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Every year, I get in the mood to bake holiday breads. One year, Wife did a fruitcake (and I don’t mean me). It filled part of our refrigerator for eight weeks. And bent a shelf. I prefer breads which can be eaten (as opposed to ones used as doorstops), if not immediately, within a day or two. Such as stollen or chocolate bread.

When I first ran across the recipe in an Italian cookbook, I was a little unsure. Afterall, a chocolate bread would be sickeningly sweet, right? I tried the recipe and discovered (much to my chagrin) I was wrong. So, without further ado, here is a recipe for chocolate bread. It is quick (a single rise bread), easy (as long as you are willing to knead the heck out of it), and delicious. And it is wonderful for gifts (I baked six this afternoon, and have ten more rising right now as I type).

Pane del CioccolatoEdit

4 cups bread flour
4 cups all purpose flour

6 Tbsp butter 2 tsp salt

8 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (I usually use Giardelli, but Hershey’s works well too)

2 Tbsp live dry yeast

10 Tbsp white sugar

3 cups hot (ca 110 degrees F) water (give or take a little (some flour is really dry and you may need more))

2 cups good chocolate chips (milk or semi-sweet (or a mixture of both (do not use white chocolate chips -- they disappear)))

In a large bowl, mix together the flours, salt, cocoa, yeast and sugar. Cube the butter and cut into the flour. Using a wooden spoon, or (my method) a large mixer with a dough hook, mix in the water until the dough begins to cling together. Knead on a lightly floured counter (or with a dough hook) for about 10 to fifteen minutes. Knead the snot out of it. Knead it hard. Punish it. Beat it. Slam it (but do not break your counter (trust me on that one)). When the dough is smooth and silky and feels ‘alive’ in your hands, gently knead in the chocolate chips.

Cut the dough into either five or ten approximately equal sized lumps. Knead each dough ball and shape into a thick, short baton (for ten loaves, they should be about 2″ by 2″ by 5″). Place on two lightly greased (Pam spray works nicely) jelly roll pans. Brush the tops with a light vegetable oil (canola or corn) and cover loosely with wax paper or plastic wrap. Let it rise for two to four hours until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. When the oven is hot, place the bread in the oven (use the middle shelves if you can) for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 and let it bake for another 20 or so minutes.

Pull the bread when they are cooked through (the bottoms will make a hollow sound when rapped with your knuckles (gently!)), brush with melted butter, and let cool on wire racks.

The bread is excellent toasted with butter and cherry preserves. Or, serve at room temperature with cream cheese. It is an excellent desert or breakfast bread.

Enjoy!

(This is another good bread for a ‘first’ yeast bread try. The amount of sugar means the yeast bounces quickly and the dough comes alive in your hands.)

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