by Stephanie Zonis
1 loaf, about 8 servings
You think you don't have time to make bread, what with kneading it and two risings and all, but this is different. It's a batter bread, so there's no kneading and just one rising, during which the batter demands absolutely no attention. The bread itself is a round loaf that rises quite a bit during baking; it's not too sweet and very chocolatey, and the dried cherries go beautifully with all that chocolate. I prefer to use dried red tart cherries that have been lightly sweetened (the ingredients will probably be dried red tart cherries, sugar, and sunflower or other oil). These cherries have a great sweet-tart flavor, and they are available in supermarkets, often in 3 ounce bags or in bulk. Make sure they are soft and pliable, not dry and hard.
You'll need a 1 quart soufflé dish for baking; it must not be of a dark color. Mine is white porcelain, measuring 7-3/4 inches top diameter by a smidge over 2-1/2 inches in height. I always use a thermometer to measure the water temperature for "proofing" the yeast, as water that is too hot can kill it while water that isn't warm enough may cause the yeast to seem inactive when it's really fine. As is the case with many yeast breads, this is best eaten when very fresh, though the bread can be stored airtight at room temperature for a day or two, then toasted before eating. It is possible to freeze this, although it dries out and you must reheat it before consuming it. To dress this up, I like to sift confectioners' sugar lightly over the top just before serving.
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup plus 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar, divided
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder
3 Tbsp. unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 cup warm water (110 to 120 degrees F)
1 pkg. (0.25 ounces) active dry yeast
1 egg, graded "large", beaten to combine
(preferably at room temperature)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1/4 tsp. sifted baking soda
1/2 cup (3 ounces) semisweet
OR bittersweet chocolate chunks OR chips
1/2 cup (3 ounces) dried red tart cherries (lightly sweetened)
In small OR large bowl of electric stand mixer (fitted with paddle beater, if available), combine 1 cup flour (reserve remainder), 1/2 cup sugar (reserve remainder), nonfat dry milk powder, cocoa powder, and salt. On low speed, mix until combined. Set aside.
In small bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine water, yeast, and reserved 1/2 teaspoon sugar. with fork, beat to mix well; set aside in warm place for 5 to 10 minutes. Check often. If, at the end of 10 minutes, mixture does not have a substantial foamy head on top of it, discard; start over with a new package of yeast and the same amounts of sugar and water. (This step, called "proofing" the yeast, shows you if your active dry yeast is, in fact, active.) Once proofed, add the yeast mixture, along with the beaten egg and melted butter, to the dry ingredients.
Beat at low speed until flour is incorporated. Scrape bowl and beater(s) thoroughly with rubber spatula. Beat mixture at medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping bowl and beater(s) once or twice during this time. Mixture will still be very thin.
Add reserved 3/4 cup flour and beat in at low speed until incorporated. Scrape bowl and beater(s). Remove bowl from mixer. Cover tightly with plastic wrap; set aside in warm place for 1 hour. Batter will not double in size during this rising time—in fact, it won't do much of anything—OK.
While the batter is resting, chop the chocolate into chunks, if necessary (chunks should be no larger than about 1/3 inch on a side, and you can use any bits of chocolate that flake off while you're chopping it). Snip the cherries into halves with kitchen shears. Combine the two in a small bowl; cover tightly and set aside.
Prepare the soufflé dish: cut a round of wax paper to fit the bottom of the dish. Butter the dish, then place the wax paper round on the bottom; butter the paper. Set aside. Tear off enough heavy-duty aluminum foil (or use a doubled length of regular weight foil) to form a "tent" over the soufflé dish; this "tent" must be long enough so the front and back edges can rest on the oven rack. About 15 minutes before the hour of batter-resting is finished, adjust rack to center of oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees F.When the batter has rested for an hour, remove the cover from the bowl. Sprinkle on the sifted baking soda and stir in with a large spoon until blended. Add the chocolate chunks and cherries, and stir in just until evenly distributed. The batter will be stiff and a sticky mess—perfect.
By large spoonfuls, place the batter around the edges of the prepared soufflé dish. Wet the back of the large spoon with cold water, then smooth the top surface of the batter. Continue to wet the back of the spoon frequently with cold water while you flatten the top surface of the batter. The idea is to have a relatively smooth top surface, and you want a trench in the middle of the dish, with the batter somewhat higher on the sides than in the center.
Bake 20 minutes in preheated oven. Carefully reach in and place foil tent over soufflé dish. The top of the tent must not rest on the baking bread, or it will stick! Close oven door. Bake bread 25 to 34 minutes longer (total baking time is 45 to 54 minutes). When done, a toothpick inserted about an inch from the center will emerge almost clean; if the toothpick you insert emerges covered with melted chocolate, you've hit a chunk—just try a different spot. The top of the bread will have risen above the soufflé dish and probably have some cracks in it—OK. Remove from oven.
With flat knife, carefully loosen bread from soufflé dish. Very gently turn bread out of dish onto one potholder-covered hand; with other hand, carefully peel wax paper from bottom of loaf. Gently place loaf on cooling rack. Be careful! Freshly-baked bread is very delicate. You'll notice that the crust of this bread is very dark.
Cool. I like to serve this when it is still slightly warm. To cut, use a large, sharp, serrated knife and a sawing motion. Just before serving, dust each slice lightly with confectioner's sugar. Cool to room temperature, then store airtight or freeze.
To reheat, cut 1/2 inch thick slices (if bread has been frozen, defrost, still in wrappings, first). Reheat in microwave oven at 50% (medium) power for a short interval just until warm Alternatively, preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a shallow baking pan with aluminum foil. Stand cut slices upright on foil; heat for 6 to 12 minutes, or just until warm. Dust slices with confectioners' sugar just before serving, if desired. Either way, be careful! The melted chocolate in the slices may be hot.
Copyright © 2001 Francesca Chocolate Productions. All Rights Reserved.
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This page created April 2001
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