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Italian Sourdough Chocolate Bread (Pane al Cioccolato)

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This Chocolate Sourdough Bread is an  is a lovely bread to make – with a slight sourdough tang, a subtle chocolate flavor and a beautiful, open crumb. It is perfect for snacking, making french toast, or sweet sandwiches. Also known as Pane al Cioccolato, this Italian Chocolate Bread is going to be your favorite loaf!

sourdough chocolate bread loaf with slices in front

If you like chocolate, you will love this sourdough bread! With great flavor, slight sweetness, a soft and springy crumb, and crispy outside crust, this bread is quickly going to become your favorite. This is not an almost cake like quick “bread” recipe – this is an actual loaf of bread flavored with a perfect amount of cocoa.

Creating this sourdough bread isn’t much different than creating any other sourdough bread recipe. There are some slight differences – the cocoa and chocolate, obviously, and the fact that this recipe is made with a special kind of starter called a biga natural.

Other great sourdough bread recipes to try:

freshly baked italian chocolate bread on parchment in a dutch oven

What does Pane Al Cioccolato taste like?

I was really surprised when I cut into this loaf, it has a nice crumb, and it was really soft!

This loaf of Italian chocolate bread turns out rather surprising – it has a soft, nice crumb, the crust is not too crunchy, and the flavor of sourdough and chocolate compliment the subtle nutty flavor of the biga so well. Not any one part of this bread is overpowering or “too much”, but its just right!

But slathered with a nice layer of nutella, peanut butter, or cream cheese, this bread is heaven on a plate. Or a napkin. Or standing in the corner of the kitchen hoping the toddler doesn’t see you because you don’t feel like sharing.

chocolate sourdough slathered in peanut butter

How to make chocolate sourdough bread

This chocolate sourdough bread recipe is a great sourdough bread to make and isn’t complicated! For the full recipe, make sure you scroll down to the recipe card below, but here is a brief overview of how to make it:

Mix the biga naturale

  1. Mix the ingredients for the biga naturale together in a bowl until everything is evenly distributed.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and allow to sit at room temperature for 8 hours.
collage showing ingredients for biga natural on left and freshly mixed on right

Mix the dough

  1. In the bowl of your electric mixer, mix together all the ingredients for the final dough, except for the chocolate chips!
  2. Knead by machine for 8-10 minutes until you reach a medium level of gluten development. The dough should be smooth, stretchy, and silky.
  3. Allow the dough to rest for 5 minutes.
  4. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead in the chocolate chips by hand, until well incorporated.
mixing the ingredients for the chocolate sourdough dough

Bulk Proof

  1. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and allow to sit at room temperature until doubled, anywhere from 2 to 12 hours. (Note that the timing here depends on how active and mature your starter is and the temperature of your house. This could take longer in the winter or shorter in the summer, so watch the dough, not your clock). 
  2. When done proofing, your dough will look lighter, puffier, have some bubbles, and be almost doubled in size.
two images showing before and after of bulk proof on dough

Shaping

  1. Remove the dough from the bowl and place onto a lightly floured surface. Be gentle to not deflate the air from the dough.
  2. Gather the dough, one side at a time, and fold it into the center.
  3. Flip the dough over and place it seam side down.
  4. Gently cup the sides of the dough and rotate it using quarter turns in a circular motion. Repeat until you are happy with its appearance.
  5. Place the dough in a cloth lined 8” bowl or floured/lined proofing basket. 
  6. Allow to rise for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. It is ready when the dough is slightly puffy.
two images showing shaping of dough

Baking

  1. Preheat your oven and a dutch oven (affiliate link) to 400 F.
  2. Sprinkle some cornmeal in the center of a piece of parchment paper and gently turn your bread out onto a piece of parchment paper.
  3. Score your bread with a few slashes in whatever pattern you like.
  4. Carefully transfer the parchment paper to the preheated dutch oven (affiliate link).
  5. Bake the bread for 20 minutes with the lid on, rotate the loaf, and bake another 20 – 30 minutes uncovered. The bread is done when it has an internal temperature of 205 F.
  6. Optional: During the last 10 minutes of baking, crack the oven door to allow any excess moisture to escape and help create a crisp crust. Or skip this step for a softer crust.
  7. When done, remove bread to a cooling rack and allow to cool for at least 1 hour.
two images showing dough before baking and after

Frequently Asked Questions

Got questions? I’ve got answers! Don’t see the answer to your question? No problem! Leave a comment below!

What kind of starter do I need for this recipe?

This recipe uses a 50% hydration sourdough starter. That means a starter that is fed twice as much flour as water. You then use that low hydration starter to create a biga natural. These two steps are necessary to create the correct hydration of dough with the best taste.

New to sourdough? Read my Ultimate Guide to Sourdough for Beginners to answer all the questions you have!

How to change 100% hydration starter to 50% hydration starter

  1. Measure out 25 grams of your 100% hydration starter.
  2. To it, add 50 grams of flour and 25 grams of water. 
  3. Mix until combined. This is a stiff starter, so it will take some work to get all the flour mixed in. Do not add extra water. Just don’t. You might need to do a little kneading to get it to all mix in. If all the flour won’t mix in, it’s ok, just get as much as you can.
  4. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and allow it to sit on the counter overnight 8-12 hours.
  5. Divide in half (discard) and feed again, the same proportions.
  6. You will want to give it 2-4 good feedings before baking with it.

