Perhaps a brilliant discovery; perhaps not.

I know I haven’t posted about the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge lately, but I really have been baking and I really do plan to catch you up on all the tasty things that have been coming out of oven and grill (yes, grill!) these days. In fact, I’m up to bread number 23, I believe, Pane Siciliano, which looks so delicious in the book, I pretty much start drooling whenever I see the picture.

But you didn’t really want to know that, right?

Anyway, just a few minutes ago, I was mixing up the pate fermentee for the Pane Siciliano. For those who don’t know already, pate fermentee is a pre-ferment, one of several bread baker’s tricks that allows you to get more flavor into a bread in less time. Essentially, it’s just a small portion of bread dough that you mix up in advance and allow to ferment for up to three days. When you mix the pate fermentee into the rest of the bread ingredients a day or more later, it imparts its developed flavors into the newer, less-developed dough you’re making.

So, I’ve made this pate fermentee recipe many times now and it’s easy, so I don’t stress about it. Michael’s cooking up a pot roast and Hyla’s off playing cards with the dog. I mix up the dry ingredients (bread flour, all-purpose flour, salt, yeast) in my electric mixer, and then go to add in the one remaining ingredient: 3/4 cup of luke-warm water.

And guess what happened next? Instead of picking up the beaker of water I had measured, I picked up my insulated tea mug, which, no, did not have tea in it. It had hot cocoa in it. And it took me a few seconds to realize my mistake, so my pate fermentee dough now has about 2 Tablespoons of hot cocoa in it.

I put in the water, and mixed, and the color of the dough returned to normal. I added a little extra flour to balance out the extra liquid, kneaded it up, and it’s now proofing in a covered bowl on my counter.

On one hand, I can convince myself that we’ll never even taste that hot cocoa. But a little part of me wonders: will this be the secret to the best bread I’ve ever tasted?

Stay tuned to find out….


  1. raidar says:

    Interesting. Seeing as I had cocoa to the marble rye breads, I wonder if it will do anything more than just add colour. Can’t wait to find out!

    1. Rebecca says:

      In reality, I don’t think I added enough to affect it in any way. The color looks normal, and the pate tastes normal. I was afraid the sugar might affect the fermentation rate, but that seems normal, too. Perhaps I ought to try this experiment for real, and use 3/4 cup hot cocoa rather than 2 T!

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