Cat Sitter Among the Pigeons, the sixth book of the Dixie Hemingway Mystery series, was the featured selection last week for the Mystery Book Club on DearReader.com. A five-minute excerpt ran every day so readers could decide if they liked the sample well enough to buy the book, get it from their library, add it to their “read later” list, or decide it’s not their kind of book. That’s the beauty of Suzanne Beecher’s DearReader.com, it allows you time to sample a book before you commit to it.
In the time since Suzanne selected my first book to feature at Mystery Book Club, we’ve become good friends. By pure coincidence, I had sent her an e-mail relating to baking before the book ran. Since she’s the best baker I know, I had asked her to dig out her bread machine and bake a loaf of chocolate bread from a recipe I’ve been giving readers. The bread is in every Dixie Hemingway book, and it’s based on real bread an old friend used to make. The friend kept her recipe a closely guarded secret, and she died without revealing it. So many readers have asked for the recipe that I appealed to the bakers at the King Arthur Flour Company, and they came up with a recipe they thought might be similar to my old friend’s. But I’m not a baker, don’t have a bread machine, and don’t know if the recipe I’m giving people tastes anything like my old friend’s chocolate bread, so I asked Suzanne if she would dust off her machine and make a loaf so we could test it.
She had a better idea. She printed the recipe and asked her thousands of readers to try it and let me know if it was a success or failure. Here’s the King Arthur recipe:
1 packet instant yeast
3 cups unbleached bread flour
½ cup sugar
¼ cup cocoa
¼ cup soft butter
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk
1/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 c. frozen semi-sweet chocolate chips
Using the directions for your particular machine, place all of the
ingredients except the frozen chocolate chips into the pan of your
bread machine. If possible, program the machine for raisin bread.
Add the frozen chocolate chips at the signal; or, if you have no
raisin bread cycle, add them about 3 minutes before the end of the
second kneading cycle. Yield: one 6 to 7-inch loaf.
From the responses I’ve had, it didn’t seem to be a great success. One reader gave a hilarious account of the terrible racket the frozen chips made after she threw them into the machine. Then the chips sank to the bottom of the loaf. She said half was deliciously chocolaty, and the other half was a nice, non-sweet bread. I suggested she serve it as her own secret recipe for half-and-half chocolate bread.
Another reader tried it without freezing the chips and said all her chips melted into the bread instead of staying whole and oozy. She intends to try again using frozen chips. Several people wanted to know if I had a recipe that didn’t require a bread machine. That request sent me on a chase for a recipe a reader sent me some time back, but I never found it.
All this chocolate bread concentration sent me to allrecipes.com where I found a recipe for chocolate chip pumpkin bread that doesn’t require a machine and looks like the bread my friend used to make. She never mentioned pumpkin as an ingredient, but maybe that was her secret. Anyway, I pass the recipe along (if I were making it, I’d use a lot less sugar), and I’m grateful to the allrecipes.com people for sharing it.
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread
* 3 cups white sugar
* 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
* 1 cup vegetable oil
* 2/3 cup water
* 4 eggs
* 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
* 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
* 2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
* 1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
* 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 1 pound size coffee cans, or three 9×5 inch loaf pans.
2. In a large bowl, combine sugar, pumpkin, oil, water, and eggs. Beat until smooth. Blend in flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. Fill cans 1/2 to 3/4 full.
3. Bake for 1 hour, or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Cool on wire racks before removing from cans or pans.
If you try it, please let me know how it turns out.