Chocolate Bread

chocolate dough

When I got the opportunity to re-release my first two books, which had gone out of print, my publisher and I decided that they should be combined into one brand-new volume, Ready for Dessert, with new photos and more than a dozen new recipes added. So I made a master list of all the recipes, then chose my absolute favorites: the ones I’d found myself making over and over again during the years invariably rose to the top.

oeufs frais eggs

I had to choose le top du top, as they say in France. Then I sent the list to my editor, who worked for many years at a food magazine known for their exactitude and trying a recipe over and over and over again with every variation (a bit crazy, like me), and we went back and forth for a while, until we agreed on the ones for the final book.

chocolate batter chocolate bread batter with nuts

I originally imagined I would sit down and cut and paste recipes, putting them in order, and maybe adding a few notes here and there. But as I scrolled through the recipes, many of which I hadn’t made in over a decade, I started reading through them more carefully. And soon I realized that I was not just making mental notes, but I was jumping up from my desk chair and heading to the kitchen, taking butter out of the refrigerator to soften, and running to the market to buy eggs by the flat.

Then, of course, there were those inevitable slips of paper that I make notes on, that became scattered around my apartment, finding their way into various files or transcribed hastily onto my computer with doughy fingers. (I am still scraping chocolate off my keyboard, by the way.)

As I mentioned in the introduction to the book, recipes aren’t set in stone—which is a good thing, because otherwise using cookbooks would be a herculean task, sometimes when you look at something with a fresh perspective, you have those “Eureka!” moments.

first yeast yeast-risen

This Chocolate Bread was in my second book, Ripe for Dessert, and when I was picking and choosing which recipes would make the cut, I had an overload of chocolate cakes and other treats in the book, including cream-filled Chocolate Cupcakes dipped in chocolate ganache. So this one didn’t make it.

shaping chocolate bread

Another reason was that I didn’t want people to make this and expect it to be like a decadent chocolate torte or rich chocolate pound cake. It’s bread, and the resulting loaf will be firmer and less-buttery than a traditional cake. What you should expect, though, is the most amazing chocolate aroma wafting from your oven during the excruciating time it takes to bake and cool down. And it does make a wonderful afternoon snack, with a strong cup of coffee.

shaping bread1

So I thought it’d be fun to give it a makeover here on the site. When giving it another look, I tried it a few times. Okay, who am I kidding. I re-did it about eight or nine times, exhausting every possibility I could think of.

cocoa and flour chopped chocolate

What did I try? Well, since you asked…

1. Egg Yolks vs Whole Eggs: Yolks are almost pure fat, so they make things moister. And I thought maybe an extra yolk would make a substantial difference.

Verdict? Not enough difference to merit have 2 egg whites leftover.

2. All-Purpose flour vs Bread Flour: Because bread flour isn’t something everyone has on hand, I wanted to see if it was vital for the bread.

Verdict? I hate to make you go to the store, but bread flour has more gluten and you’ll get a better rise if you use it.

3. Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder vs Natural Cocoa Powder: I dipped into my stash of American cocoa powder, trying it with both Hershey’s and an artisan brand. Then I tried it using Dutch-process cocoa and the different in flavor was pretty profound.

Verdict? Dutch-process. (The bread made with natural cocoa didn’t rise as well, which makes me think the acid in the cocoa somehow interfered with the yeast action.)

4. Nuts vs No Nuts: Originally I made the recipe with nuts because, well, I like nuts and chocolate together. But I was on the fence about them in the end. So while they were nice and crunchy in there, you don’t have to use them.

Verdict? You choose.

5. Instant vs Active Dry Yeast: Instant yeast isn’t widely available in France yet, so I didn’t try it. Fresh yeast, however, is. (You can ask your local boulanger for some.) Call me a stickler, but I used active dry yeast.

Verdict? If you want to swap one out for another, check the links at the end of the recipe for substitutions.

