I’ve been wanting to make chocolate bread for a while, but the ganglion cyst on my wrist makes kneading dough very painful, so it’s all been on the back burner. But having made Pizza Serafina last week for the Great Bake Off at work (which I really must write about at some point, because it was absolutely bonkers and beyond my wildest imaginings), sore wrists and all, I found myself with leftover fresh yeast – and when I was talking to my aunt about the pizza afterward, she reminded me that my Nonna also used to make a dough that was so wet that one couldn’t really knead it anyway – one just pushed it around a bit in the bowl.
Of course, I don’t have that recipe, and it’s probably madness to make up a recipe for bread, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, and I didn’t want that yeast to go to waste (apparently, I had no qualms about potentially wasting a lot of flour and cocoa and chocolate in my attempt to salvage the yeast…).
One of my scientists recently gave me a medium-sized marrow, with the comment that I was the only person he knew under the age of 60 who might know what to do with it. If one is going to be the Under-60 Marrow Champion, one must be prepared to take some risks, so I decided that what this chocolate bread really needed was some grated zucchini, to keep it moist.
And maybe some rye flour, to underline the dark, almost bitter, nuttiness of the chocolate and zucchini.
The result? Well, the dough was downright weird, but it did rise, and I have to say, the flavour isn’t half bad. This recipe made two loaves of a nice, slightly sweet, chocolatey bread, studded with chocolate, that kind of begs for a little apricot jam, if you ask me. It’s quite lovely and soft, and perhaps a little on the heavy side, with the rye and chocolate flavours both very much present. It’s the sort of thing you could have when you felt like eating chocolate for breakfast, without feeling too bad about it afterward.
And hey – it used up a significant portion of that marrow!
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35 g fresh yeast (about 10-12g dried yeast)
500 ml lukewarm water
100 g brown sugar
300 g grated zucchini or marrow (about 2-3 small zucchini)1 tsp salt
400 g bread flour
75 g cocoa powder
325 g rye flour
3 tbsp olive oil
200 g chopped dark chocolate
Cinnamon sugar or a little brown sugar to top, optional but very good!
Now what will you do with it?
Crumble the yeast into a large bowl, and add the water. Whisk with a fork until the yeast is dissolved.
Add the sugar, salt and zucchini and mix well.
Now stir in the bread flour, the cocoa powder, and 125 g of the rye flour. Mix everything together well. Add the olive oil, and mix again. Use your hands if you like, but this will really have a sticky, stretchy, cake batter sort of personality, so expect to get completely covered in dough.
Cover, and rest for an hour or so (you and the dough both).
Add the remaining rye flour amd mix in until fully incorporated. Cover and rest for another hour. Watch an episode of the Librarians.
Now stir in the chopped dark chocolate, and mix well. Divide the dough in two, and place in two medium loaf tins. Wet your hands, and use them to shape the loaves in the tin so that they are smooth on top.
Cover again, and let rise for an hour in a nice warm, humid place. In the laundry while you run the dryer is good. In Melbourne in February often works, too. I switched my oven on to 40°C and put the tins in there with a tea towel on top and a dish of water on the shelf above them. They won’t rise much, but you will definitely notice a difference.
Preheat the oven to 210°C (if you have the option of fan-forced with the fan from underneath, this is what I would recommend), remembering to take the dough out of the oven before you pre-heat it. It would be a shame to muck the bread up at this point. If you are using cinnamon sugar, sprinkle it evenly over the top of the loaves now.
Bake for half an hour, then turn down the heat to 180°C and give the loaves another fifteen minutes – or however long it takes for the loaves to sound hollow when you knock on them.
Turn out of the tins, and let cool on a rack. Enjoy warm or at room temperature, spread with butter and maybe a little jam.
This recipe is vegan and nut-free. You could make it low FODMAP by using spelt flour instead of bread flour. It’s not going to be gluten-free without a significant overhaul of both ingredients and method, I’m sorry. It’s not really low-GI, though there are worse ways to get your chocolate fix.
In terms of things you could do with it, adding a big handful of raspberries to each loaf might be gorgeous. Chopped hazelnuts would be another great addition, if you like hazelnuts. And then you could eat it with Nutella and have ALL THE GIANDUJA FLAVOUR EVER. If, like me, you are slightly obsessed with chocolate tahini, you could happily add some in place of the olive oil.
I am submitting this monster to my Anyone Can Cook Fabulous Vegetarian Food challenge for February, which this month has a zucchini theme! Come and share your marrow, zucchini and squash recipes – I’d love to see them.