The second recipe in the Modern Baker Challenge is Chocolate Spice Bread. I was so excited to try this recipe, with its promise of ultra-chocolaty goodness, that I baked it on the first official day of the Challenge. (I made Fennel Fig & Almond Bread a few weeks ago as a “test run” of the book.) I doubled the recipe, as one loaf hardly seemed worth the effort.
This bread was not what I expected. It has Dutch cocoa, white and dark brown sugars, and lots of spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger). With all of that, I really was anticipating something akin to a dark chocolate cake. In fact, the batter looked a lot like fudge brownie batter. So I was surprised, though not at all disappointed, with the result. But more on that in a minute.
I began by mixing the dry ingredients — flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, and the spices. An order from King Arthur had just arrived the day before, and I was excited to try my new Vietnamese cinnamon. If you have never tried it, you really should. It’s like super-concentrated cinnamon and smells so good, I just want to eat it right out of the jar.
Next, I beat the eggs, then whisked in the sugars, butter, and sour cream, and finally stirred in the dry ingredients. This was one of those rare bread recipes for which I didn’t break out the Kitchen Aid. Even doubled, it was really easy to mix by hand with just a balloon whisk.
I baked the bread at 350°F in 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch pans for about 40 minutes. It smelled wonderful — deep, rich, spicy. And it came out looking pretty much like the picture in the book.
I let the bread cool before cutting it. And when I did slice into it, I was surprised by the flavor. As I mentioned above, I was expecting it to taste almost like chocolate cake. But it was not nearly that sugary. It had a rich, chocolaty flavor, to be sure. But it wasn’t fudgy or overly sweet. And the depth of flavor also came as a surprise. The spices, dark brown sugar, and sour cream, along with the Dutch cocoa and other ingredients, make for a complex bread with a taste that lingered after I had finished eating it.
In the recipe, Nick Malgieri suggests that this bread is good with preserves or jam. Again, I wasn’t sure how that would be, as I expected the bread to be quite sweet on its own. But after tasting it, I could see how it might pair well with jam or jelly. I tried it with several spreads and found I really liked it with fig preserves.
All in all, I was as pleased as I was surprised by this bread, and I will definitely make it again.