Adapted from The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger
Pinch of sugar
1/4 cup warm water (105º to 115º)
1 1/2 teaspoons of dry active yeast*
1/4 cup white, granulated sugar
2 3/4 to 3 cups unbleached, all purpose flour or bread flour
1/4 cup of Dutch process cocoa powder**
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup warm 1 1/2% to whole milk (105º to 115º)
1/4 cup warm water (105º to 115º)
3 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 large egg at room temperature
2.5 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate pieces**
1 ounce milk chocolate, chopped into small pieces**
Place the 1/4 cup of warm water and pinch of sugar in a bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and stir until incorporated. Be careful of the temperature of the water because if it is too hot it will kill the yeast and if it is too cold they will not activate. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes until a foam forms on the top. If it does not foam or even bubble up then the mixture is no good because the yeast is not active. If you think the yeast is still good then try again being careful with the temperature of the water. If it fails again, try a new batch of yeast.
Starting with 2 cups of flour along with sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder and salt in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Add in the 1/4 cup of water, milk, butter and egg into the dry mixture and beat until smooth. Add the yeast mixture and beat for about 2 minutes until smooth. Add the chocolate pieces and then add the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and is shaggy looking. (Hensperger recommends using a wooden spoon to incorporate chocolate pieces and the remaining flour but I found using a paddle and then switching to the dough hook worked fine.)
Change the paddle attachment to the dough hook. After machine kneading for 5 minutes, the dough should be smooth, slightly tacky and spring back when pressed. (For best results, remove dough from mixer after 4 minutes and finish the final minute of kneading on a floured board. This way you will also get a better feel for the dough.) Alternatively, of course, the kneading can be done by hand and takes the same amount of time.
Place the dough into a greased bowl and cover with plastic or a damp tea towel. Set in a warm place and allow to rise until double in size, approximately 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Gently punch the dough down and form into a free form loaf or loaf pan or round baking dish. Allow to rise for about 30 minutes. Have the oven preheated to 375º and place the loaf into the oven for 40 to 45 minutes. The bread is done when it had a good crust and when a cake tester come out clean.
*A package of yeast contains 2 1/4 teaspoons or 1/4 ounce of yeast. If you bake bread more than a couple of times a year, look for the jarred yeast in the refrigerated section of the grocery store so you will not be confined to the packages. Keep it in you refrigerator and definitely check the expiration date before you buy!
**I used Cacao di Pernigotti which is an Italian dutch processed cocoa powder that I bought at Sonoma Williams for $15.00. It wasn't cheap but I am loving the flavor in this bread other recipes so it is worth the cost. I used Callibut bittersweet/dark and milk chocolate. The grocery store that I go to sells it around Thanksgiving and Christmas and I stock up but it definitely doesn't last till next holiday season :-( so I will be on the prowl for more soon.
Notes: I added orange peel and 1/2 to 3/4
cup of dried cherries soaked in Grand Marnier (any good orange liquor
would do). The orange peel was added with the flour and the cherries
after the chocolate pieces. It had a lovely aroma and the tartness of
the cherries was just divine. A nice combination: a snifter of Grand
Marnier and a slice orange scented chocolate bread!
This recipe doubles easily for two loaves and yes, they freeze well.