The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water,
is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight...
- M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating
It has never been a secret that I am a huge fan of Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François’ Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day books. I now own three of them. I adore my cookbooks and have hundreds, but there are very few that I actually cook and bake from regularly, over and over again. And the Artisan Bread in 5 books are definitely among that cherished minority.
My first attempt at yeast bread was a Thanksgiving long ago when I lived one floor up from my brother in that ratty apartment building in Brooklyn. What I thought would be an exciting, glamorous job in the world of art brought me to New York City just after college and happy I was when the apartment above Michael opened up just as I began my own search for living quarters. I moved my meager belongings and my wide-eyed, rather naïve young woman’s dreams into that one bedroom flat. As we both loved to cook and bake, we spent quite a bit of time together preparing meals, cakes and holidays. Our first November as neighbors, that first November of my new life, we decided to prepare a full-fledged traditional Thanksgiving dinner, yet another first for me.
I had absolutely no understanding of yeast and yeast baking. I had no concept of allowing yeast to activate, being patient while dough rose. Needless to say, my breads, no matter how beautiful the braid, no matter how glossy the crust of that Challah, the bread itself was hard and dry. My brother and I laughed heartily together as we sliced and ate the Challah, which we did, of course. Memories are hazy, but I imagine that the following morning, Michael turned that stale Challah into tender, luscious French toast. Or whizzed it in his mixer where it became breadcrumbs or stuffing. Embarrassed and disappointed by my endeavor at making yeast bread, it was years before I attempted it again. Yet my lesson had not been learned, for I once again found myself with rock-hard rolls. Oy. Not a proud moment in my culinary history. Only years later when my sons and I decided to prepare a wonderful, formal Friday night Shabbat meal every week and I began making a Challah each Friday morning, did I slow down and figure it all out.
My very first Challahs and very first yeast breads.
If only I had had a copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Seriously. Jeff and Zoë offer a slew of incredible recipes for no-knead bread. Yes, that’s right, no knead. Simply put all of the ingredients in a bowl, mix and allow to rest and rise. Or place the bowl of dough for a slow rise in the refrigerator and pull off balls of dough as needed, shape, allow to rest and rise and pop in the oven. No-knead….no-fail. I have had perfect bread every time. And as you can see, their perfect recipe is now my go-to recipe for Challah and Focaccia.
When Jeff and Zoë sent me a review copy of The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, I immediately volunteered to be Kitchen of the Month for the Bread Baking Babes. I wanted to share and talk about their new book. And I wanted to select a recipe that was different from what I usually bake in my own kitchen, a new challenge. There are so many new recipes that I want to try – the Pletzel, the Blueberry-Lemon Curd Ring, the Pumpernickel Date and Walnut Bread – but I ended up choosing this wonderful Chocolate Prune Bread.
I loved the bread. The dough itself was stickier, almost cake like, than most bread doughs and, once baked, it is difficult to decide (as I pull off and eat chunk after chunk) whether it is a bread or a dessert, but it is so delicious. Light and fluffy like a bread, the addition of chocolate chips (I made one loaf with and one without and I highly recommend that you do add them) and prunes making this loaf the ideal snack.
January’s Bread Baking Babes recipe is Chocolate Prune Bread from The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (revised & updated edition) by Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoë François. You too can bake along with us and be a Bread Baking Buddy. Simply bake this Chocolate Prune Bread, blog it – don’t forget to mention being a Bread Baking Buddy and link back to this blog post! Then send me the link (please include your name and your blog’s name) by January 29th to jamieannschler AT gmail DOT com with January Bread Baking Buddy in the subject line and I will add you to the roundup at the end of the month.
For now…. definitely check out if and how the other Babes managed their own Chocolate Prune Bread:
Bake My Day – Karen
Bread Baking Babe Bibliothécaire – Katie
blog from OUR kitchen – Elizabeth
Feeding my enthusiasms – Elle
girlichef – Heather
Lucullian Delights - Ilva
Living in the Kitchen with Puppies – Natashya
My Kitchen In Half Cups – Tanna
Notitie Van Lien – Lien
I want to share this wonderful Chocolate Prune Bread with Susan of Wild Yeast for her weekly Yeastspotting!
To get to know Jeff and Zoë and for more great recipes, visit the Artisan Bread in 5 website.
According to Zoë and Jeff, this bread goes really well with either a glass of milk or… a glass of Armagnac (of course… prunes and Armagnac!). And just think of all the possibilities for this wonderful dough with its tender, fluffy, just chewy crumb and delicate chocolate flavor… use your imagination!
CHOCOLATE BREAD RECIPE (Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bread)
Makes two 2-pound loaves. This recipe is easily doubled or halved.
2 ½ cups (565 ml) lukewarm water (100°F or below)
¾ cup (170 ml) vegetable oil
1 Tbs (0.35 oz / 10 g) granulated yeast
1 to 1 ½ Tbs (17 to 25 g) kosher salt – * use less if using fine table salt, more if using coarse salt
1 cup (7 ounces / 200 g) sugar
5 ½ cups (1 pound, 11 ½ ounces / 780 g) all-purpose flour
¾ cup (3 ounces / 85 g) dark, unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ cups (6 ounces / 170 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips - * can omit for the chocolate prune bread
Mixing and storing the dough:
Mix the oil, yeast, salt and sugar with the water in a 6-quart bowl or a lidded (not airtight) food container.
Mix in the flour, cocoa powder and the chocolate chips without kneading, using a spoon or heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle). If you are not using the machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.
Cover (not airtight) and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.
The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle with cold. Refrigerate the container of dough and use over the next 5 days. Beyond the 5 days, freeze the dough in 1-pound (about 450 g) portions in airtight containers for up to 4 weeks. When using frozen dough, thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours before using, then allow the usual rest and rise time.
Chocolate Prune Bread:
Makes one 1 ½ pound loaf
1 ½ pounds (about 680 g – the size of a small cantaloupe) of the Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bread dough
Softened unsalted butter for greasing the pan
2 ounces (55 g) high-quality bittersweet chocolate - * use 6 ounces (170 g) if you did not add chocolate chips to the original Chocolate Bread Dough
¾ cup chopped pitted prunes
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 Tbs water)
¼ cup (50 g) sugar for sprinkling over the top of the bread and preparing the pan
On baking day, generously grease an 8 ½ x 4 ½ - inch (22 x 11 ½ cm approx) nonstick loaf pan with butter, sprinkle some sugar evenly over the butter and shake the pan to distribute.
Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1 ½ pound piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a ½ - inch-thick (scant 1 ½ cm) rectangle. As you roll out the dough, use enough flour to prevent it from sticking to the work surface but not so much as to make the dough dry.
Sprinkle the chocolate and chopped prunes over the dough and roll up the dough jelly-roll style to enclose them. Fold the dough over itself several times, turning and pressing it down with the heel of your hand after each turn. This will work the chocolate and prunes into the dough; some may poke through.
With very wet hands (I floured my hands instead), form the dough into a loaf shape and place it into the prepared pan. Allow to rest and rise for 90 minutes, loosely covered with plastic wrap.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). A baking stone is not required and omitting it shortens the preheat.
Using a pastry brush, paint the top of the loaf with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake the loaf in the center of the oven for 50 to 60 minutes until firm. Smaller or larger loaves with require adjustments to baking time.
Remove the bread from the pan and allow to cool on a rack before slicing and eating.