Undoubtedly developed with ease in mind, the recipe is straightforward and easy to follow. As is typically the case, I made some alterations, substituting one cup of bread flour with whole wheat flour (for a tad bit of added fiber) and limiting the initial rise to only 12 hours (by then, the dough had certainly more than doubled in size and was long ready to overtake the large bowl that cradled it). I had some difficulty handling the sticky dough and worried that attempting to transfer it into a hot Dutch oven would end in disaster, but somehow managed to avoid any mishaps. The bread baked up beautifully, with the finished product exhibiting a thin, crusty exterior, airy interior, and mildly cocoa-flavored, nutty taste. My loaf turned out darker than the one shown with the original recipe, probably because I used dark, Dutch-processed cocoa. This loaf made for a tasty, visually-striking change of pace.
Because the bread is not sweet--rather, it has a neutral but deep, almost earthy flavor--it is wonderfully versatile as a vehicle for an array of toppings or other bread-requiring applications. I tasted a plain slice of the warm bread the evening I baked it, which, in my opinion, is the best way to enjoy freshly baked bread. But in the days following, I preferred toasting slices of the loaf and topping them with an assortment of sweet and savory spreads: shiro koshi an, spicy chickpea cashew spread, and dulce de leche (all vegan). I love a good, savory spread, but I think the sweet spreads better complemented the chocolate notes in the bread. The addictively sweet, caramel flavor of the dulce de leche (an almond milk version of Mihl's recipe) was my favorite pairing for the bread--one that would figure into a later, slightly more elaborate application.
|Toppings, clockwise from top: shiro koshi an, spicy chickpea cashew spread, dulce de leche.|
After a few rounds of toast, it was time to get a little decadent. As the bread began to get a little stale, I naturally sought the French toast treatment to revive it. I consulted the "Fronch" Toast recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance, doctoring it with cinnamon, vanilla and almond extracts, and maple syrup. To put the simple breakfast staple over the top, I further sweetened the bread with a drizzling of dulce de leche. Homemade granola--made from puffed kamut, rolled oats, almond butter, maple syrup, molasses, chopped almonds, milled flax seed, and vanilla and almond extracts--added a not-too-sweet crunch and nuttiness I happen to love with everything, and completed the dish nicely. The combination of flavors and textures was definitely an indulgence not to be missed. I envision a chocolate bread pudding adaptation working fabulously, and may have to try it later with the portion of the loaf I froze.
|Vegan dulce de leche. Sweet and delicious.|
|Nutty kamut and oat granola.|
|Decadent chocolate walnut French toast with granola and dulce de leche.|