The clocks went back at the weekend and we’ve lit the fire. It always seems a bit sad to have the ties with any hope of daylight cut at the end of October. I’ve a friend who disappears off to South Africa for the winter and talks endlessly about Cape Town and the beauty of the coast during the hot summer. Just a daydream for me - personally, I’m in favour of double daylight saving so there is much more chance to use the evenings that we do have. Anyway, for us in northern climes, the clocks changing is the signal to make the Christmas cake and as it starts becoming cold I start to think about comforting food so as a gentle introduction to winter-warming bakes, Vanessa has come up with a clever braided chocolate loaf that, with a cup of tea, is sure to be uplifting.

I love chocolate so developing this recipe has been a real joy...and so this week I have come up with a brioche loaf using as much chocolate as I could pack in. I’ve layered the chocolate, using cocoa, melted chocolate and chopped chocolate (you can never have too much!) to give a really chocolate wallop. Cocoa powder is great for a chocolatey hit but you really do need to add real chocolate for maximum impact. I have beaten in some melted chocolate. Careful though, if you add liquid chocolate into dough on it own it can cool too quickly and make the dough lumpy. Instead, mix it with a little melted butter to ensure a lovely smooth dough.

The dough is quite soft and really benefits from being allowed to rest in the fridge to firm it up. Just flatten it onto a parchment paper lined tray and cover with another layer of parchment paper and if you know how to plait hair then you will make a great job of this loaf!

The dough is very soft so if baked free-form on a tray it will tend to drop down a bit and look a little flat. The Oblong covered baker is the best choice for this loaf as it supports the delicate dough while baking. It also traps steam inside while baking making for better dough development during baking - and ultimately a better eat.

I use is the excellent quality Steenbergs Organic Cocoa Powder. Coming from the Dominican Republic this cocoa powder is packed in a tin caddy that is reusable - but the point is that it tastes very good indeed.

When baking with chocolate do buy the best quality as this is what will make or break the flavour. Use organic with around 70% cocoa as this yield in my opinion gives the best taste.

This recipe calls for a really strong flour so I have used my old favourite Mulino Marino Type 00. Why? Well, because this dough is very rich and contains a lot of butter, eggs, chocolate and so on, we need a flour that will hold all of that and still give a light open texture. This flour will do just that because of the high protein level at 14-16% which means that it can handle all these additions. To build on the flavour further I have added some date syrup and Roasted Barley Malt which adds both colour and flavour to this dough - but don’t over do it as 5-10g per kg of flour is all you need.

Vanessa Kimbell runs the Sourdough School, Northampton


Recipe: Braided Chocolate Loaf


I wouldn’t make this by hand, simply because it is really important to get the dough to fully develop the gluten. Place the flour into the mixer bowl and add the osmotolerant yeast, cocoa powder, roasted barley malt flour, molasses and eggs.

Bring together into a paste then add the melted butter blended with the melted chocolate and mix straight away on a medium speed for 10 minutes with a dough hook. The dough should be smooth and elastic. You may need to add a little milk if the dough is very firm.

Next, add the cubed butter a quarter at a time, allowing each to be incorporated before adding the next. When the dough is silky smooth and elastic add the chopped chocolate and mix into the dough. Tip the dough onto the table and form into a ball then return to the mixer bowl rubbed with a little vegetable oil, cover and ferment for 60-90 minutes in a warm kitchen.

The dough is ready when you push your finger into it such that it gently springs back. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lift the dough from the bowl and place onto the paper lined tray then gently press into a rectangle 40cm x 25cm. Cover with more paper and place in the fridge for an hour. This will stabilise the dough. Using your dough scraper divide into 6 equal strips each 40cm long.

Now plait each loaf using 3 lengths into a 3 braided plait per loaf, see the short video, placing each plait onto your floured couche to prove for around an hour. While this is happening place your Oblong Covered Baker onto the centre shelf of your oven which is set at 170°C, 350F, gas mark 4 to heat through.

When you are ready to bake remove the covered baker from the oven using ovenproof gloves and remove the cover and sprinkle the base with semolina. Using a flipping board lift the dough and place into the baker, re-cover and bake for 30 - 40 minutes in the hot oven. See our short video to make this easy.

Lift the second loaf onto the flipping board and onto the papered baking sheet then put into the fridge until the first is baked and then repeat above.

To test if the plait is baked, pick the loaf up and tap the base, you are looking for a hollow sound indicating that the loaf is baked.

Allow to cool in the baker for 10 minutes to stiffen and then lift out onto a cooling rack.

To finish, melt a little white chocolate and stir in enough honey to bring the chocolate to a piping consistency, drizzle over the loaf when it is cold. If you do it before it is cold the drizzle may run and soak in.


(makes 2 loaves)

500g Mulino Marino Type “00” Flour
20g Osmotolerant dried yeast (Ideal for enriched dough)
20g Steinbergs Cocoa Powder
5g Roasted barley Malt Flour
50g Date Syrup
7 Fresh eggs at room temperature
50g Good quality dark chocolate melted (25°C)
100g Unsalted butter - melted
A little milk if need to soften the dough
300g Unsalted butter chopped into 2cm cubes (cold but not straight from the fridge)
150g Good quality dark chocolate chopped in chunks
A little semolina flour or fine maize flour for dusting the Oblong Baker

A little white chocolate
and some honey to make a drizzle (see below)


Mixer with a dough hook

Oblong Covered Baker
Dough scraper

Couche proofing Cloth

Flipping Board

Buy an Oblong Baker by 13 November and we’ll give you a FREE bottle of date syrup and a bag of roasted barley malt to make this delicious loaf. Simply click here to add all three to the basket - we'll make the syrup and RBM free in the checkout.


featured products


Assistent Mixer | £595

Invented in 1939, the Ankarsrum Assistent Original is a robust mixer designed to last for 30 years and supplied with an extensive range of accessories making it capable of working everything from bread dough, delicate cake mixes, through to mincing, making sausages, grating and blending.

Osmo Yeast | £5.00

The recognised international reference instant yeast for high sugar recipes, in 500g vacuum pack

Steinbergs Cocoa Powder | £3.85

Organic Fairtrade cocoa powder from the Dominican Republic, packed into reusable caddies. Perfect for use in cakes and Ideal for making hot cocoa and hot chocolate drinks.

Roasted barley Malt Flour | £3.06

Muntons RBM Roasted Barley Malt Flour, extremely dark non-diastatic roasted barley malt flour great for brown bread, rolls and bagels.

Date Syrup | £2.49

Date syrup is a richly flavoured concentrate containing no additives or preservatives. Use as a direct replacement for sugar in your home bakes.

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