Pane al Cioccolato: Not Quite Bread, Not Quite Cake

 Pane al Cioccolato

To start things off for this post: Happy Easter, everyone!

I’ve been under a lot of stress of late and was unable to update either SybDive or either of the two fanfic serials I’ve posted on The Fire and Ice Archive.  So, what’s a seriously worn-out gal to do?  Easy: bake bread!

But not just any old bread, I wanted to do something rich, satisfying, and infinitely moreish.  I wanted comfort bread, a good treat after going through heck several times over.  Plus, to up the ante, I was also craving chocolate.  So, to have the best of both worlds, I decided to make pane al cioccolato.

According to Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter’s Bread: The Breads of the World and How to Bake them at Home, pane al cioccolato is a rustic Italian bread that is flavored and colored with cocoa powder and studded all throughout with pieces of dark chocolate.  Back in Italy, it’s usually slathered with ricotta or gorgonzola and eaten as a mid-morning snack.

The recipe in Ingram and Shapter’s book is nice enough, but I opted to spruce it up a bit and put this particular Italian delicacy on the same festive shelf as pannetone or pandoro: a rich, flavorful treat that can stand on its own.  With the addition of a bit more sugar and more chocolate, the resulting loaf is a delicious cross between bread and cake and is so so satisfying.  Plus, the deliciously wine-y aroma it exudes is absolutely incredible, enough to set your mouth to watering!  Try it for yourself and let me know if it works for you.

Pane al Cioccolato Esagerato (Decadent Chocolate Bread)

  • 350 grams all-purpose flour
  • 250mL water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, halved into 2 1/4-cup portions
  • 1 sachet easy-bake/fast-acting yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, yeast, cocoa powder, salt, and 1/4 cup of the chocolate chips.  Make a well in the center and set aside.  Combine water and butter or oil in a heatproof bowl and microwave for 1-1/2 minutes.  Pour this mixture into the well in the bow of dry ingredients.  Mix together to form a dough.  Knead the resulting dough for ten minutes; by then, the dough will take on a satiny feel.  Cover the dough with a clean dishtowel and set aside in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

Grease an 8-inch round cake pan; set aside.  When the dough has risen, punch it down and knead in the remaining chocolate chips and the chopped nuts.  Form dough into a ball and press into the prepared pan.  Cover with the dishtowel and allow to rest for an additional 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees/Gas Mark 7.

Bake the loaf for ten minutes, then lower the temperature to 375 degrees/Gas Mark 5 and bake for an additional 25 – 30 minutes.

Brush the top of the hot loaf with melted butter and allow to cool for ten minutes before removing from the pan.  Cut into thick-ish slices.

Pane al cioccolato e gelato

Pane al cioccolato is fabulous on its own, but everyone who has tasted my chocolate loaves has specific ways for enjoying it.  My mother loves it with coffee and my father with milky tea.  I have friends who spread slices with Nutella and whipped cream to make seriously decadent dessert sandwiches.  My personal favorite is also my sister’s and consists of a still-warm slice amply topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!  Molto delizioso!

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