I love all aspects of baking, however bread is definitely not my strong suit. But when I started thinking about competing in the Chef’s Hat competition, I knew I wanted to create something all on my own. It was a perfect opportunity to challenge my bread making ability and come up with a formula of my own, which I had never done before.
My inspiration for doing a chocolate bread came from this reddit post I saw a few months ago. I hadn’t even thought of chocolate in a bread dough before this! What a great, unique idea that contains one of my favourite ingredients – chocolate. The reddit user who posted their bread used this recipe, which contains dried fruit and walnuts.
“Sourdough Noir,” from Emilie on “the clever carrot”
Turns out chocolate sourdough hasn’t been done very often, because my internet surfing for recipes to compare with was pretty dry. Most recipes have chocolate chips and dried fruit as inclusions, but I wanted the impactful, deep dark coloured loaf like the “sourdough noir.” There was one recipe that seemed to be the front runner – Chocolate cherry loaf. Chef James Bartlett of Metropolitan bakery in Philadelphia specializes in this bread, and I managed to find a few videos of his makeup process. My friend Halsey found me a recipe for a chocolate cherry bread just like it, so I had a good base to start creating my formula from.
Instead of cherries, I wanted to have one of my favourite flavour combinations – chocolate and hazelnuts. In our NAIT formula books there is a recipe for “Rustic Hazelnut Sourdough (#52),” so I took that one and compared it side by side to the chocolate cherry loaf formula. Here are my first set of notes comparing the 2:
I knew I had to play around with the yeast levels and hydration to get the right balance, so I started with 65% hydration and 1% yeast in addition to my sourdough starter. I also decided to cold brew espresso into my water for the bread overnight since espresso is a natural flavour enhancer to chocolate. As for procedure, I did an autolyse method and retarded the dough overnight. Here is the first formula and procedure:
Everything went as planned for the first go round…except I forgot to add the yeast. The levain alone did not do well overnight in the fridge, and the dough temperature was very low. The bread smelled amazing, however it was way too dense. I also got feedback that the amount of chocolate chips was a little high. A disappointing first attempt, but not a complete failure. Back to the books!
I did two more tests, keeping everything constant except for the hydration, levain amount and chocolate chip amount. I reduced the chocolate chips by 10% for both loaves, and followed the same procedure. This time I actually added the yeast though, and did not retard overnight.
Much better. The chocolate chip amount was just right, and yeast definitely helped a lot. I would have liked to retard overnight for that nice bubbly skin and better flavour development, but overall I was pleased. The formula I decided to go with was test #2, with 70% hydration and 65% levain. I ended up using that formula for our final practical assessment:
They weren’t the prettiest loaves, but they did turn out pretty good. I did not retard them overnight, and in the interest of time I ended up doing a hot brewed espresso instead of a cold brew which actually made the bread quite sour compared to the previous attempts. The sourness balanced pretty well, but I found that it was less of a chocolate enhancer and more of a hazelnut suppressor.
I still have some tweaks to do until it’s perfect, but I like the flavour of it and overall I think I achieved my goal. This bread tastes and smells amazing when toasted with a bit of butter. The Chef’s Hat competition is soon, and I intend on using test #2 with cold brew espresso and retarding overnight. Ask me later how it turns out!
If you wanted to try it for yourself, here is the formula:
Chocolate Hazelnut Sourdough
4 loaves @ 650g each
- Cold brew espresso and water 12-24hrs before mixing. Toast hazelnuts beforehand.
- Prepare levain 12 hours before.
- Combine espresso water (drained), flour, and levain till hydrated, autolyse for 20 min.
- Add cocoa powder, yeast, malt powder and salt; mix for 4 min on 1st speed and 2-4 min on 2nd speed, until gluten formation.
- Add chocolate chips and crushed hazelnuts on speed 1 until incorporated.
- BFT for 90 min at room temp with 1 fold. (RDT 24C)
- Scale and divide, retard overnight.
- Proof in floured baneton for approx 1.5 hours at room temp.
- Bake between 425-450F for 30 min.
Thanks for reading! Happy baking,