This past weekend was one of the quieter ones I’ve had in a long time. Since my husband was out of town on a much-deserved camping trip with the boys, I took advantage of this chance for some “Me” time. I banned anxiety from creeping in at the thought of not crossing enough items off my to-do list and did exactly what I wanted–not much. This is not very easy for me to do as worrying is second nature to me. These last few days, though, I happily tended to my herbs and tomato plants, did some shopping (something I haven’t done since starting this blog), and made this Pan di Cioccolato.
Out of the possibly hundreds of recipes I’ve bookmarked and/or printed to try over the years, this was near the top of the list, eclipsed only by the goal of making my own guanciale (tall order, I know) and my own fresh pasta. I never even had an actual recipe; I’ve just never forgotten that I wanted to make it. So when David Lebovitz posted his version of chocolate bread last month, I knew the time had come. This recipe was originally intended to be included in his new book but was eventually replaced by another. No matter–I ordered it anyway and it now sits with his ice cream book on my shelf, both soon to be baptized in my kitchen.
His recipe was a phenomenal success. At least it hit all the right notes with me. The bread was chocolatey, a little soft but not cake-like. It wasn’t sweet in the way a brownie would be; it’s still bread after all. Rather, the sweetness came from the chocolate chunks/chips that dotted the entire loaf. The walnuts gave each bite a nice crunch, a fitting complement to the meltingly soft chocolate pieces since I couldn’t wait to dig in until the loaf cooled down. I did take some liberties with the baking instructions but I followed the ingredients and preparation as closely as I could. I’ll explain my deviations in greater detail below but I’m happy to say that the flavor was not compromised at all. What might have suffered was the appearance of the finished product because I divided the dough into two pieces to get two loaves. Consequently, I didn’t get as tall a loaf as was intended in the original recipe. Each loaf ended up being only as tall as a large biscotti when sliced. While I was still very happy with the outcome, I’ll suppress my inner control freak next time and follow the directions exactly. I would recommend that you do the same. This was all I hoped it would be and more–a sophisticated treat under the guise of a lumpy, brown, seemingly-undercooked ball. Check out the link above to see the way Mr. Lebovitz intended it to look.
Before I give you the directions, I’ll note also that the biggest drawback to my inability to follow directions (besides the shorter loaf) is that I ended up with some dark spots on my loaves. When I divided the dough, I picked up each half and shaped it into a little boule (a rustic loaf-shaped ball). Since I was afraid of the dough sticking to my hands, I lightly sprayed them with cooking oil, not realizing that this would accelerate the darkening of the surface of the loaf. Fortunately, since this is meant to be a dark bread (in both flavor and appearance) the “toasted” parts did not take away from the finished product.
Pan di Cioccolato (Chocolate Bread)
* Please visit the link above for Mr. Lebovitz’s exact instructions. I’ve listed the ingredient list here since I’m noting the substitutions I had to make. I followed his directions exactly until Step 6, so I’ll just give you what I did instead.
- 3/4 cup whole or low-fat milk, heated until just tepid
- 1 envelope active dry yeast (1/4 ounce or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 4 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
- 3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee or espresso powder (optional)
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt (I used kosher salt)
- 2 cups bread flour
- 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli unsweetened)
- 3/4 cup chocolate chips or coarsely chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (I used what I had so half bittersweet chunks and half semi-sweet chips)
- 1/2 cup toasted pecans, walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
6. I skipped this part because I chose to bake the loaves on a pizza stone.
7. I split my dough in two, shaped them into small loaves and allowed them to rise on top of parchment paper.
9. I baked my loaves on a pizza stone, following the process that I use for no-knead artisan bread. My loaves cooked in slightly less time but I don’t think this was an improvement to the original instructions.