It’s been a while since I trialled a new recipe, so what better time to experiment than when the chocolatey treats of Easter are available. Bread might be my passion but chocolate will always be my first love – I’m a complete chocoholic! So I’ve developed an Easter bread recipe to combine the two.
Flavoured with cocoa powder and studded with chocolate pieces, this bread is a great treat. Enjoy it toasted and buttered with a cup of afternoon tea. It will also make a fantastic base for French toast during a lazy Sunday morning brunch. But whilst I’ve used butter, eggs and some sugar, note that this bread isn’t overly sweet or rich – it’s still a bread, not cake. What it will do is fill your home with irresistible chocolate aromas as it bakes – try to hold back while it cools before slicing in. You’ll see that I’ve also included some variations for you to try too – matching the chocolate with zesty orange, or pairing it with roasted hazelnuts.
Baking breads enriched with eggs, sugar and fats with can be a little tricky, so be aware! All these additions slow down the work of the yeast to produce gas and rise your dough. So leave plenty of time for your bread making – once the dough is mixed and kneaded, you’ll have a good two hours free whilst it proves. Don’t be tempted to speed up the process by placing your dough in a warm place such as a proving drawer as this will melt the chocolate pieces in the dough and make for a smeary mess when you come to shape the dough.
I’ve used cocoa powder (if you’re in the States, this is Dutch processed cocoa powder) – one which has been treated to reduce its acidity and so will not interfere with the rise of your bread. I decided against adding in the juice of the orange in the chocolate orange version for this reason too.
This recipe makes three medium loaves. I divided my dough after the initial mix and kneaded in the additional flavourings to two pieces of dough, leaving one as just chocolate.
- 1000g white bread flour
- 40g cocoa powder
- 15g salt
- 60g sugar
- 10g fast-action dried yeast
- 2 eggs – crack into a measuring jug, then top up with water until you reach 425ml
- 300ml full fat milk
- 40g butter, melted
- 200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
Additional flavours (optional)
For chocolate-nut bread, toast 100g hazelnuts (you could also use walnuts or pecans) in the oven at 150C for 10 minutes. Leave to cool, then chop roughly and add into the dough above. Or reduce the amount accordingly if only adding to part of the dough.
For chocolate-orange bread, add the zest of one orange into the dough above. Or reduce the amount accordingly if only adding to part of the dough.
1. Weigh out the flour, salt, yeast, cocoa powder and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Remember to separate the yeast and salt on opposite sides of the bowl – read more here on why you should do this. Mix all the dry ingredients together evenly.
2. Combine the eggs and water with the milk and melted butter. Pour these wet ingredients into the dry ingredients in the large mixing bowl. Using your hands, a scraper or a spoon, bring together all the ingredients until no dry flour remains.
3. Turn the dough out of the bowl. It’s important not to flour the surface, as this adds extra flour into your dough and will dry it out. The dough will be sticky and wet, that’s ok! You can watch my video on how to knead a wet dough here. Knead the dough for 10 – 15 minutes until it becomes smooth and passes the window pane test – see my video here.
4. Flatten the dough out into a rough rectangle and sprinkle the chopped chocolate and any additional flavours that you’re using over the dough. You may wish to divide the dough into separate pieces at this stage and add different flavourings to each. Fold the dough over the additions and knead and work it until the two are combined.
5. Shape the dough into a rough ball and place it back into the bowl. Cover the bowl and leave the dough to rise for about two hours, until it has doubled in size.
6. Once the dough has risen, turn it out of the bowl and knock it back. This just involves gently deflating the dough, using the heel of your hand to push it flat and then kneading it for a minute or two.
7. Now it’s time to shape your loaves. Weigh the dough and divide it equally if you haven’t already. My final dough weight was approximately 2000g, which would make four 1lb loaf tin pieces of 500g each. You can watch my video on how to shape for a loaf tin here.
8. I decided to shape my breads to celebrate Easter. Around the world, Easter is celebrated with enriched breads using the butter, eggs and sugar that have traditionally been avoided during Lent. Intricate plaits and wreaths are made to showcase these ingredients, an example being the Greek tsoureki bread, decorated with a red egg.
9. To make a plait, divide the dough for your loaf into three equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope, keeping each piece an equal width. Pinch the ropes together at one end and plait (braid) the ropes together. You can either leave the plait as it is, or fold it round to create a wreath shape, pinching the two ends together to form the circle.
10. To make a large Easter egg bread ring, divide the dough for your loaf into two equal pieces. Shape each piece into a long rope, then twist the pieces together. Bring the ends together to form a ring, then tease apart the pieces at equal intervals to create gaps. You can either fill the gaps before baking with an uncooked, dyed whole egg (with shell), or fill them after baking with foil-wrapped chocolate eggs or cooked eggs.
11. Transfer your shaped dough onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover loosely with either greased clingfilm or a clean teatowel. Leave the dough to rise for at least 45 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 185C.
12. Check if your dough has risen enough – poke gently with your finger. If a dent forms that springs slowly back, the dough is ready to be baked. For a medium loaf (if you’ve divided the dough into three portions), bake for 25 minutes until well risen and gives a hollow sound when tapped underneath. You can read more here on getting a good bake on your loaf. Cool and enjoy!
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