A lot of loaves lately, hold on to your seat!
If you look closely, there is a crack on the side of the loaf. I’ve made this bread a few times, and while I’ve figured out how to minimize it, I’ve not figured out how to get rid of it completely without some other undesirable trait creeping up and taking its place. (Do I sound negative? Sorry, I’m really not negative, this is a great thing to bake!) It (the bread crack) really is minimal, as long as you give the loaf a sufficient amount of time for the second rise when it has been put in the pan. But the flip side of that is that if you let it rise too much, the swirls will be humongous! Humongous swirls might sound like a good thing, but it’s a pain to try and cut slices off a loaf with big swirls in the middle!
I also decreased the amount of chocolate in the swirls. The first time I made it, I placed about 4 times the amount of chocolate and some of the chocolate chunks were huge, and what happened was that the middle of the loaf was raw! So this time around, I made sure to keep the chocolate light and small with pieces of chocolate that were no larger than peas.
chocolate and cinnamon swirl bread (altered slightly from this recipe by the culinary exchange)
3 and 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder, divided use
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus a pinch for yeast
2 and 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup whole milk, lukewarm
2 + 1 large eggs, divided use
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar, sifted
2 Tablespoons finely ground cinnamon
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate 60% cacao, chopped into small oea-sized pieces
In a small bowl, add the lukewarm milk and a large pinch of sugar and stir to dissolve the sugar into the milk. Add the active dry yeast and stir again gently, then leave undisturbed for about 10 minutes until milk is bubbly and frothy. Discard and start over if yeast did not bloom.
Sift 3 cups of the bread flour, reserving the ½ cup of bread flour for later, ½ cup of cocoa, salt, and the ½ cup sugar into a medium to large glass or stainless steel bowl and stir with a whisk several times to mix ingredients thoroughly.
When milk/yeast mixture is bubbly and frothy, pour it over the flour mixture in the bowl and add 2 lightly beaten eggs and also add the butter to the flour and stir with a spatula or spoon several times until a dough starts to form.
At this point, the dough will not be perfectly formed yet. Get a flexible plastic dough scraper and scrape all the dough and scraps and any remaining bits onto a lightly floured counter and start to knead with lightly floured hands. Dough may be very sticky so add a little bit of the remaining 1/2 cup of flour but try not to add it all at once. Maybe a Tablespoon at a time. Give the dough time to absorb all the water, which will make it less sticky.
If you end up using all the bread flour but you feel it is still too sticky, you can add maybe a little bit flour to your hands, like around a Tablespoon of flour at a time. But resist the urge to add much more. Continue to knead the dough on the counter for about 10 minutes. The dough will be less sticky but may still be slightly tacky to the touch.
Form the dough into a ball. Lightly grease the bowl that was used previously and place the dough in the center, turning once to coat all surface of the dough ball. Leave in a warm place free of drafts for about 90 minutes until doubled in size.
After the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and roll it out to a rectangle about 20” x 10”, with one of the 20” sides closest to you on the counter.
Spray a 10” x 5” loaf pan with baking spray or grease the sides and bottom lightly. Make the egg wash by lightly beating an egg in a small bowl with 2 Tablespoons of water.
Brush the whole surface of the top of the rectangle with some of the egg wash. Reserve a little bit of the egg wash to be used right before baking.
In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, the remaining 2 Tablespoons of cocoa, and 2 Tablespoons of cinnamon and stir with a whisk, or else just mix with your clean fingers to combine. Sprinkle this brown sugar mixture all over the rectangle, followed by sprinkling the chocolate pieces all over as well. You can use an offset spatula to ensure the filling is spread evenly. Feel free to increase amount of chocolate, just make sure the pieces are not too much larger as they can cause areas of the dough to not be baked.
Roll up the dough, starting from one of the 10” sides. You should end up with a rolled-up piece of dough that is about 10” long and 4” wide. Pinch the ends and the bottom seam closed, then lift the dough and place into the 10” pan, seam side down.
Cover with a plastic wrap and leave for a second rise, about 45 minutes to an hour. You want the dough to rise sufficiently so that when you push a finger into the surface of the dough it springs back really slowly. If it springs back right away, it needs more time.
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place a small shallow pan below and towards the back to heat up.
When the loaf is ready to be baked, brush with egg wash over the top. Get about a cup of water ready. Open the oven door and quickly and carefully pour the water into the pan and place the loaf pan on the center rack and quickly close the door. The water hitting the hot pan causes steam which helps the loaf have more of a crust.
Bake for about 40-50 minutes until it sounds hollow if you knock on it, or when a thermometer reads 190 degrees F. internally.
Let cool down in pan somewhat for about 30 minutes before slicing and serving. It’s great with butter or toasted. Leftovers can be made into French toast or part of a bread pudding.