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 in the refrigerator.  It is, however, 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 c tepid water (Temperature should be 105-115 degrees.)

1  individual package active dry yeast  (May use 3 level tsp of Red Star Active Dry Yeast, available in a 2 lb package at Costco, which keeps well sealed in the freezer.  Yeast is best at room temperature for proofing.)

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

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

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

1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/4 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available inexpensively at Costco.)

1 1/4-1 1/2 c 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.
  2. In an 11-c-or-larger food processor, blend well the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.
  3. Add yeast mixture and 1 1/2 c milk to flour mixture (only 1 1/4 c 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; then, knead one more time for 35 seconds.  (Note: processing dough will heat it and kill the yeast if cooling isn’t allowed.)
  4. Take out and knead by hand for about 8 minutes, or until satiny smooth.  This process is relatively foolproof, but if dough is too wet and sticky, add flour to board to facilitate kneading; it helps to wash hands, if dough is sticking to them.  Dough should be firm, elastic, and smooth to the touch after kneading.  If, however, it is too stiff to knead easily, place in machine, and knead in 1 tbsp water.  Repeat this last step, if needed, until severe stiffness is gone, it is flexible, and kneading by hand is facile, carefully resting dough as not to overheat.  It should be firm and satiny smooth when finished kneading by hand.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Let rise 50-60 minutes, or until double.
  8. Important: 30 minutes into the last rising process preheat oven to 400 degrees; this insures oven is ready when bread has fully risen.
  9. Remove plastic wrap when loaf is double.  Bake for 27-30 minutes, or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  10. Cool on rack.  Enjoy!