Warning: This is not an ooey-gooey, sticky-sweet bread.
It’s a kind of grown-up yeast bread. It’s rich and dense—and is the sort of thing you can use to make out-of-this-world peanut butter sandwiches or decadent french toast. (I like mine warm with loads of cold butter.) It gets a deep chocolate-y flavor from chocolate chips, cocoa powder, and little chocolate liquor.
If you like things like really dark chocolate and bold, gutsy red wine, you’ll probably like this. If you’re looking for a bread that tastes more like cake, you might try Balthazar’s famous chocolate bread, which looks like a much sweeter loaf than mine (and includes more sugar and chocolate chunks).
A note on shapes and doneness
I braided my bread for a fancier presentation, but you could just as easily bake it in a rustic boule if you don’t want to go to the trouble. Just adjust your baking time accordingly.
Bitter Triple Chocolate Bread
2 Tsp. yeast
2 Tsp. sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
5 1/2 cups flour + a little more to flour your board
4 Tbls. butter
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 Tbls. chocolate liquor
1 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 egg + 1 Tbls. cold water for the egg wash before baking
Make an improvised double boiler
Set a medium-sized sauce pan on the stove with a few inches of water in it. Turn the heat up to high to get it boiling. (If you have a double boiler, use that. I have one, but almost never bother with it for some reason.) When you make the chocolate sauce, you’ll want to use a heatproof bowl that fits the pot.
Make the mini sponge
Combine the yeast and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
Pour in the lukewarm water. Whisk to mix.
Add 1 cup of the flour. Whisk to combine. Set it aside to let the yeast start bubbling for about 15 or 20 minutes.
Make the chocolate sauce
Grab a heatproof bowl. Set it on top of the pot of boiling water you have on the stove. Turn the heat down to medium-high. Add the butter to the bowl to melt.
Toss the chocolate chips in with the butter.
Stir to combine as the butter and chocolate melt.
Pour in the heavy cream and chocolate liquor.
Mix well. When it’s completely combined, take the bowl off the heat. Turn off the stove and toss the boiling water.
Pour the chocolate sauce into a heatproof measuring cup or bowl and stick it in the fridge for maybe 10 minutes to start cooling it. Basically, you want to take the edge off the heat, so that when you add it to the sponge, it doesn’t scramble the eggs.
Next, add the eggs to the sponge
While your chocolate sauce is cooling and your sponge is bubbling, beat the eggs in a medium-sized bowl until light and frothy.
Pour the eggs into the sponge and whisk to combine well.
Your egg-y sponge should be fairly thin and runny and look about like this:
Add the chocolate sauce to the sponge
When the sauce has cooled slightly, drizzle it into the sponge. Go slowly, whisking briskly as you pour it in.
Your goal is to temper the chocolate sauce with the eggs, so that you raise the heat of the sponge and lower the heat of the sauce. (If you dump all the chocolate sauce in at once, you run the risk of literally scrambling the eggs.)
When you’ve added all the chocolate sauce to the sponge, it should look about like this:
Add the rest of the dry ingredients
Add in the cocoa powder, the rest of the flour (4 1/2 cups), and the salt. You could sift them together first if you like, but honestly, you’re going to do so much kneading later on that I don’t bother with the extra step.
Stir really well with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together and gets really stiff.
Knead the dough and set it aside for its first rise
With your hands, gather the dough up and press it into a rough ball. Turn it out onto a lightly floured board.
Knead the dough well, til it comes together into a smooth-ish ball. You’ll need a little elbow grease, because the dough is really pretty firm.
As you knead, you’ll feel the dough getting more and more elastic.
After a few minutes, form the dough up into a good ball. It should be firm, fairly dry, and not at all sticky.
Set the dough ball into a large mixing bowl and cover with a damp kitchen towel to rise for about an hour or so, until it’s about doubled in size.
Shape the dough and set it aside for its second rise
When your dough has just about doubled in size, it should look about like this:
At this point, you’re going to form the dough into its final shape and let it rise again.
The instructions below show you how to make a braided loaf. If you want a different shape, you could shape it into one big round boule, a few smaller loaves, or even buns. It’s up to you. You’ll just need to adjust the baking time accordingly. (One large boule will probably take a little longer to bake, rolls will take considerably less time, etc.)
Punch the dough down to get the air out of it.
Turn it out onto a clean board and knead it well. The dough should be dry enough that you won’t need any flour on the board. (If you find that it’s sticking, sprinkle a little flour down.)
As you knead the dough, it’ll become firmer and more elastic. Any white flour left on the dough should disappear into the dough as you knead. Form it into a ball, like this:
Cut the dough into thirds.
Give each piece a little knead, then smoosh them flat and roll into long tubes using both your hands.
When you’ve rolled out all three pieces, smoosh the ends together to form a knot of sorts. You want the three pieces to stick together well to give you a good base for the braid.
Braid the dough. When you get to the end, tuck the ends together and fold them under the loaf.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Transfer your braided loaf onto the pan. Let it rise for about an hour, or until about double in size.
Bake and enjoy
When the loaf has just about doubled in size, it’s almost ready to bake. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Make an egg wash by whisking one egg together with a little cold water.
Using a soft brush (or your fingertips), gently paint the top of the loaf with the egg wash. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes. Keep an eye on it, as the final baking time will depend on how thick your braid is and how much size it gained during the last rise.
When is it done?
I measure a bread’s doneness by looking at the color of the crust, and also by thumping on the bottom of the loaf with two fingers. If it makes a hollow sound, it’s done. If it makes a dampened, dull sound, it needs to bake a little longer.
When it’s done, take it out of the oven and slip it onto a rack to cool. Enjoy!