That weekend I happened to be buried under editing and grading and couldn't figure out how I was going to spend any time baking. But Claire happened to have some free time, and she wanted to bake. So I asked her to make this chocolate bread.
Julia also had some time and offered to do the food styling and photography. Can you tell?
One thing that Claire really appreciated as she made this bread--she had never made yeast bread before--were Maida's extremely specific and detailed instructions. When I write down the recipes, I probably leave out steps that are obvious to me but not to beginning bakers. But Maida really holds the baker's hand. I still had to show Claire how to knead bread, though.
Claire followed the recipe to the letter, except for the raisins. I wanted raisins, though, so we put raisins in half the dough and just walnuts in the other half. That's why the bread looks a little funny--it's two balls of dough in one loaf.
This is the last yeast bread recipe in the book, and I'm kind of sad about that--as I've mentioned before, Maida's yeast breads always turn out really well and are fun to work with.
This bread is really interesting--it's not a sweet bread necessarily and it's not super chocolatey. It just has an interesting, complex flavor and bitter edge that allows it to go in many directions. I liked it a lot with butter and honey, but I also really liked it with a creamy ripe cheese (a Brillat-Savarin). Julia toasted hers and ate it with almond butter. We put in some dried cherries because we didn't have enough raisins, and that was a nice touch as well. So this is a great bread for breakfast or a cheese course, but it's definitely not dessert.
Here's the recipe. Make it when you have some time and want to try something different.
4 c. (20 oz.) bread or all-purpose flour (you can use some whole-wheat)
1 envelope instant ("rapid-rise") yeast
1/2 c. (3.5 oz.) sugar
1 t. salt
2/3 c. (2 oz.) cocoa powder
2 t. instant coffee (or if you have coffee made, you can use 1/4 c. coffee instead of the water below)
1/4 c. (2 oz.) warm water
1 c. (8 oz.) milk
2 T. (1 oz.) butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 t. vanilla
1 c. (4 oz.) chopped walnuts
1/2 c. (2.5 oz.) raisins or dried cherries
In the bowl of a mixer, mix the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, cocoa powder, and instant coffee. Add the water, milk, butter, eggs, and vanilla and beat until well mixed. Stir in the nuts and raisins. Either switch to the dough hook or take the dough out and put it on a floured surface and knead it until smooth and elastic. Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled--at least an hour. Punch down the dough, knead a bit, and shape into a loaf by rolling it out into an oval and rolling that oval up jelly-roll style. Put the loaf in a buttered loaf pan. Cover with buttered plastic wrap and let rise another hour or so, again until doubled (Claire said that hers never really doubled, but it turned out well anyway).
When the dough has almost finished its rising time, heat the oven to 350. When it's preheated, put the bread in and set the timer for 20-30 minutes. At the end of that time, cover the bread with foil so that the top doesn't burn while the bread bakes, and let it bake for another 30-40 minutes--total baking time should be about an hour. I just learned today that the proper temperature for bread is 210 F, so if you have a thermometer, take your bread's temperature to make sure it's done.
When the bread is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool 5-10 minutes. Unmold it from the pan and let cool on a wire rack. It's probably best to let this cool at least an hour before you slice into it.