Happy New Year! It’s great to be back! Something called Christmas got in the way! Seriously, though, I always tend to draw a blank when thinking about what to post towards the end or beginning of the year, not sure why. I tend to get very introspective or reflective of the year gone by. And what a long and trying year we’ve had!
I needed time to figure out how to keep this blog going. I don’t want to abandon it. But I’ve been finding it more and more difficult to produce a new food item or baked good that I want to share these days, even if it’s every other week. So I’ve decided that I need to blog only once a month. This might be it for January. If something really compels me to make something that I think I would want to share, I might put another recipe up this month. But I’ve been liking having more time to think about what I want to post before posting it. This post took me a couple of weeks, but I really, really like it the way it is now!! And so I think that counts for something. Quality over quantity, right?
Anyways, this recipe was inspired by Taste of Home and David Lebovitz, HERE and HERE. The first time I made it, it was raw in the middle! I tweaked it a couple of times and decided to go freestyle and make it without a loaf pan. I brought different earlier versions of this to work, so my coworkers are probably sick of it. But I don’t care. It’s just a good loaf of a sweet yeast enriched dough with coffee/mocha flavor, chunks of chopped pecans, and two different types of chopped chocolate, milk and bittersweet. Sound good? It’s very dessert-y. I can imagine adding a scoop o vanilla ice cream on it. But I think it also works as a breakfast or snack item. I imagine that one can make French Toast or bread pudding with the leftovers, if you have any, and it also freezes well.
Chocolate Mocha Pecan Bread
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons and 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast (one packet)
1/2 cup milk, lukewarm (about 110 degrees F.)
4 cups bread flour, plus a few tablespoons of flour extra in case dough is too wet, and for dusting surface when kneading dough
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted but cooled to lukewarm, plus more for greasing pan and topping
1/2 cup lukewarm water (about 110 degrees F.) with 2 Tablespoons of expresso powder. Alternatively, you can use a 1/2 cup of strong fresh brewed coffee, lukewarm.
3/4 cup chopped pecans, or other nut of choice, like walnuts, hazelnuts, or almonds.
1 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate, or combination of 50% bittersweet and 50% milk chocolate, roughly 4 ounces total
Place the milk and sugar in a small bowl and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the yeast and gently stir, then leave undisturbed for about 5-10 minutes for the yeast to bloom. If it doesn’t get frothy, start again with new ingredients, making sure the milk is not too hot or cold, and that the yeast isn’t dead.
Place flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir with a whisk several times to mix. Make a well in the center and add the yeast/water mixture, the eggs, and the butter to the center of the well.
Prepare the espresso powder and water, or brew coffee. You’ll need 1/2 cup. Make sure it is just lukewarm, not piping hot, because you might kill the yeast. 110 degrees is considered lukewarm. Think of the temperature of the water you’d use to bathe a baby.
Fit the mixer with the dough attachment and turn mixer on low. When the yeast/water mixture, eggs, and butter all have been mixed into the flour mixture, there will still be dry flour on the outer edges on the sides of the bowl. While still on low, slowly pour the coffee or expresso powder/water mixture in a steady stream near the sides of the bowl and wherever you still see dry flour. Eventually the dough will accept all the coffee and can turn the mixer to medium speed. Mix for about 5 minutes on medium speed. A slightly sticky, tacky dough should be formed that is mostly sticking to the dough hook.
Scrape all dough from bowl and dough hook onto a floured surface and knead in the chopped nuts and chocolate.
Form dough back into a ball, and place in a large bowl greased with vegetable oil, using a glass bowl if possible. Stainless steel is fine too. Turn over the ball to coat all sides of the ball of dough with the oil and cover tightly the top of the bowl with plastic wrap. Leave the bowl in a warm part of your kitchen or house, undisturbed for about an hour.
After dough has doubled in size, about an hour, punch the center of the dough down to expel air and redistribute the ingredients in the dough.
Form the dough back into a ball and once again turn dough in a bowl greased with vegetable oil and cover top of bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator overnight or at least for several hours.
The next day, or several hours later, take dough out of the refrigerator, punch down the dough in the bowl and let sit in the bowl on a kitchen counter for about one and a half to two hours to bring the temperature of the dough back up. After a night of being in the fridge, it’s quite hard and cold. After warming up somewhat, it’s easier to roll and shape.
Even though this isn’t necessarily sandwich bread, I decided to use THIS VIDEO from King Arthur Flour as a guide on how to shape it, but to use it without a pan. Feel free to use any method of shaping you want.
Shape into a loaf about the same length of the pan (if using), per the above video. Place on a well-greased 10”X 5” loaf pan, or else simply do what I did and plop it on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Place a piece of plastic wrap to cover it for about 45 minutes to rise again somewhat. Dough is ready for baking when the dough springs back slowly, rather than quickly, after indenting a finger in the side of the dough. If it springs quickly, give it a little more time.
Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Place a small metal cake pan on the rack underneath the rack where the dough will be baked.
When dough is ready to be baked, brush the surface of dough with one beaten egg that has been mixed with 1 Tablespoon of milk. Or nothing. It’s up to you. I like how the egg/milk combo creates more of a crust.
Quickly pour about a cup of water into the small pan that you placed on the lower rack in the oven and quickly place the bread in the rack above it, and immediately close the oven door.
Bake for about 40-45 minutes until dough has a hollow sound when you knock on it. Resist the urge to take it out too soon. It’s difficult to judge doneness based on color, because it’s a brown colored dough to begin with, so knocking on it to see if it sounds hollow is the best way to gage doneness.
Remove from oven and let sit for 30 minutes on wire rack before slicing/eating. If you want nice even slices, use a long, serrated bread knife to cut slices.