just to incorporate (you don't want the chocolate to melt too much into the dough). Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly-floured surface, and fold in thirds, like a letter.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, butter and flour one 9 x 5 in. loaf pan, knocking out any extra flour.
Divide the dough into three equal sections.  Round each portion into a smooth ball, and place the balls side by side in the prepared loaf pan, smooth side up.  Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled again, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350º F.  Position rack in the center of the oven. When the loaf has fully risen, put the pan in the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until fully baked.  Turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Chocolate bread will keep, in an airtight container, up to 3 days, and will freeze well for about 1 month.

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