6. Butter vs Oil: Because butter is part water, about 20%, I thought using a neutral-tasting vegetable oil might make the chocolate bread moister. And thought that maybe the flavor of the butter might not be that important with all that chocolate anyways. But the loaf came out with an odd, slightly greasy taste, and I went back to butter.

Verdict? Oil works, but doesn’t taste very good so I’m sticking with butter. Perhaps a nut oil might be something to try, but am guessing the flavor might be rather strong for most tastes.

7. Milk vs Water: Originally I used water, but decided to give milk a try, since bread doughs made with milk have a softer crust and are a bit more tender.

Verdict? Whole milk works best, but low-fat milk or water is okay, too.

8. Chocolate Chips vs Chopped Chocolate: Chocolate chips are designed not to melt, and while that’s sometimes an advantage, I don’t mind softer bits of chocolate embedded in the bread. So I chopped mine up myself. And besides, I only have one bag of chocolate chips left that I brought back from the states, and I didn’t want to use them up quite yet.

Verdict? I prefer chocolate chunks, but chocolate chips are fine to use.

shaping loaf

I also made the dough a bit softer, and even considered trying a no-knead variation, although I decided that I actually like kneading bread. And also my friends (and neighbors…and vendors at the market…and delivery men…) were beginning to request something other than loaves of chocolate bread with a few slices taken out. So I decided it was time to stop.

chocolate bread

You also might try slicing up a loaf and using it in your favorite bread pudding recipe (or the Orange-Almond Bread Pudding in Ready for Dessert). Or using it for a batch of French toast, if you’re one of those people that needs to get your chocolate fix first thing in the morning—as I must confess, I often do.

Chocolate Bread

One 9-inch (23 cm) loaf

After much experimenting, I opted for a dough that much softer than the one I’m kneading up in the photos. And I eventually I settled on one that was soft enough to be scraped into the baking pan, just as is.

Use very good cocoa powder; here I used Valrhona, since I think the darker color and strong taste are important in the loaf. But another brand of Dutch-process cocoa should work fine, too.

If you don’t have the coffee powder, you can leave it out. I like it since it add a subtle boost to the chocolate flavor. This recipe works best with bread flour, but if you can’t get it, all-purpose flour works well, too. I’ve made a few notes at the end of the recipe about yeast and flour substitutions.

  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) whole or low-fat milk, heated until just tepid
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast (1/4 ounce, or 2 1/4 teaspoons)—see Note
  • 6 tablespoons (75 g) sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (55 g) butter, salted or unsalted
  • 3 ounces (85 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso powder (optional)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cups (280 g) bread flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup (3 1/2 ounces, 90 g) chocolate chips or coarsely chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup (70 g) toasted pecans, walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the milk. Add one tablespoon (11 g) sugar, then set aside in a warm place for 10 to 15 minutes, until bubbles form on the surface.

2. While the yeast is activating, in a small saucepan, melt the butter and 3 ounces (85 g) chocolate over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir occasionally, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat.

3. Once the yeast mixture is frothy, mix in the remaining sugar, the instant coffee (if using), the egg, vanilla, and sea salt.

4. Stir in half the flour and cocoa powder, then the melted butter and chocolate, then the remaining flour mixture, stirring until well-incorporated. If using a stand mixer, attach the dough hook and beat for five minutes, until smooth. If making by hand, mix vigorously with a flexible spatula for the same amount of time. The dough will seem quite moist, resembling sticky brownie batter when ready.

5. Cover the bowl and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours.

6. Butter a 9-inch (23 cm) loaf pan.

7. Stir in the chopped chocolate and nuts, if using. Then use a spatula to fold the dough over on itself in the bowl for about thirty seconds, then transfer it to the buttered pan, pressing a bit to spread it to the corners. Let rise in a warm place for one hour.

