Prune and Chocolate Bread

This deeply indulgent loaf, chock-a-block with juicy prunes, and melted chocolate, is superlative when served warm and cut into thick slices. The prunes and chocolate are best roughly chopped so that the bread is packed with large chunks of flavor. This sweet treat is perfect to serve with midmorning coffee or afternoon tea.

2-1/2 teaspoons dry yeast

1-1/2 cups water

3-1/2 cups unbleached flour

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1-1/2 cups pitted prunes, roughly chopped

13 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus extra to grease pan

1 egg, beaten

Sprinkle yeast into 1/2 cup water. Leave for 5 minutes; stir to dissolve. Mix flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the dissolved yeast.

Mix in the flour. Stir in the remaining cup of water, as needed to form a stiff, sticky dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic - about 10 minutes.

Put the dough in a bowl and cover with a dish towel. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Grease a 9-by-5-by 3-inch loaf pan with butter.

Punch down the dough, then let rest for 10 minutes. Mix in the prunes, chocolate, butter, and egg. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead until just firm enough to shape, 1 to 2 minutes.

Shape the dough (It will be very loose, and without much form) for the loaf pan and place in the greased pan. Cover with a dish towel and let rest until it has risen 1 inch above the rim of the pan, about 30 minutes.

Bake in a 350 degree F. preheated oven for 45 minutes, until lightly browned and hollow sounding when tapped underneath. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Yield: 1 loaf.

Recipes adapted from "Ultimate Bread" (Dorling Kindersley).

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