Yes, it's real bread! Not chocolate cake dressed up to look like bread...the real thing, yeast and all. We fell in love with this bread years ago when we were traveling around Michigan. Someone tipped us off to this marvelous wonder at Zingerman's bakery in Ann Arbor. While it was decadent then, at around $6 a loaf, we treasured the flavor and picked up a loaf whenever we were in the area. I was just thinking about it last week when their Christmas catalog arrived in the mail. My, have times changed...it's now $17.50!! So...back to the kitchen to try and reproduce the memory of that hauntingly delicious flavor.
I made it in small tins which makes it the perfect gift for the holidays. And...my favorite way of eating it is with a smear of ricotta cheese and a sprinkle of cinnamon, along side a cup of coffee. MMMMMmmmmm Christmas morning, here we come!
And then there's those slices in the late afternoon with the snow lightly falling, with a small glass of Port, in front of the fireplace, in the glow of the brightly lit Christmas tree. Oh yeah...I was dreaming...no fireplace, and the tree's not up yet, and the Port is still in the store...A girl can dream, can't she?
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Step 1: Gather the Ingredients
1 package active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water (105-115 degrees F.)
1 teaspoon sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup warm strong coffee (105-115 degrees F.)
½ cup mini chocolate chips
6 ounces dried tart cherries (about ¾ cup)
1 teaspoon oil to coat the bowl
1 tablespoon butter to grease the pans and the tops of the loaves
Step 2: Mix the Dough
• In a large bowl mix the yeast, warm water, and sugar until the yeast is dissolved. Let it rest for 3 or 4 minutes.
• Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt and cinnamon.
• Stir the egg yolk, butter and coffee into the yeast mixture.
• Add the flour mixture, stirring until a dough is formed.
• On a lightly floured board, knead the dough for 5-6 minutes until it becomes very soft and smooth. Do not add in much more flour. The dough will be soft and a bit sticky.
• Press the dough out to about 1 inch thick and sprinkle the cherries and chocolate chips over the top.
• Gather in the sides of the dough to enclose the fruit and chocolate.
• Knead a few times to distribute the cherries and chips. A few will pop out--escapees! Don't worry, they will be contained later on when the dough rises.
• Form into a ball.
Step 3: Resting and Rising
• Wash the mixing bowl and coat with a teaspoon of oil (I used olive oil, but any cooking oil or even butter would work.
• Place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat, so there is oil covering the dough.
• Cover with a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm place to rise. (I used a warmed up oven—Turn the oven on 200 degrees F. for one minute. Turn off and place your bowl of covered dough in the oven.)
• Let rise until double (1-1 ½ hours)
Step 4: Forming Into Loaves
• Butter the pans. I used four 3 x 6-inch loaf pans.
• Divide the dough into 4 portions.
• Flatten each piece into small rectangles—about 5 x 6-inches.
• Roll up, pinching the edges together and turn the ends under to form small oval loaves.
• Place the dough in the pans and press down lightly to fill the corners. Place the pans on a baking sheet. Brush remaining butter on the tops.
• Cover with a towel and return it to the warm place to rise.
• Let rise until almost double, about 45 minutes.
Step 5: Baking
• Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
• Bake the breads for 35-40 minutes. Because the bread is dark colored, it is somewhat hard to tell when it's done. A sure-fired way is to take it's temperature! With an instant read thermometer, insert the probe into the middle of one of the breads. It should read around 200 degrees F.
• Cool on a rack for a few minutes, and then tip out the pans. Allow them to cool on the rack completely before cutting. That's the hard part!
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