Cocoa Bread from 1920’s Portland, Oregon

Roaring twenties' cocoa bread

‘roaring twenties’ cocoa bread and fresh rosemary loaf

The spell-binding Cupid’s Book was a cookbook published twice in this city of roses in the 1920’s.  The downtown retailers enticed the brides-to-be into their shops with colorful advertisements, bountiful recipes, and good instructions on how to be a wife in these two editions.

The recipe for cocoa bread is the best of this collection.  It is a slice of heaven!  Unsweetened cocoa powder lends a flavor to this yeast loaf that makes one think of pumpernickel, with the first bite.  Hints of chocolate surface as one experiences it further.

I discovered this blessing, while I was researching at the Oregon History Center’s excellent library, during my graduate work.  1991 marked the completion of  my Master’s Degree, at which point I had exhausted every inkling to food in this archive.  My 114 page thesis, which they have on file,  closely documents the library’s details on nutrition.  It was here that I found the two romantic cook books appropriately named Cupid’s Book.

Bread is the staff of life!  It sustains one’s soul when made with love from scratch.  I grind the flour for all my bread from organic, hard red spring wheat berries.  My understanding is these, of all the wheat berries, have the highest content of protein.  One serving has 7 grams of this compound, the same as an egg.

The superb quality of the freshly ground flour allows the bread to last for up to six weeks.  However it is necessary to wrap it in paper towel to absorb the moisture, which keeps it from molding.  Always store the bread in an air tight storage bag.  Toasting it brings out optimum freshness.

Making bread with a food processor is quick and mess-free.  I encourage you to venture out using my technique; learning this will bless you with easy, homemade bread forever.

Be nourished by the baking and eating of this luscious loaf!

bread dough in food processor

bread dough after kneading twice in processor

Cocoa Bread  This is adapted from a recipe in Cupid’s Book (Portland, Oregon: Oregon History Center, 1921, 1925). Yields: 1 loaf.  Total prep time: 3 hr/  active prep time: 30 min/ inactive prep time: 2 hr/  baking time: 30 min.

1/4 cup tepid water (Temperature should be 105-115 degrees.)

1  individual package active dry yeast  (I use 3 tsp of Red Star Active Dry Yeast, which I buy in a 2 lb package at Costco; I keep this in a sealed container in the freezer, for long-term use.)

1/3 cup, plus 1/4 tsp sugar  (Organic cane sugar is best; available at Trader Joe’s in 2 lb package, or less expensive at Costco in 10 lb package.)

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour  (Bob’s Red Mill flour is best.)

1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour, more as needed  (You may grind 2 2/3 cups organic hard red spring wheat berries to make the total 4 cups of flour.)

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/4 tsp salt  (Real Salt is best; available in nutrition center of your local supermarket.)

1 1/4-1 1/2 cups of milk  (May use alternative milks, such as hazelnut or almond.)

3 tbsp oil  (Any kind of oil will do, for oiling the inside of a 13-gallon plastic bag.)

Spray oil  (Coconut spray oil is best.)

  1. Dissolve yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar in 1/4 cup water.  Let sit until it foams, looks creamy, and is nearly doubled in size, about 10 minutes .  If using frozen yeast, it takes longer to proof.
  2. In an 11 cup (or larger) food processor, blend well the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.  Stir once with the hard plastic spatula provided with food processor.
  3. Add yeast mixture and 1 1/2 cups milk to flour (1 1/4 cups milk will be needed, however, if grinding your own flour, as the grind is coarser and doesn’t absorb as much liquid.)  Knead for 35 seconds.  Let rest for 4 minutes.  Knead one more time for 35 seconds.  (Note: processing dough will heat it and kill the yeast if cooling isn’t allowed.)
  4. IF dough is stiff to the touch, do the following steps: add 1-2 tbsp water (more is needed for white or fine whole wheat flours, which are available in bulk at our local New Seasons); knead with machine for 35 seconds; let rest for 4 minutes; test to see if dough is soft and somewhat wet.  Repeat steps if necessary; be careful to keep dough cool and not over-knead.
  5. When dough is soft and slightly wet, take out and knead by hand for 5 minutes. (If dough is too wet and sticky, add a small amount of flour to board to facilitate kneading; it helps to wash hands, if dough is stuck to them.)  Dough should be soft and smooth to the touch after kneading.
  6. Place in a 13 gallon plastic bag, in which several  tbsp of oil is evenly distributed. Let rise in a warm place for 50-60 minutes, or until double.
  7. Punch down and form into a loaf.  Place in a bread pan sprayed with oil; loosely drape a piece of plastic wrap, also sprayed with oil, over loaf.
  8. Let rise 50-60 minutes, or until double.  (Proofing time varies with each loaf; for future reference, know you’ve proofed it too long, if it has an air bubble underneath the crust after baking.)
  9. Be sure to preheat oven to 400 degrees, after bread has proofed for 30 minutes; this insures oven is ready when bread has fully risen.
  10. Remove plastic wrap when loaf is double.  Bake for 27-30 minutes, or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.  (Temperatures vary slightly with ovens; my oven takes 27 minutes.)
  11. Cool on rack.  Enjoy!