Chocolate Brioche

Brioche is one of my favorite breads.  It lends itself to so many variations, both sweet and savory.  But chocolate brioche is a special variation unto itself.  It’s a rich chocolate and coffee-scented, bittersweet chocolate-studded dough, that bakes into the most decadent loaf of bread ever.  You can enjoy it with your favorite raspberry preserves, make tea sandwiches (peanut butter and banana are really good), or turn it into stellar french toast.  In the next few days I’ll share some of the delightful treats that you can make from chocolate brioche.  Here is the basic recipe to get you started.

Chocolate Brioche
(makes about 2 pounds dough, for 2 9×5-inch loaves)
For the Chocolate Butter:
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
For the Sponge:
1 envelope active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup lukewarm brewed coffee
1/2 cup bread flour or all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
For the Dough:
3 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
For the egg wash:
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Chocolate Butter:  Place the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl.  Melt over a pan of simmering water, or in the microwave (slowly at 50% power).  Set the chocolate aside at room temperature to cool.  In a medium bowl, cream the butter until soft and lump free (a hand mixer works well here).  Add the cocoa powder and cooled melted chocolate and beat until well incorporated.  Set the chocolate butter aside at room temperature.
Sponge:  Combine the yeast and water in the bowl of a stand mixer; whisk until the yeast is dissolved.  Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir in the coffee, flour, and sugar, forming a thin batter.  Cover with plastic and let rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes, or until bubbles form.
Dough:  Sift together the flour and salt into the sponge, then add the egg yolks.  Mix on low speed for 2 minutes, or until the egg yolks are absorbed.  Increase the speed to medium and knead the dough for 5 minutes, or until smooth and satiny.  On medium-low speed, add the chocolate butter, 1 tablespoon at a time.  Stop the mixer and occasionally scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Switch to the dough hook.  Mix until the dough is shiny and smooth, about 5 minutes.  Add the chocolate and knead until incorporated.  Scrape out the dough and shape it into a large round.  Place it in an oiled bowl and turn to coat the top with oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in volume about 2 to 3 hours.  Punch the dough down by folding it two or three times and allow it to rise again; in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight, or at room temperature for 45 to 60 minutes.  Spray two 9×5-inch loaf pans with pan spray.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it in half.  Shape each piece of dough and fit into the loaf pans.  Cover with plastic wrap and proof until the dough fills the pans, 15 to 20 minutes if the dough is at room temperature, 1 1/2 to 2 hours if it’s cold.  As the dough is proofing, preheat the oven to 350Β°F with the rack positioned to the center of the oven.  Whisk the egg yolk and cream together in a small bowl.  Gently brush the surface of the proofed loaves with the egg wash.  Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the loaves have an internal temperature of 180Β°F and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.  Remove form the pans and cool on a rack before serving.  Cooled loaves can be tightly wrapped and frozen for up to 2 weeks.
(from “The Secrets of Baking” by Sherry Yard)



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