Bourbon Tasting Goodies: Braided Chocolate Sweet Bread

Last weekend we were invited to a bourbon tasting at our friends Sam and Andrea's house.  We're in a bit of a bourbon phase - delicious stuff, that - so we were really excited to go.  When I asked Andrea (that's her below, with all those little cups of bourbon) what I should bring, she requested something bready and filling to sop up some of the four different bourbons we tried that night.  I had just read a new post over at Smitten Kitchen and the recipe sounded awfully delicious and filling, so I plunged in.

I won't lie - I had issues with this recipe. I'm blaming the first (failed) attempt on dead yeast. Seems likely, in my kitchen. I may have overshot on the do-over, but so far, so good. Deb's suggestion on avoiding a sticky situation was well-conceived and, after seeing how tender and sticky this dough is, I give her full credit for saving me a vale of tears spilt over a ruined masterpiece.

I'll note the changes I made to the recipe after the first failed attempt, so you know how to go with me or go with the original, whichever you prefer.  My version will be in [brackets].  The instructions are based on Smitten Kitchen's, but I've heavily tweaked them.
Braided Chocolate Sweet Bread  
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from King Arthur

  • 6 T (3 oz) warm water
  • 1 t sugar [2 t sugar]
  • 1 1/2 t instant yeast [after my yeast failed, I threw in a whole packet, so 2 1/4 t]
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • Sponge (above)
  • 6 T (3 oz) sour cream or yogurt [3 T sour cream AND 3 T plain, fat-free yogurt]
  • 1/4 c (4 T or 2 oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs (beat one for the dough, reserve the other for brushing the dough)
  • 1/4 c (1 3/4 oz) sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 c (10 5/8 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour [plus up to 1/2 c more, depending on humidity]
  • [white sanding sugar for sprinkling]
Make Dough
  1. Make sponge: Whisk together flour, water, and sugar.  Add yeast and stir gently to combine.  Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to proof for 15 minutes. 
  2. I made my dough in a stand mixer (*I'm told it can be done without! See below.): Beat together sour cream, yogurt, butter, egg, sugar, salt and vanilla until well blended.  
  3. Add the sponge and mix until well incorporated.  
  4. Add the flour 1/2 c at a time and mix with the paddle until the dough is rough, but the flour is incorporated.  
  5. Knead with the dough hook until a soft, smooth dough forms, about 5 minutes.  The dough should clear the sides of the bowl, but stick a little to the center of the bottom.  If your dough is too wet (i.e. doesn't clear the sides of the bowl, extremely sticky to the touch) add flour a couple of tablespoons at a time until the dough is cohesive.
  6. Place the kneaded dough in a lightly buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set somewhere warm to rise for 90 minutes or until roughly doubled (or maybe a little less).
  7. While the dough rises, make the filling.
Sweet Cream Cheese & Chocolate filling
  • 2/3 c (5 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 T(5/8 oz) sugar
  • 2 T (1 oz) sour cream
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 2 T (1/2 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate
  1. Chop the chocolate finely and set aside (not someplace too warm - i.e. away from your oven).
  2. Combine cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, vanilla, and flour in a small bowl and mix until smooth.  For this to work, your cream cheese and sour cream should both be room temperature.  
  3. Set aside and check on your dough.
Assemble the beast
  1. Deflate the dough and roll it out on a generously floured counter to a 10″ x 15″ rectangle. Transfer rectangle to a large piece of parchment paper.  You may need help with this - have someone slide the parchment under the dough rectangle as you gingerly lift it.  If you don't have a spare set of hands around, I don't know why you couldn't just roll the thing out ON parchment.  
  2. Use a dough cutter or butter knife to mark two lines down the center of the dough, dividing it into three equal columns. Spread the cream cheese filling down the center section, leaving the top and bottom two inches free of filling. Sprinkle the chopped chocolate on top of the cream cheese filling.
  3.  To form the mock braid, cut horizontal strips (i.e. perpendicular to your filling) about an inch wide down the length of the outer columns of you dough (the parts without filling). Make sure you have an equal number of strips down the right and left sides. Use the dough scraper or butter knife to do this.  Don't cut the parchment paper.  
  4. To “braid”, begin by folding in the top and bottom strips, then folding the top flap down and bottom flap up over the filling. Lift the next dough strip and gently bring it diagonally across the filling. Be careful not to stretch the strips too much, as they will quickly become too thin and too long to do any good!  Repeat on the right side, and continue down the entire braid, alternating left and right strips until you are out. It should look roughly like a braid or a laced-up shoe.  
  5. Tuck any remaining ends under and call it a day.  It does not have to be perfect.  It will be impressive any way you do it.
  6. SLOWLY and carefully transfer the dough and the parchment paper to a baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic and set it aside to rise for 45 minutes, until quite puffy.
  7. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375°F. 
  8. After the rising is done, brush the loaf with egg wash, and sprinkle with sanding sugar. 
  9. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the loaf is golden brown. Depending on the depth of your oven, you may want to turn it midway through baking to ensure even browning. 
  10. Remove from the oven and cool for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
*Make dough by hand: Whisk together sour cream, butter, egg, sugar and vanilla in a large, wide bowl. Stir in sponge. Add the flour and mix with a wooden spoon as best as you can; you may need to get your hands in there to form it into a shaggy ball. Turn ball of dough and any incorporated scraps onto a counter and knead until a smooth, soft dough forms, about 5 to 10 minutes. Place the kneaded dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until quite puffy and nearly doubled.


Andrea said...

Ha, I just peeked in at Smitten Kitchen today – I don't go there very often – and thought to myself, my, that looks very much like the thing Emily brought over Saturday.

FoodSnobbery said...

I was just wondering....since I'm more into dark chocolate...if I used dark chocolate...how much sugar, if any, should I use?