Chocolate Orange Raisin Bread - A Favorite Homemade Bread
Perfecting this Chocolate Orange Raisin Bread was exhilarating for me. I have been fascinated with chocolate bread for more years than I care to remember. Almost every recipe I read mentioned the denseness of the bread. Every chocolate bread I made was dense. In fact, I have a Chocolate Cherry Bread on my blog that is also dense. Good, but dense. There had to be a way to lighten up the dough and make a moist, light and flavorful loaf.
I was reminded of this quest when I saw a Chocolate Bread recipe by David Lebovitz. Again, he mentioned the dense word. After giving the problem some thought I came up with the answer – and it was right in front of me all the time - a sponge.
Why Use a Sponge when making Homemade Bread
When yeast doughs are heavy in milk, sugar, chocolate, and/or eggs they tend to rise slowly. These are called rich doughs. Dried yeast is a living organism that is asleep. Just as we like to wake up in a warm atmosphere ready to eat, so does the yeast. By making a sponge of some of the warm liquid, flour, yeast, and a bit of sugar that feeds them, the dried yeast wakes up happy and starts multiplying immediately. This multiplies the initial yeast and adds a lot more rising power to the bread than it would otherwise have. This is the simplest of all starters. It is called a sponge because that's what it looks like when risen.
About the Chocolate
Normally I use chocolate chips in cookies or wherever the item is going to be picked up barehanded because they don’t melt. This time I went with chocolate chunks for a more pronounced chocolate. You will notice in the ingredient photo there are two bowls of chocolate. That is not a mistake as you will see when you make this best of all homemade bread. I have had questions about the chocolate I use because it looks like chocolate chips – which it is not. I use Callebaut semisweet callets. They are a boon to the professional baker. When I had my bakery the chocolate we used came in ten-pound blocks which had to be hand chopped. It was a great day when callets were introduced. The same unadulterated chocolate used in the blocks is used in callets which look like chocolate chips but are a bit larger. They melt faster and more evenly than chopped chocolate because of their uniform shape.
A bit about the Ingredients
I used dutch cocoa for the darkness of its color when baked, but natural would do also. Bread flour, with its high protein count, is important to the ability of this rich dough to rise. The raisins are plumped in hot water while preparing the rest of the recipe to ensure their moistness. Since very little butter is used, I opted for whole milk instead of my normal 2% milk. As is my practice, I added coffee and vanilla since they heighten the flavor of chocolate. This dough is actually a batter. The consistency of the dough bakes into a wonderful texture, a dark chocolate color with a moistness that keeps it fresh for days when well wrapped.
You will notice in the ingredients photo that two of them are different. After the photo was taken, I increased the milk and added an additional egg to ensure the outcome I wanted. I mention this only because I know many of you will notice the changes.
Homemade bread is often so much better than any you can buy and this one certainly falls into that category. I’m very proud of this bread and it was worth all it took to get it here.
We are experiencing our first snow of the season here and making homemade bread is my idea of winter. This Chocolate Orange Raisin Bread would be perfect for the holidays as a morning, afternoon, evening or anytime treat. Who am I kidding? I would wake up in the middle of the night for this bread!
Chocolate Orange Raisin Bread
⅞ cup whole milk, divided (1 cup less 2 tablespoons)
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (7 grams or one envelope of ¼ ounce)
2 ¼ cups bread flour (315 grams or 11 ounces)
½ cup packed light brown sugar (100 grams or 3 ½ ounces)
2 tablespoons orange zest – about 1 large orange
½ cup raisins, (60 grams or 2 ounces)
¼ cup Dutch cocoa (25 grams or ⅞ ounce)
½ teaspoon table salt
4 tablespoons butter (60 grams or 2 ounces)
3 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (85 grams)
1 ½ teaspoons instant coffee or espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
½ cup chocolate chunks (60 grams or 2 ounces)
Heat the milk in the microwave or in a small pan until lukewarm. If it gets too hot, let it cool to lukewarm before continuing.
In the bowl of a mixer, whisk together ⅓ cup of the lukewarm milk, the yeast, ¼ cup of the measured flour, and 1 teaspoon sugar from the measured sugar.
Cover with plastic wrap and allow to double, about 30 minutes.
Zest the orange with a microplaner and set aside.
Cover the raisins with really hot water and set aside.
Because cocoa often has lumps that won’t come out when beaten, sift the flour, cocoa, and salt together. Set aside.
Melt the butter and 3 ounces (85 grams) of chocolate in the microwave or in a small pan. Whisk to combine and let cool to lukewarm.