8. Ten minutes before you’re ready to bake the bread, preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC.)

9. Bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes, until it feels done and sounds hollow when you tap it. You can stick an instant-read thermometer in the bottom if you’re unsure; the bread is done when the temperature reads 180ºF (82Cº).

Notes: The equivalent amount of fresh yeast to one packet of dry yeast is .6 ounces. I’ve not used instant or quick-rising yeast (also called rapid-rise, or levure boulangère instantanée in France), but if you do try it, please let me know how it works out. According to various websites from yeast supplers (see below), you can use it in place of regular yeast. If you have questions about yeast, active dry or instant, I’ve included a few links below to the websites of various yeast companies, which you should find helpful.

In France, there really isn’t any equivalent of bread flour. Due the to proliferation of bread machines, one can find farine pour pain or farine boulangère, but it usually has leavener already added. There’s a ‘hack’ for making bread flour, in the links below.

chocolate bread dough

Related Links and Posts

It’s Ready!

Yeast FAQs (Red Star Yeast)

Bread World (Fleischmann’s Yeast)

Ingredients for American Baking in Paris

Chocolate FAQs

Cocoa Powder FAQs

How to Make Bread Flour (eHow)

King Arthur Bread Flour (King Arthur Baker’s Catalog)

James Beard’s Amazing Persimmon Bread

Banana Bread

The Grainy Breads of Paris



121 comments

  • jen: It does smell good, doesn’t it? I loved the aroma that came out of my oven when I made it. Each and every time..

    Julie: It does not rise as much as traditional bread, I think because of all the chocolate in it. It should be like the texture in the last picture, not cake-like, but somewhat like a yeasted cake. If it’s crumbly, you might have overbaked it. You can use it for bread pudding!

    Another Foodie: I don’t mind leftover egg whites, since I have a lot of recipes that use just egg whites. Or I make egg white omelettes : )

  • I started reading the post thinking, “I missed this one in the book,” but all was made clear. AND I just happen to have some whole milk in the fridge since I just made ice cream from The Perfect Scoop to take to a dinner party tonight. Now I know what to do with it!

  • “And also my friends (and neighbors…and vendors at the market…and delivery men…) were beginning to request something other than loaves of chocolate bread with a few slices taken out. So I decided it was time to stop”
    Ha! I’m still reconciling myself to sharing bread this way. And I’m really stuck on cake. How do you share part of a cake?

  • Thanks for sharing this, David. I have a question about the recipe. Chocolate is listed twice in the ingredients, then mentioned in steps 2 and 7. Is it to be added once in a melted state, and then again later in chunks? Because the two quantities are so similar, does it matter which quantity is which?

  • Ken: In recipes, ingredients are listed in order that they’re used. So the 3 ounces (85 g) of chocolate gets melted, and the chopped chocolate, listed at the end of the ingredient lists, gets mixed in at the end.

    Joy: People are used to getting cakes from me with one piece taken out!

  • Oh, yum yum yum! I want!

  • David, I tried it, it rose nicely, it tastes wonderful, but it’s more cakey than bready. I baked per your recipe, with the bread flour, to an internal temperature of 180F, but I baked at 6000 feet. Is the bread fairly fragile, due to the butter and chocolate in it, or may that have to do with altitude?

  • The question of Dutch process cocoa vs natural cocoa has come up before when I’ve wanted to make a delicious-sounding recipe, so I decided to do some research to see if I could puzzle out the chemistry of it once and for all. After said research, I believe I can now say with some confidence that perhaps using natural cocoa didn’t make the bread rise as well in one of your experiments because as an acid, it needs an alkali such as baking soda in order to prompt a leavening action in the oven when baked, which causes the batter to rise (source: http://whatscookingamerica.net/Q-A/CocoaTypes.htm). Your recipe doesn’t call for any baking soda, so there wasn’t anything for the acid to interact with and thus cause the rising action.

