When I was a child I did not like prunes, which is quite silly because I adore plums. My boys also enjoy plums, and if we have some on hand they don't last long. Every day for the last two weeks the boys have been raiding the plums and I would either find them off in a corner nibbling and getting sticky plum juice everywhere or they would come right up to me, asking, "Mommy, may I have a plum?" with one bite already taken. When I was chopping the prunes for this chocolate prune bread and explained that they were dried plums, that was all it took. They kept coming back asking for more prunes and I had to start rationing so I would have enough for the bread.
The recipe comes from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and I have enjoyed all the doughs I've tried from this book. I've had a lot of fun with my forays into sourdough and starters this year, but I find myself increasingly drawn to this type of bread dough for the time savings. The dough is already mixed for me, I just shape, rise, and bake, and that has a lot of appeal on busy days. I can still make good bread for my family without the extra time investment of daily mixing and multiple risings and trying to work all that in with the crazy schedule. Though the dough recipes can be halved, the method requires some dedicated refrigerator space. I have had as many as three buckets of doughs in the refrigerator all at once, though two is my usual now.
I made this chocolate prune bread using the brioche dough recipe, which is easy to work with and produces a good crumb with a nice flavor. The bread is rich, especially with the chocolate, but it makes a good dessert bread. I skipped the second shaping step which calls for folding the dough a couple times after rolling because I wanted to see the swirls of chocolate and prunes and I thought those would be lost if I folded some more. The boys said the swirls were pretty, and just like the plums and the prunes, this pretty bread did not last long with my boys around!
Chocolate Prune Bread
- 5 to 6 quart food service bucket with a lid or similar
- 9x4x3 loaf pan, buttered and sprinkled with granulated sugar
- rolling pin
- plastic wrap
- 1½ cups warm water (105-115° F/41-46° C)
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast (or 2 packets granulated yeast, about 1-1/2 tablespoons)
- 1½ tablespoons salt
- 8 eggs (lightly beaten)
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1½ cups unsalted butter (3 sticks, melted)
- 7½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1½ pounds brioche dough
- 6 ounces chopped high-quality bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli.)
- 3/4 cup chopped prunes
- egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water)
- 4 tablespoons granulated sugar (for sprinkling on top of bread and preparing the pan)
Make the Dough
- In the bucket, mix the yeast, salt, eggs, honey, melted butter, and water. Add the flour and stir using a heavy wooden spoon. The dough should be loose, but it will firm up when it chills. Any lumps in the dough will disappear in the finished breads. Cover (not airtight) and rest at room temperature for about 2 hours, until the dough has risen and collapsed or at least flattens slightly on top.
- Chill with the lid on for up to 5 days. If you want to keep it longer, you can freeze in 1-pound portions for up to 4 weeks. Thaw frozen dough in the refrigerator for 24 hours before using, then follow directions in the recipe for resting and rising.
Make the Bread
- Flour your hands. In the bucket, dust the surface of the dough with flour and cut away a 1-1/2 pound (cantaloupe size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and shape quickly into a ball. Stretch the surface of the dough as you work it in a circle in your hands, pulling the dough underneath to create a smooth taut surface. Use a rolling to roll the dough into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle. Use just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking, but avoid working extra flour into the dough or it will be dry.
- Sprinkle the chopped chocolate and prunes over the rolled dough, staying about 1/2 inch away from the edges. Roll the dough, pressing with your hands as you go to work the prunes and chocolate into the dough. Some pieces may poke through the dough, and that’s ok.
- Dampen your hands with water and form the dough into a loaf shape. Place it in the prepared pan and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Allow to rise at room temperature for 1 hour and 40 minutes.
- Place rack in center of the oven and preheat to 350º F. Just before baking, brush the dough with the egg wash and sprinkle sugar on top.
- Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until firm. Adjust time as necessary for a smaller or larger loaf. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack before slicing.