I’ve got two problems that I hope this post is helping me to remedy. My first problem is a personal matter of metabolism. I seem to completely lack one. You might even say, if you’re polite, that I am quite “susceptible to bulking up.” And, as you might be able to guess from the simple hint that I write a food blog, I don’t exactly hate food.
The other problem is one that would seem to enhance the effects of the first. I have a collection of recipes, variations, and ideas of such a size that I could never try them all in one lifetime and still hope to weigh under 3000 pounds. And I keep finding more recipes and ideas, especially on the internet. I file away my internet treasures in an MS Word file, and when the file reaches 20 pages, I create a new one. I just filled up the file titled “Internet Recipes XI.” (That’s right, Spinal Tap fans. It goes to eleven!)
It’s time to start trying some of these recipes, but also to start burning some of these calories. I exercise just about every day, but I also cook every day, so I thought I should find a way to bring some exercise into the kitchen. I feel like a dork doing knee bends or lunges in front of the stove or the mixer, even though I’m usually by myself. There was, however, one more dignified thing I could do. I could start kneading bread by hand instead of using my heavy-duty stand mixer. I’ve fought against this for years, offering a plethora of weak and whiny excuses, but it was time to toughen up. If my 88 year old grandmother can knead bread by hand, then so can I. Besides, there just might be a delicious baguette studded with dark chocolate and orange peel as my reward at the end of it all.
And so, I’ve been kneading most of our loaves by hand over the last couple weeks. (If I have Popeye-like forearms next time you see me, you’ll know why.) If I’d been hoping to gain a spiritual connection to our daily bread with this up-to-the-elbows, sensual approach, I would have been sorely disappointed. I have, however, come to appreciate just when a dough crosses over from a mixture of flour and liquid to a smooth, glutinous proto-loaf. It at least feels interesting enough to distract me from the daydreams and little songs that go through my head to pass the tiresome time while kneading.
I got the idea for this chocolate and orange bread from an old post in the archives of the blog Chocolate and Zucchini. The blog’s author didn’t post a recipe for the bread, because she had bought it, not made it, but I thought, “I can make a baguette, chop chocolate, and peel an orange. I can make this bread.”
I did, and we loved it. I used a 60% cacao chocolate that I broke into shards, so there were pieces of chocolate to bite into. I used a vegetable peeler to peel the orange part of the skin from an orange, redolent with essential oils, while leaving the spongy pith behind. I cut it into smaller pieces and kneaded it into the dough with the chocolate. The whole loaf was fragrant with citrus. The slightly bitter bits of zest were a very pleasant compliment to the decadent bitter-sweet chocolate.
This bread also made a fabulous French toast, with a little more finely-grated orange zest added to the custardy soaking mixture. In fact, I waited to write this post until I could test the French toast. I’m going to be making it again, just to make the French toast! And perhaps the calories I burn kneading the dough by hand will make up for the butter and maple syrup.
Chocolate Orange Bread Recipe
You could brush the bread with an egg wash (an egg beaten with milk or water) just before baking, if desired.
1 recipe baguette dough, just kneaded (through step 3)
3.5-4 ounces good bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (I used 60% cacao)
zest from 1 medium orange, peeled off in wide strips with a vegetable peeler (avoid the white pith) and cut into pieces
1. Allow the dough to relax about 5 minutes. Stretch or roll the dough into a rough rectangle. Spread the chocolate and orange zest onto the dough. Roll the dough up over the chocolate and orange zest. Knead the dough to distribute the chocolate and orange zest evenly.
2. Form the dough into a ball and place it in a large bowl greased or coated with cooking spray. Grease or spray the top of the dough and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Cover with a towel and let stand about 1 hour, or until it has approximately doubled in size.
3. Gently deflate the dough and form into a ball. Let the dough relax 5 minutes. Form the dough into a long loaf and place on a baking sheet. Cut several gashes into the top of the loaf. Cover with a cloth and let rise 45 minutes to 1 hour or until doubled in size and puffy. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 F.
4. Bake at 450 F for 20 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack. Slice and eat. This bread also makes a fantastic French toast. You can also wrap up and freeze any (unlikely) bread leftovers.