A most impressive and addictive semisweet chocolate bread.
I first read about pane al cioccolato on Jude’s blog, Apple Pie, Patis, and Pâté and immediately wanted to make it. To the horror of some of my friends, I don’t like chocolate in my cake or in ice cream (vanilla, please!) but in bread? Bookmarked, oh yeah.
Pane al cioccolato would be a perfect way to celebrate the birthday of one of my friends who loves fancy things with chocolate. The problem was, the recipe called for a starter at 50% hydration but I don’t have a starter. Now that I’ve been trying to get my experiments to work in the lab, I barely have time to take care of my plants, much less think about capturing and tending to a starter. (I also bake in sporadic bursts – probably not regularly enough to plan ahead and use a starter, and would feel bad if I confined it to a corner in the refrigerator for extended periods of time.) So what do I do?
How about making a pseudo starter from flour, water and a pinch of yeast? Certainly not ideal, but maybe it would work in this situation. Jude was very helpful and gave me some advice. In the end, I measured out
– 18 g flour
– 9 g water*
– pinch of active dry yeast (I didn’t have instant yeast on hand)
*9 g water/18 g flour = 50% hydration, as in the amount of water is 50% the amount of flour. See Susan’s explanation of baker’s percentages and hydration here.
The components for the starter were mixed, and added to the bread flour and water to form a biga naturale. I followed the rest of the directions for pane al cioccolato as posted by Jude here.
On a side note, I have to say that baking with a scale is amazing. It’s so handy and infinitely easier than using an assortment of measuring cups and spoons. Really! Even though many of my favourite recipes are in cups, tablespoons and teaspoons, weighing the ingredients ends up being a faster and more accurate way to bake, plus I get to try baking things that call for 50 g butter without having to convert it to tablespoons first. Woohoo!
I used dark chocolate chips for a subtly sweet chocolate bread that says “classy chocolate” more than “gooey, sweet bread” and I think I prefer it this way. This was some seriously good-looking and great-tasting bread. I’m also really happy that it still worked even though I used commercial yeast instead of a starter.
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Note: that’s why I scored the loaf with a GT on the top. It looks more like a G, but anyway now you know why and that it’s not an attempt to recreate the “Refresh” button in Firefox.