What is a biga natural?

A biga is an Italian yeasted pre-ferment that is usually very firm (around 50-60% hydration). It usually made with commercial yeast as a way to add a bit of a nutty flavor to the breads that are made with it. It was created after the invention of commercial yeast, when bakeries started moving away from using sourdough starters, as a way to add back some of complexity in flavor that was lost when using only commercial yeast. It also helps to create a light texture with open holes. A biga natural is a biga that is made with sourdough starter instead of active dry yeast, which is usually created fresh every day. Another bread that is made with biga natural is sourdough ciabatta.

overhead view of italian chocolate bread loaf

Chocolate Sourdough Bread Add Ins

You can also easily change this bread up by adding in chopped nuts like walnuts, pecans or almonds. Adding dried fruit like dried cherries, cranberries or candied orange peel, or nuts and seeds is also fun! Add these ingredients in when you add in the chocolate chips.

sourdough chocolate bread with slices on plates

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Adapted from Pane Al Cioccolato (Apple Pie, Patis, and Pate)

Yield: 12 servings

Sourdough Chocolate Bread

sourdough chocolate bread loaf with slices in front

This Italian Chocolate Bread is lovely bread to make - with a slight sourdough tang, a subtle chocolate flavor and a beautiful, open crumb. It is perfect for snacking, making french toast, or sweet sandwiches.

Prep Time 13 hours 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 14 hours 10 minutes

Ingredients

Biga Naturale (or starter):

  • 28 grams of 50% hydration starter, fed and active
  • 32 grams (1/4 cup) bread flour
  • 18 grams water, at room temperature

Final Dough:

  • All of the biga naturale
  • 393 grams (3 cups) bread flour
  • 248 grams (1 1/8 cups) water
  • 71 grams (4 TBSP) honey
  • 1 TBSP vanilla extract
  • 25 grams (4 TBSP) cocoa powder
  • 10 grams (1 TBSP) kosher salt
  • 78 grams chocolate chips

Instructions

    Mix the biga naturale

  1. Mix the ingredients for the biga naturale together in a bowl until everything is evenly distributed.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and allow to sit at room temperature for 8 hours.

    Mix the dough

    1. In the bowl of your electric mixer, mix together all the ingredients for the final dough, except for the chocolate chips!
    2. Knead by machine for 8-10 minutes until you reach a medium level of gluten development. The dough should be smooth, stretchy, and silky.
    3. Allow the dough to rest for 5 minutes.
    4. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead in the chocolate chips by hand, until well incorporated.

    Bulk Proof

  1. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and allow to sit at room temperature until doubled, anywhere from 2 to 12 hours. (Note that the timing here depends on how active and mature your starter is and the temperature of your house. This could take longer in the winter or shorter in the summer, so watch the dough, not your clock).
  2. When done proofing, your dough will look lighter, puffier, have some bubbles, and be almost doubled in size.

    Shaping

    1. Remove the dough from the bowl and place onto a lightly floured surface. Be gentle to not deflate the air from the dough.
    2. Gather the dough, one side at a time, and fold it into the center.
      Flip the dough over and place it seam side down.
    3. Gently cup the sides of the dough and rotate it using quarter turns in a circular motion. Repeat until you are happy with its appearance.
    4. Place the dough in a cloth lined 8” bowl or floured/lined proofing basket.
    5. Allow to rise for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. It is ready when the dough is slightly puffy.

    Baking

    1. Preheat your oven and dutch oven to 400 F.
    2. Sprinkle some cornmeal in the center of a piece of parchment paper.
    3. Gently turn your bread out onto a piece of parchment paper.
    4. Score your bread with a few slashes in whatever pattern you like. Use a bread lame, sharp pairing knife or serrated knife.
    5. Carefully transfer the parchment paper to the preheated dutch oven.
    6. Bake the bread for 20 minutes with the lid on, rotate the loaf, and bake another 20 - 30 minutes uncovered. The bread is done when it has an internal temperature of 205 F.
    7. Optional: During the last 10 minutes of baking, crack the oven door to allow any excess moisture to escape and help create a crisp crust. Or skip this step for a softer crust.
    8. When done, remove bread to a cooling rack and allow to cool for at least 1 hour.

Notes

How to change 100% starter to 50% starter
Take 25 grams of your 100% hydration starter. To it, add 50 grams of flour and 25 grams of water.
Mix until combined. This is a stiff starter, so it will take some work to get all the flour mixed in. Do not add extra water. You might need to do a little kneading to get it to all mix in. If all the flour won’t mix in, it's ok, just get as much as you can.
Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and allow it to sit on the counter overnight 8-12 hours.
Divide in half (discard) and feed again, the same proportions. You will want to give it 2-4 good feedings before baking with it.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1 slice

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 192Total Fat: 2.9gCholesterol: 0.3mgSodium: 336.3mgCarbohydrates: 36.8gSugar: 9gProtein: 5.4g

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram, and don't forget to tag #gingeredwhisk.

loaf of sourdough chocolate bread with slices beside
three slices of chocolate bread smeared with cream cheese, peanut butter, and nutella
three slices of chocolate bread stacked, smeared with nutella, peanut butter, and cream cheese
close up of three slices of chocolate bread
loaf of chocolate bread on wooden table
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