Pane al Cioccolato (Italian Chocolate Bread)


Pane al cioccolato (Italian chocolate bread)

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.

Weighing out ingredients for the starter

Weighing out ingredients for the pseudo starter

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.

Kneaded pane al cioccolato dough

Kneaded pane al cioccolato dough

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!


Dark chocolate chips bursting out of the loaf

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.

* * *

I’m sending a slice over to Susan at Wild Yeast for Yeastspotting, and to Jude for encouraging me to give this Italian chocolate bread a try. The rest goes to GT – hope you had a very happy birthday!

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.

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24 Responses to “Pane al Cioccolato (Italian Chocolate Bread)”

  1. javapot Says:

    Nice!!! Just love anything chocolate 🙂

  2. toxobread Says:

    Javapot: chocolate is great, especially in this bread 😀 I’m still working on the chocolate cake and chocolate ice cream though… maybe I’m more of a vanilla girl?

  3. Jude Says:

    glad the recipe worked out for you. The dough was so easy and pleasing to handle wasn’t it?

  4. toxobread Says:

    Jude: the dough was wonderful to handle – it was just the right texture and feel for an excellent loaf. Then my whole apartment smelled like rich hot chocolate while it was in the oven. What more could I ask for?

  5. Susan/Wild Yeast Says:

    Your friends are so lucky to have you baking all these gorgeous birthday treats for them. And a scale — yes!

  6. toxobread Says:

    Susan: I suppose that *I* am the one who is lucky, because I have friends to bake for! All the more reason to keep on baking, right?

  7. YeastSpotting November 21, 2008 | Wild Yeast Says:

    […] Pane Al Cioccolato (Italian Chocolate Bread) ~ Toxo Bread […]

  8. Sarah Says:

    Yes, I just got my own digital scale, too. It took all of ten seconds to convert me to that wonderful invention. I’m making this recipe this weekend, you can be sure!

  9. anudivya Says:

    That is pretty neart Looks awesome. Love the chocolate chips in them.

  10. toxobread Says:

    Sarah: Hooray for scales! I thought it would be a hassle to have to weigh out all of my ingredients (as opposed to just scoop with a cup/spoon), but then I tried it out and said, holy cow! Why didn’t I try this earlier? I hope this bread works out for you – let me know how it goes!

    Anudivya: Thanks! I think the best part was scoring the loaf right before I put it in the oven. As I scored, the chocolate chips that were hidden underneath the dough burst out of the slashes; it was great.

  11. chopchopatoz Says:

    WOW! I fell in love at the first sight when I saw this bread on Jude’s blog. Now you make me want to enter my kitchen and try it out right away 🙂

    Your bread is awesome as always!

  12. em Says:

    Sounds like an amazing recipe. I remember when you first told me about it. I can`t get over how you say it made your apartment smell like hot chocolate. OMG I want that, too! The loaf is so yummy looking. 😀

    Thank goodness for electronic balances, is all I can say. Why? Because TORSION BALANCES SUCK. We had to use them in our compounding lab and gahhhhh!! Wooooo. Electronic balances! Anyway, I’m so jealous of your awesome fancy cooking gadgets :p

  13. toxobread Says:

    Van: I know! All of Jude’s breads are lovely but this one struck me as “The One” I absolutely needed to make right away. The dough was very silky and smooth… really, really easy to work with. +Thanks for the compliment! Baking and cooking are my ways to enjoy my time at home. (What time at home? haha)

    Em: Yeah, it was an amazing recipe, both in terms of taste and how awesome it made my apartment smell (maybe even better than when I make cinnamon rolls). I had the choice of either getting a torsional or electronic balance and figured electronic would be the way to go, but hey you know what? Balances are one of those good investments if you’re going to be cooking and baking a lot. If you get a decent one, it will last you a long, long time and be one of your best friends, alongside a baking mat and a good mixing bowl.

  14. chopchopatoz Says:

    ha..ha…I keep going back and forward between your site and Jude’s…I really want to try it out soon! Thanks so much for your nice post. Btw, I am also a fan of baking with scale 🙂 I can still remember how hard it was to switch to cup, tbsp,…at first days

  15. toxobread Says:

    Hi Van: you should! It’s a great bread, both to make and to eat. 🙂

  16. MyKitchenInHalfCups Says:

    I really enjoy the way this unfolded! It is so easy to put off baking bread with the “excuse” it doesn’t fit my schedule” as you found here be creative and you can do it.
    About the starter thing: again I think it’s funny how hard we try to make it out to be and it can also be made to work. A while back our BBB group did Breadchick’s sourdough starter. I can tell you from her experience and my own and most of the rest of the group, this is the most forgiving starter I’ve ever worked with. I’ve left it for over 2 months, refreshed it and it comes back happy as new.
    I like chocolate but it’s never appealed to me in bread, wish I could try this one you’ve done. Looks lovely.

  17. toxobread Says:

    Tanna: I find it helps to bake every now and then because it’s a nice way to relax (knead that dough!) after working at the lab, plus you get to eat the final product.
    I haven’t read about Breadchick’s sourdough starter yet, but will. Thanks for the encouragement about a starter – it certainly sounds more manageable than I thought!

  18. Sarah Says:

    Um, hey. I tried to make this, and I started it exactly as you described, weighing everything in grams. I don’t know if it’s because I used bread flour, but basically the biga naturale in my bowl looked like a tiny pile of slightly moist crumblies.
    Specifically, I measured out 18 g flour (a few small spoonfuls), 9 g water (which was basically a tiny splash) and put in a pinch of instant yeast. I then added 32 g flour (bread), 18 g water (again, a tiny splash), and proceeded to sadly stir the flour crumbles in my bowl. Am I supposed to be working with a different kind of flour, or something? Setting this on the counter for 8 hours looks less than useless. Is it supposed to be in ounces, maybe? I’m so sad I won’t be having chocolate bread, now.

  19. toxobread Says:

    Hey Sarah,

    I used King Arthur all-purpose flour, which has a higher protein content (11.7%) that other all-purpose flours but still not as much as bread flour (~12-14%), which absorbs more moisture and will require more water for the same degree of hydration. When I measured out the ingredients for the biga naturale, it also looked very, very dry and crumbly, and I had to knead it a bit before everything came together. According to Jude’s post, the amounts should be in grams because the equivalents are also given in ounces.

    Perhaps you could try adding a few more splashes of water to see if it will come together? I can tell you that my little biga naturale ended up looking like a very stiff dough, and it didn’t look like anything happened to it when I checked on 8 hours later, but chopped it into little pieces and proceeded anyway.

    I hope you don’t give up on this recipe (and I hope this reply gets to you in time). Good luck!


  20. Sarah Says:

    Thanks, Jacqueline.
    I’ll try again tonight. I ended up starting a different recipe last night, after writing to you. Thank you for clarifying for me. I really do want to make this bread!

  21. Patricia Scarpin Says:

    I made this ages ago, but yours looks a lot prettier and delicious!

  22. toxobread Says:

    Thanks, Patricia! I’m sure yours was equally pretty and delicious-looking. Everything you make, makes me want to lick the screen of my computer 😉

  23. Pane al cioccolato II « Toxo Bread Says:

    […] its predecessor pane al cioccolato I, I made a pseudostarter, but went ahead and assembled the biga naturale the night before, and left […]

  24. can’t help but make it again « Toxo Bread Says:

    […] blogged about it twice already and yet here’s […]

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