This bread is wonderful – our friends and family seem to think so too. We discovered it in the excellent “90s Vegetarian” by Ursula Ferrigno, ISBN 1 85391 309 X published 1994 by Merehurst Ltd. Make it vegan by substituting something vegan for the butter, and omitting the egg.
Ursula: “I adore prunes and wish they were taken more seriously. They are an excellent source of Vitamin A with iron and fibre. The combination of prunes and chocolate is heavenly. This is a wonderful breakfast bread – it is rich, sweet, dark and delicious and doesn’t need anything else with it. Try it with half dark chocolate, half good quality white chocolate too.”
Jon: I agree with Ursula! But also try half bitter (70%) and slightly less than half milk chocolate, topped up with a Terry’s chocolate orange bar. Yum! The bread has a tendency to be heavy (though not inedible by any means!), so we’ve tried reducing the over-generous amounts of chocolate and prunes and leaving out the egg.
20g fresh yeast or 1 tbsp dried yeast and 1 tsp sugar
750g strong white unbleached flour or half strong white and half strong wholemeal
2 teaspoons salt
375g stoned prunes
375g plain chocolate
1. Grease two 900g (2lb) loaf tins. Blend fresh yeast with 450ml (3/4 pint) hand-hot water (if using dried yeast, sprinkle it into the hand-hot water with the sugar and leave in a warm place until frothy).
2. Mix the flour and salt together well. Make a reservoir in the centre with a wooden spoon.
3. Gradually add about 3/4 of the yeast liquid to the flour and mix together well. (I find that different flours absorb different amounts of liquid, so I never add all the liquid at once). The dough should be firm and leave the sides of the bowl clean. If it looks dry, add some of the remaining yeast liquid.
4. Now lightly flour the work surface and turn the dough out. Knead well for 10 minutes – you should end up with a smooth, elastic dough.
5. Return your dough to a clean bowl, cover with a clean tea-towel and leave to rise somewhere warm and free from draughts for 1 hour, until doubled in size. Meanwhile, chop the prunes, chocolate butter. Beat the egg.
6. Turn the dough back onto a lightly floured work surface and knead again to knock out the air bubbles. It will return to its original size. Add the prunes, chocolate, butter and beaten egg and knead well for 10 minutes. You may need to add a little extra flour if the mixture is tacky.
7. Divide and put dough in the prepared tins. Allow to rise for 10 minutes.
8. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220C (425F or gas mark 7). Bake the loaves for 35 minutes. The bread will be ready when, if turned out of the tin and tapped on the base, it sounds hollow.
9. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Serve warm – the chocolate should be melted and the prunes juicy.
Makes 2 x 2lb (900g) loaves which disappear spontaneously!