Stir the coffee into the vanilla. When the sponge has doubled, add the remaining milk, sugar, vanilla and coffee, egg, and orange zest to the mixing bowl. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed to mix.
Add half the flour/cocoa mix, beating well on low. Blend in the chocolate and butter mixture.
Add the remaining flour/cocoa mix, beating to combine. Change to a dough hook if available and beat for 3 minutes. Drain the raisins and squeeze out any excess water. Add them, along with the chocolate chunks, to the batter. Mix for 2 more minutes.
Leave the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise for 2 to 2 ½ hours in a warm place until doubled.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Spray a 6 cup, oven proof bowl such as soufflé dish. Stir the batter down. It will be very light and spongy. Scoop the batter into the bowl. Smooth the top. Cover very lightly with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 30 minutes. At this point, it should have risen somewhat but nowhere close to doubling. That is as it should be.
Bake for 30 minutes. Tent with aluminum foil to prevent over-browning and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes until the dough is firm. The normal temperature for bread when baked is 180°F. However, I took mine out of the oven at 165°F because it was firm and set. I let it cool in the dish for about 30 to 40 minutes before releasing and setting it on a rack to cool completely. As you can see in the picture, it is totally baked.
I am sure my newest favorite homemade bread will freeze and thaw well but mine didn’t stick around long enough to try it.
However, it does retain its texture and moistness for several days well wrapped.
Hi Helen - you're probably gearing up for the holidays now, but I just had a quick question - how are you liking your Breville stand mixer now you've had it for a couple of years? I posted on your original post about it, as I've got a DeLonghi/Kenwood mixer, which is fantastic but tall and was proving tricky hard to find parts for (although I've now find the online dealer, thank goodness). I also have the Breville food processor and it's still amazing, two years on. Very very powerful. Thanks! x
Hi Kate, I absolutely love it. Even more. So easy to use, clean and it works flawlessly. Remember, I use mine a whole lot more than most people. I am using it to test all the cookies which is a huge job and it has not given me one problem. I am jealous you have the Breville processor. I hear it is the best. It is too big to have on my work table and I use my processor too often to have to move it around.
Lovely recipe. It’s inspiring to bake it this weekend :)
Just one query, what to do with the remaining milk? 1/3 cup goes in the sponge and then when does the remaining milk goes in the batter?
Hi Manisha - It goes with the rest of the liquid ingredients - the remaining, sugar, egg, etc. I have corrected the recipe. It shows it in the photo with the egg, etc. but I failed to list it with the other ingredients. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. Hope all is going well for you.
This looks good and sounds delicious. And terrific step by step photos as usual.
I have been asked to bake for a fund raiser in a few weeks. Last year I sold out of the bags of Italian cookies but wonder how this chocolate bread would be if baked into smaller loaves or some kind of a big muffin shape? Do you think I could get 4 of them out of one recipe as shown? Or would they be too small? I bet if I cut one up for samples it would help to sell them right away.
Thanks for your advice.
Hi Rocky - Good to hear from you. If you did Texas Muffins you could get 6 to 7 I would think out of one. Not sure how big the mini loaves would be. You could make one batch, fill the containers about 3/4 full, bake off and freeze for the sale. That would tell you how many you would get. Try not to use dark pans.
For sure, cut up a loaf for samples.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and I hope you are staying warm. We have a little snow storm going. Fine with snow but don't like ice.
OK thanks! That sounds good. I bought some of those paper liners that are like odd shaped pleated parchment paper. Not sure what they are called. But they would make a nice larger sized muffin. I will try a batch like you suggest.
I have always loved chocolate bread made with yeast but like you said it was "heavy". I did not have good luck making it. It was good freshly baked but then got weird.
Years ago a chef friend from L.A stood on line for a very long time at a well known bakery to get "day old" chocolate bread for me. Not sure how much it cost when fresh, but the day old was like $8-9 a loaf. She carried it on her lap on the plane to NY to meet me. It was good- well o.k and got stale fast. But will try yours.
Let me know how they turn out. Just don't overbake. That is the reason most items are dry.
Sounds like the perfect bread to make Bread Pudding with "leftovers" or a very indulgent French Toast!
This is a bread I will be making for this weekend.
Thank you again for a wonderful recipe and amazing step by step photos.
Hi Nikki, yes a great bread pudding. It's easy to put together and great with coffee!
Sounds and looks Soo yummy, when I have a good day ,I will try it,on my bucket list.
Hi Mari, Thanks for taking a look at it. Hope your good day comes soon.