    That’s my unproven/unprofessional theory, anyway. I will be experimenting with adding baking soda to the recipe and using natural cocoa, not just because I currently have the latter on hand (and supposedly has a more complex chocolate flavor), but also because now I just have to know!

  • I made this with instant yeast, following the substitutions listed in “The Bakers Dozen” (remember that one?), and proofed the yeast first as the book recommended for sweet breads. You’re right, not quite bread, not pound cake, a unique texture. The taste reminds me of a chocolate cheesecake – perhaps some tang from the yeast?

  • What a fantastic idea. I love that this bread is indeed bread, and not a super sweet loaf. Can’t wait to try it.

  • i remember my bread baking instructor teaching us baking by percentages. one should use 3% fresh yeast or 2% dry yeast or 1% instant yeast BY WEIGHT in relation to the flour weight(100%). i hope i explained that correctly.

    david,

    you mentioned that this dough is softer… what did you change to make it so? would the final dough texture before baking still be sticky or just more “gloopy” and unable to hold a definite firmer shape? would this change make the final product more cake-like, as mentioned by your other readers?

    thanks!

  • Thank-you for all those extra comments. What a treat to see those sorts of debates addressed so honestly.

  • There’s a great little boulangerie on rue de Charenton, between rue Taine and blvd de Reuilly. They make a fantastic chocolate bread that I miss terribly. It’s more like a sourdough with chocolate chunks. They sell it as a petite pain and you can find them teasing pedestrians on weekend mornings with their breads.

    I wish I knew the name of the boulangerie, it’s near the great fromagerie. It seems to be owned and run by a small group of young women that are very passionate about their bread and pastries.

    Just out of curiousity, have you tried this place and if so, how does it match your recipe?

  • Hurrah! I’ve been wanting to reproduce some chocolate rolls I used to get in North Carolina, and I think this will be a great starting point. Thank you!

  • David, this is an awesome post. I love your idea of using the bread in bread pudding or for French toast. How marvelous. Heading to the OtherWorldly Kitchen now to bake a loaf. I’m assuming this is a perfect main course for dinner, right? With a few strawberries of course. :-) … Susan

  • Do you think I could let this rise in the fridge overnight, then add the nuts/chips after letting it come to room temp and bake?

  • At first, I thought it was a quickbread, but no, it’s yeast bread. Now I’m even more intrigued. I’m thinking some orange zest would perfume it really nicely and complement the chocolate (if you like choc + citrus, which I do). Thanks for the recipe, David.
    I landed in Paris last Friday but only had 1 hour to catch my connecting flight :o( I was able to see the Eiffel tower from my airplane window though… Did you see me wave? :o)

  • Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe! I made 2 loaves – with bread flour and with gluten-free flour – both great, though I normally don’t eat chocolate!
    I doubled the flour quantity, otherwise it was almost liquid.
    Thank you thank you thank you! Will sure make again!

  • It’s funny – for years, it seemed all you could find in the grocery stores (at least in upstate NY) was Dutch processed cocoa. Now, it seems all you can find is natural. I can’t even find plain Hershey’s cocoa any more – just the Special Dark, which is a blend of Dutch and natural. For those in the US outside of major cities who have the same problem, Penzeys offers both by mail order.

    Bread flour is easy to find in the US these days. Even Super Wal-Mart sells King Arthur brand, and I think they sell other brands as well.

  • Hi David,

    This looks gorgeous. I stumbled upon your recipes and now I am so hooked. After your tests and experiments, it would be a shame if I wasn’t going to try this soon. Just a quick question first… for this step “If using a stand mixer, attach the dough hook and beat for five minutes, until smooth.”… do I have to mix until it’s smooth and elastic i.e. pass the so-called membrane test?

    Ronni
    The Novice “Baker” from Singapore

  • It took me a while to finally get around trying out this recipe, but I know I’ll be making this over and over again. This bread was absolutely delicious and incredibly moist. I gave it an extra twist by adding a bit of banana bread batter on top. Thanks so much once again!