French Chocolate Bread Recipe

French Chocolate Bread Recipe

What we are talking about here is a regular bread dough that is flavored with cocoa powder and studded with small bits of chocolate — an entirely different animal, one that’s more to my taste. And since I’m always looking for new and delicious ideas to keep my natural starter entertained, it wasn’t long before I decided to make my own.

Aside from this addition of yeast, the technique is very similar to the one I describe in my baguette post, with an overnight fermentation for flavor and flexibility; you can refer to it for pictures of the different steps.



200 grams (7 ounces) ripe (100% hydration) starter (see note)
540 grams (1 pound 3 ounces) bread flour (I used the French T80, which is partially whole wheat, plus 1 tablespoon wheat gluten)
60 grams (1/2 cup) good-quality unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
5 grams (1/6 ounce) fresh yeast, crumbled (substitute 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast; I use the SAF brand)
400 grams (14 ounces) filtered water at room temperature
2 teaspoons sea salt
140 grams (5 ounces) good-quality dark chocolate of your choice (I used one with a 60% cacao content), chopped to chocolate chip size on average (you’ll have smaller and larger pieces, that’s fine — use them all)


Day One: Prepare the dough.

  • Step 1

In a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the starter, flour, cocoa powder, yeast, and water until the mixture forms a shaggy mass and all the flour is incorporated.

  • Step 2

Let the mixture sit for 20 to 40 minutes for the autolyse.

  • Step 3

Add the salt, and knead with the dough hook on low speed for 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Add the chopped chocolate and mix until just incorporated.

Day One to Two: Ferment the dough.

  • Step 4

Cover with a kitchen towel and let the dough rest at room temperature for 1 hour. After an hour, fold the dough over itself (as demonstrated in this video) about a dozen times — this helps give oxygen to the yeasts in the dough, it develops the flavors and builds a well-structured crumb.

  • Step 5

Apply a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the dough, and a shower cap around the rim of the bowl. Push the shower cap down until it touches the plastic wrap — you want the cover to be somewhat airtight — and place the bowl in the fridge for 8 to 12 hours.

Day Two: Shape the loaves.

  • Step 6

Remove the bowl from the fridge; the dough should have about doubled in size.

  • Step 7

Remove the plastic wrap and replace it with the kitchen towel. Let the dough come back to room temperature, about 1 hour.

  • Step 8

Place a square or rectangular baking stone on the middle rack of your oven and preheat it to 300°C (570°F) or whatever the highest temperature setting is on your oven, for 30 minutes. If you don’t have a baking stone, preheat the oven to 240°C (460°C) and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

  • Step 9

Have ready a well floured linen kitchen towel that you will reserve for this use (no need to wash it after baking; the more you flour and use it, the less it will stick).

  • Step 10

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface (I dust an old silicone baking mat heavily with flour). Divide it into three pieces of equal size.

  • Step 11

Shape each piece into a bâtard — an oval loaf — as described here.

  • Step 12

After shaping each loaf, place it on the floured kitchen towel and pull the cloth up on each side to form a ridge that will support its shape. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rest for the remainder of the preheating.

Day Two: Create steam in the oven.

  • Step 13

During the last 5 minutes of preheating, insert a rimmed baking sheet in the lowest rack of the oven, underneath the pizza stone. Bring about 360 ml (1 1/2 cups) water to the boil in the kettle.

  • Step 14

Just before you’re ready to insert the loaves in the oven, make sure you wear something with long sleeves and put on an oven mitt. Using a vessel with a pouring spout (such as a measuring jug), pour half of the boiling water into the rimmed baking sheet — it will sizzle and steam and it will be a bit scary — and close the oven door right away.

  • Step 15

This is to create a nice, steamy environment, to foster the formation of a nice crust. Be careful not to burn yourself as you do this — that is what the long sleeve and oven mitt are for — and keep kids and pets out of the kitchen for this step.

Day Two: Slash and bake the loaves.

  • Step 16

If you’re using a baking stone, place the loaves on a well-floured pizza peel. Slash each of them 3 times with a baker’s blade or a sharp knife, working the blade at a 45° angle. Slide them onto the pizza stone, working quickly to prevent the heat and steam from escaping.

  • Step 17

Pour the remaining water into the rimmed baking sheet, and lower the temperature to 220°C (430°F).

  • Step 18

If you don’t have a baking stone, arrange the loaves on the prepared cookie sheet. Slash them as directed and insert into the middle rack of the oven. Pour the remaining water into the rimmed baking sheet, but don’t lower the temperature.

  • Step 19

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, rearranging them after 30 minutes so the ones at the front of the oven will be in the back and vice versa, until the loaves sound hollow when tapped at the bottom. If you’re worried they might color too much but they sound like they could use a little more baking, turn off the oven and leave the loaves in for another 15 to 20 minutes.

  • Step 20

Transfer to a rack to cool completely before eating.


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