Week Thirteen: Filled Breads
I remember the first time I ever tried chocolate and bread together. Now, I’m not talking in a pastry here, like in a chocolate-filled croissant, or a chocolate-chip muffin; I’m talking deep, dark bittersweet chocolate paired up with a rustic, hearty, multi-grain bread. It was, of course, in Europe, where the bitter flavor of the standard (and extremely good) chocolate shocked my American, Hershey’s-milk-chocolate-bred palate. It took me a while to get used to the uncustomary flavor; but when I did, there was no turning back. Once a die-hard milk chocolate fan, I quickly became a dark chocolate turncoat, devoted for life. And the item that coaxed my tastes over to the dark side? Nutella. Of course.
Those unusual European hotel breakfasts, with their baskets of dinner-style bread (where were the bagels and muffins?), always featured little individually-wrapped packets of soft cheese and Nutella. I couldn’t even fathom having chocolate for breakfast at first. But then I tried it. (And if you’ve not had Nutella, I suggest you never ever try it, because oh my goodness, is that stuff addictive.) Suddenly, I understood. My eyes were washed clean, and I could see clearly. The soft spread, with its hit of hazelnut, was just light enough to tempt my unsophisticated taste buds, but dark enough to woo them towards a darker chocolate flavor. And paired with the complementary nuttiness of whole-grain bread? Just heavenly!
This filled bread, then, is my tribute to those first seductive bites. But I’ve turned the chocolate factor a little deeper, with the use of a rich 70% chocolate, chopped and rolled into the dough. I’ve also added a little unsweetened cocoa in with the flour, to boost the chocolate flavor a bit. This is a true multi-grain bread, made with five (count ’em, five!) different flours; but it would be just as delicious made with only wheat flour. I decided to use different flours, as opposed to adding in whole grains, because these rolls are fairly small, and I thought any seeds or larger particles would be a little overwhelming for the size. Besides, I was going for something a little more chic today, something more reminiscent of those simple and elegant breakfasts I recall. I wanted an espresso in a café, rather than a beer in a bar, if I may be permitted a metaphor.
The chocolate here is rolled into flattened-out portions of dough, which makes in theory for a more even distribution of chocolate within the bread. I say “in theory”, because it didn’t exactly work out that way; but if you are more contentious than I, and roll them thinner, it probably would work out that way. This also results in little oval rolls, which somehow seem more appealing than a simple round roll.
Crust-wise, they bake up soft and tender, with a slight heartiness from all the whole-grain flours. The unsweetened cocoa deepened the flavor considerably, and lent a slightly bitter note. For the liquid, I used a combination of milk (for a softer dough) and water, but I think coffee would be a nice substitute for the water. It would lend a complementary note to the chocolate flavor, and make it a little richer. I definitely would have used it, except I made these at night (and wanted to get some sleep), and had no leftover coffee on hand.
On tasting the bread, I was pleased, but not thrilled. The texture was great, the chocolatey flavor was absolutely there, in abundance, as was the toothsome chew of a whole-grain bread; but it lacked some… zing. And just as suddenly as I spotted the flaw, I realized the fix for it: salt! I wish now that I had possessed the presence of mind to brush the uncooked rolls with a little egg wash (an egg white beaten with a little water), and sprinkle on some kosher salt. It would be a lovely finish, and set off the deep flavor of the rolls beautifully. And yes, I did afterwards lightly salt each bite of bread that I ate. It worked!
Chocolate-Filled Multigrain Rolls
10 ounces unbleached bread flour (about 2 cups + 2 tablespoons), plus 2 ounces (about 1/2 cup)
1 1/2 ounces unsweetened cocoa powder (about 1/4 cup)
3 ounces whole-wheat flour (about 3/4 cup)
3 ounces rye or pumpernickel flour (about 3/4 cup)
1 ounce cornmeal (a scant 1/4 cup)
1 ounce spelt flour (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 ounce buckwheat flour (about 2 tablespoons)
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons active-dry yeast
3 tablespoons honey
3/4 cup warm milk (105º-115ºF)
1/4 cup water (105º-115ºF)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large egg
4 ounces good semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 egg white, lightly beaten with a little water to make an egg wash
Kosher salt, for topping rolls
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the water, milk, honey, and yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the egg.
2. Sift together the first measure (10 1/2 ounces) of bread flour and the cocoa powder. Whisk in the remaining flours and the salt. Using the dough hook, mix the flours into the liquid mixture in the bowl, at the lowest speed, until well-combined. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter and olive oil. Add the remaining measure of bread flour (2 ounces) by tablespoons only as needed, until the dough is no longer sticky and clears the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed of the mixer to medium and knead the dough for 10 minutes, or until soft and elastic.
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and knead 4 or 5 times, then stretch the outside down and around the bottom, to form a skin around a ball. Transfer the dough into a lightly-oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment, or grease lightly. Turn dough out onto a lightly-floured surface, and gently punch down. Divide dough into 16 to 20 pieces (as desired, about 2 ounces each), and shape each into a rough circle, or round into a ball and flatten slightly. Covering the pieces not being used, press or roll each piece into an oval. Top with some of the chopped chocolate, and roll up starting with the short sides. Pinch the seam to seal, and place seam-side down on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover rolls with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 375º F.
5. Lightly brush each roll with egg wash, and dust with salt. Bake for 15 minutes, or until dark brown on top. Transfer to a wire rack to cool before serving.
1. If you don’t have the rye, spelt, or buckwheat flours, you can certainly replace them with plain whole-wheat flour. You should end up with 7 1/2 ounces, or about 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons.
2. If you prefer, you can substitute 4 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast for the active-dry yeast. If doing so, add the yeast to the flour, rather than to the warm liquids.