The recipe comes from an excellent book on bread-baking I recently discovered, How to Make Bread by South-African born and UK-based baker Emmanuel Hadjiandreou. Here are a few of the things I love about this book:
- It stresses that “accuracy is crucial in bread baking” and encourages the baker to use a precision electronic scale
- It lists all quantities in metric weights first, followed by American cups and/or ounces, tablespoons, etc.
- All recipes are illustrated with clear explanations and gorgeous pictures (some of the pages can be seen online on this blog)
- All recipes are mixed by hand (stretch-and-fold method) but they are wrist-friendly because the quantities are always on the small side (the downside is that the yield is smaller than what I am used to and I am tempted to just double the amount of ingredients but then the wrist-friendly aspect becomes less obvious. A professional baker would also tell you that because the amounts are small, there is no mass-effect which makes it harder to coax all possible flavors out of the grain. Life is all about compromise, isn’t it?)
- The book explains the basics of bread making, then offers recipes for yeasted breads, sourdoughs, flatbreads, soda breads and pastries (among which pains au chocolat for which the reader is shown how to make his or her own chocolate batons). There is even a gluten-free bread recipe with two variations (I love the fact that it doesn’t use any xantham gum or other barbarious sounding binder). Hadjiandreou writes that he learned his trade as a baker in a German-style bakery and he includes a recipe for dark rye bread which he says is one of his all-time favorites. There are also wheat-free breads, including a prune and pepper rye bread that looks marvelous and is definitely on my to-bake list! He also includes an award-winning recipe for a marzipan stollen
- I find How to Make Bread a great resource for both new and experienced bakers and if I ever teach bread-baking, I would be tempted to use it as a workbook since it covers a lot of ground in a friendly manner and makes home baking look deliciously rewarding (which it is, I can testify to that!).
Although I have already baked quite a few recipes from the book (including a pretty pink-dotted beetroot sourdough for the Easter dinner bread basket), I am showcasing the chocolate bread since I recently made and froze a new batch in anticipation of our grandkids’ arrival on spring break at the end of the week. It is a kid-friendly bread that even adults not blessed (or cursed, depending on the point of view) with a sweet tooth can enjoy, all levain-based and chokeful of good-for-you currants. I used bittersweet chocolate chips as that’s all I had on-hand (Hadjiandreou suggests using milk or semisweet which we would probably have found too sweet anyway). This blog entry comes with a warning though: once you have made this bread, you’ll likely find yourself compulsorily making it again and again.
Ingredients: (for two small-loaves)
- 200 g Zante currants
- 80 g semisweet chocolate chips
- 330 g unbleached all-purpose flour (Hadjiandreou says to use “strong or bread flour” which contains a high amount of protein (up to 17%) to trap the carbon dioxide during fermentation and give the bread a good texture. That would be considered too high here in the US but then our flours are quite different. To be on the safe side, if you do live in the UK, your best bet is to follow Hadjiandreou’s advice)
- 8 g salt
- 20 g cocoa powder
- 170 g white levain (sourdough starter) at 100% hydration*
- 250 g warm water
* The starter I used is one that my friend Teresa from Northwest Sourdough kindly sent me when I came back from my trip to France (saving me the tedious task of reactivating my dehydrated levain). Appropriately called Northwest Starter because it was originally cultured near Willapa Bay, Washington, it is wonderfully fragrant and so active that I was able to bake with it after just one feeding. No wonder it was once featured in a TV show (in 2006 during the “What’s Cooking?” segment on KNOE TV Channel 8/CBS affiliate). Why, if I had been the one to capture these wild
workhorses yeasts, I would probably have tried to get them on Animal Planet! Well done, Teresa, and thank you!
Method (slightly adapted):
- Mix the currants and chocolate and set aside
- In one small mixing bowl, mix the flour, salt and cocoa powder together. This is the dry mixture
- In a larger mixing bowl, mix the sourdough starter and water together until well combined. This is the wet mixture
- Add the dry and chocolate-currant mixtures to the wet mixture and mix until incorporated
- Cover and let stand for 10 minutes
- After 10 minutes, stretch and fold the dough inside the bowl by going twice around the bowl with four stretches and foldings at each 90° turn (8 stretches/foldings in all)
- Let rest 10 minutes again. Repeat twice
- Complete a fourth stretch and fold cycle and let the dough rest one hour (I actually let it rest closer to three hours before it was fermented enough, probably because my house was colder than the lab where the recipe has been tested)
- When the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down to release the air (I didn’t really punch it as I am always weary of completely deflating it), lightly flour a clean work surface and transfer the boule of dough to it
- Divide the dough into two equal portions and roll each one into a ball
- Dust two small proofing baskets with flour (Hadjiandreou uses a long oblong one into which he fits the two balls snugly together but I don’t own one like that) and set the boules in them, seam-side up
- Let the dough rise until doubled in size (it can take between 3 and 6 hours)
- About 20 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 475°F/240°C with a baking stone on the middle shelf and an empty roasting pan at the bottom. Fill a cup with water and set it aside
- When the boules have doubled in volume, tip them out seam-side down on a parchment-lined semolina-dusted rimless half-sheet pan and slide them onto the baking stone. Pour the reserved water into the empty roasting pan and lower the oven temperature to 425°F/220°C
- Bake about 30 minutes. To check if the bread is ready, tip it out upside down and tap the bottom. It should sound hollow
- Let cool on a wire rack
The chocolate and currant sourdough bread is going to Susan for Yeastspotting.