Double Chocolate Braided Bread
2 packages dry yeast (2 scant tablespoons)
1/2 cup sugar, divided
2 cups lukewarm water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg yolk
7 cups all-purpose flour (about)
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup 1/2-inch chunks of bitter chocolate or large chocolate chips (8 ounces)
Semolina for dusting
Dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in the water in the bowl of an electric mixer. Let sit a few minutes, then add the butter and egg yolk and stir with the paddle. Slowly add 6 cups of the flour, salt, remaining sugar and cocoa. Change to the mixer’s dough hook, and knead until the dough becomes smooth.
Turn the dough onto a floured board, knead the chocolate chunks or chips into the dough, and form into a smooth round. Put in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until the dough doubles in bulk.
Punch the dough down and divide into 6 equal parts on a floured board. Let rest for 20 minutes.
Roll 3 pieces of dough into “sausages” about 12 inches long and 2 inches wide. Line up the 3 pieces side by side, then pinch the ends together. Braid. Repeat with the other 3 pieces. Place the 2 loaves on a cookie sheet sprinkled with semolina. Cover with a moist towel and let rise for an hour, until the dough doubles again.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Fill a pan with hot water and place on the lower shelf of the oven. Bake the breads on the upper shelf for 20 minutes. Then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake another 20 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Serve warm.
Makes 2 loaves.