Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chocolate Prune Bread

Man, do prunes have a bad reputation. Tell people you've made a chocolate prune bread and they wrinkle their noses and ask, "why prunes?" As if prunes were the most disgusting, vile fruit on the planet. I think it has something to do with reminding people that they'll eventually get old and need to eat prunes in order to, ya know...make doody. Actually, any fiber at all will make your intestines flush themselves out, and prunes just happen to be a delicious way to get the job done. So stop being such a ninny about prunes. They're delicious, they help you poop, and they are the perfect accompaniment to the soft, sweet challah dough and bite of semi-sweet chocolate chips.

This is one of the more challenging breads that I've made because there are several steps involved. Instead of mixing the chocolate chips and diced prunes directly into the dough as it's being made, you prepare the dough ahead of time, chill it and roll it out like you were making a pizza, and then add your sweets. It's not difficult, per say, but any time you add more steps to a project, you increase the likelihood that one of them will go disastrously wrong, or if you are me, you will forget a step altogether.

Here's how it goes though.
Step 1: Make your challah dough. Again, I used the recipe in the book Artisian Bread in Five.

Side note: If you are at all interested in learning to make your own bread (and you really should, because it's much easier than you think!!), this is the book to get. All of their recipes are no-knead, and most of them you can make with ingredients you already have in your kitchen (except maybe the yeast, but that's cheap and easy to find).

This is not a difficult step. Follow your recipe, don't overmix, and let your dough rise for at least 2 hours. I let mine refrigerate for several days before I used it, but I would assume a few hours would be long enough- it's easier to work with when it's chilled, so I would not recommend skipping this step.

Step 2: Roll out your dough to 1/2" thick, as if you were making a pizza.

Step 3: Prepare your filling. I used Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips, which I gave a rough chop to. You could leave them whole, but I wanted my chocolate to be more evenly distributed. I also chopped my prunes, but they tended to stick together anyway. Spread your chocolate and prunes on top of the dough evenly, then roll up like a burrito.

The book suggests kneading the dough to work the filling throughout the dough, but I think just rolling it up and shaping it into a loaf is good enough. You end up with this beautiful swirl of chocolate and prune throughout, much like a cinnamon-raisin bread. I did an egg white wash and then sprinkled liberally with cinnamon sugar.

Step 4: You have to let your dough rest for an hour-twenty, then you bake it for another 45-50 minutes, but when it's done, it will look something like this:

Confession time: this is the second loaf of bread I made with this recipe. The first loaf turned out equally as pretty, and I shared a slice or two (okay, three) with my mother in law and son. And then we went shopping. And left the bread on the table. With the dog out. Yeah...she ate it. I was so angry with her!! This bread is delicious, and man, was I looking forward to pigging out on it when I got home. But, really, can you blame her? If I were a dog, I'd eat the rest of it, too.

And that's the great thing about making dough ahead of time and keeping it in your fridge. If I had to start over from scratch, I would have to wait 2 hours for the dough to rise, let it chill for at least an hour, then prepare the dough with the filling, let it rest another hour and a half, then bake it for approximately another hour. That's 5 and a half hours. Too long. I just took my dough out of the fridge and cut my wait time in half.

The verdict? This bread gets a 10/10. Two thumbs up. A gold star. It's really, really delicious. The challah dough is soft and chewy, with a nice crispy crust. Paired with chocolate, the prunes are a nice sweet touch. It's a real winner. And it looks so impressive, too. Everyone in my family should expect a loaf of this for Christmas. (spoiler alert!!)


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