I was always torn somewhere between the romantic ideal of either sitting up late at night working at a drawing board by candlelight or getting up at 4 am to douse myself in flour and produce delicious bread for peoples breakfasts. What a dilemma when it comes to choosing a career!
I choose the former, although now that I think about it, my projects as an architectural student did, at various interjections, resemble cooking - I once made a model from melted sugar and on one occasion in particular I distinctly remember flooding the kitchen of a Capel Street apartment with a watery bath of liquid-plaster cake-mix, the mould having burst at the seams and the contents distributing itself, with immediate and terrifying effect, everywhere.
I do think that I may have had more visible success with my cooking having won over my tutors heart via cooked dinners rather than architecture (he says otherwise but I know it was the food that got him in the end) but that is another story altogether.
He did miss the chocolate bread tonight and I know he would have loved it.
I first made it when I did the Wednesday night professional bread making course in DIT, Kevin Street about 5 years ago. The course was excellent and taught me everything about bread, yeast, flour types, gluten etc., and I came away on dark Wednesday nights with an armful of 10 different loaves to either eat or distribute among friends or pigeons. Anyway, we made little chocolate rolls with this recipe but it is basically a brioche recipe with some cocoa powder added. I have added more sugar than necessary so that the bread is a little sweeter, but you can reduce slightly, but only slightly, as you wish.
There are no eggs and the butter gives a lovely soft chewy crust and crumb. It also freezes well if you wrap it in cling film when it is stone cold and place in a freezer bag. It will keep for up to 1 month.
This is the perfect bread first thing in the morning toasted with butter and will certainly impress of you are having people round for breakfast, although you may need to warn them that it is not cake!
For one loaf you will need:
15g fresh yeast
55g caster sugar
320ml whole fat milk, luke-warm to the touch
400g all-purpose white flour
40g cocoa powder, unsweetened
40g butter, melted (the French use un-salted in their brioche)
a pinch of salt
Firstly crumble the fresh yeast and the sugar into a large bowl. Then add the warm milk and set aside for about 10 mins to measure out the rest of your ingredients.
Add the flour, cocoa, a pinch of salt and the melted butter to the milky yeast and stir together initially with a metal spoon until everything is combined. Then with one hand holding the mixing bowl, use the other to knead the dough together. Initially this will be a sticky mess and you will think that you have gotten something wrong. Keep at it and knead together as best you can for approximately 5 minutes. This kneading or stretching of the dough will develop the gluten and make the dough more elastic. The more you knead, the dough will put up more resistance. If you have a dough scraper, a semi-circular semi-flexible piece of rubberised plastic for scraping and cutting dough shapes, this would be handy to scrape any excess dough from the sides of the bowl. If, like me, you do not, use a bank card or something similar.
So cover the dough with a tea towel and leave in a warm, non-draughty place for 2 hours until the dough has doubled in size.
Next knock the dough back. This means to knock out the gases which have been released by the yeast and sugar fermenting. The dough will return to near its original size, knead again for 2 minutes and shape the dough into a buttered and floured 12" loaf tin.
Cover again with the tea towel return it to the warm spot for another 1 hour.
Place in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees for 25 minutes. If you are a bread baker, you will know the familiar hollow sound which indicated that it is cooked, if not, tap gently with your nails on the top or bottom of the crust. It should sound slightly hollow but firm.
I ate a slice this evening, on its own with peppermint tea sitting on the floor, as today is my last day without a sofa - if the German delivery men arrive as they say they will at 7am tomorrow morning, I will have a slightly different view of my world from now on. The chocolate bread was so fresh and crumbly it was delicious and was just perfect for my 'goodbye-floor' party.