A favorite holiday tradition I discovered a few years ago was Starbucks’ chocolate cinnamon bread. Have you tried it? It appeared in shops about this time of the year and stayed through the end of the holiday season. Unfortunately, following Starbucks’ menu changes earlier this year, this particular item seems to have been eliminated for good.
So, what to do? Make my own, of course.
A quick Google search yielded Starbucks’ own recipe. Easy peasy, I thought. But as I started to read through the recipe, I gasped. Starbucks’ recipe calls for an astonishingly large amount of butter and sugar. This isn’t a snack; it’s a full blown dessert.
Time to come up with my own recipe, I decided.
My recipe differs from Starbucks’ recipe in three important ways. First, I’ve cut way back on the less healthy ingredients (butter and sugar) in the batter and substituted healthier versions of other ingredients, such as whole wheat pastry flour in place of all purpose flour and plain 2% fat Greek yogurt in place of buttermilk. I’ve also amped up the cinnamon flavor so that it is more noticeable.
Second, I’ve changed the instructions for preparing the batter. In Starbucks’ version, all of the ingredients are mixed together in stages using a mixer. I don’t recommend this technique. While the use of a mixer is probably a necessity when large, commercial-size batches are being made, it promotes more gluten development, which results in quick breads that are tough and irregularly shaped. (This probably didn’t happen in Starbucks’ version because of the larger quantities of fat and sugar. Those ingredients tend to inhibit gluten development.)
In my version, the wet and dry ingredients are mixed together separately, and then the dry ingredients are gently folded into the wet ingredients just until the dry ingredients are moistened. The batter should still have some lumps. This will keep gluten development low, which will give you a more tender result.
Finally, I have omitted the sugary topping in the Starbucks’ version. I think that step just adds more gratuitous sugar, resulting in more empty calories, while the additional spices mask the chocolate and cinnamon flavors in the bread itself. If you want to add some kind of topping, I recommend a light dusting of confectioner’s sugar. For me, though, my version shines all by itself.
Less is More Chocolate Cinnamon Bread
- 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour*
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp double acting baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 6 T cocoa powder (sifted, if necessary, to eliminate any lumps)
- ½ cup sugar**
- 1 T cinnamon
- ½ cup mini chocolate chips
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt***
- 1 cup milk***
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 4 T unsalted butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x5x3 loaf pan.
- In one bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, sugar, and cinnamon until thoroughly blended. Add the mini chocolate chips and whisk until the chips are evenly incorporated in the flour mixture.
- In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the yogurt and milk and whisk until thoroughly blended. Whisk in the vanilla and butter.
- Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until the dry ingredients are moistened. The batter should be lumpy.
- Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Place in the center of the oven for 45-50 minutes. Begin testing for doneness after about 40 minutes. The quick bread will be done when a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.
- When the quick bread is done, take it out of the oven and let it sit in the pan on the counter. After about 5 minutes, tip the bread onto a wire rack and let it sit for 30-60 minutes to cool.
*Whole wheat pastry flour is flour that is milled from low protein soft white wheat. It is much lighter than whole wheat flour but retains the fiber and nutrients that is eliminated from all purpose flour during the refining process.
**I realize ½ cup may seem like too little sugar, but I encourage you to try it with this amount the first time you make the recipe. (Remember that the chocolate chips add some sweetness as well.) Because of the ubiquity of sugar in our diet, our palates have become accustomed to high levels of sweetness. It is possible to readjust our preferences, however, by slowly reducing the amount of sugar we consume. If you find that my version of the quick bread is not sweet enough, then increase the amount of sugar you add the next time you make it but with the goal of slowly decreasing that amount each time you make it again until you are back at ½ cup.
***When making baked goods, always use dairy products with at least some fat in them. Fat acts as a tenderizer and contributes to a finer and wetter crumb in the finished product. I suggest using products with a minimum 2% fat content. Never use fat free dairy products in baked goods. The finished product will have an inferior texture and taste.
Make ahead: This bread can be frozen and eaten later. To freeze it, prepare a loaf according to the above directions. Wrap the cooled loaf in plastic wrap and then store it in a zip top plastic freezer bag in the freezer for up to a month. (You can also cut the loaf into serving size pieces before freezing. To keep the pieces from freezing together, either wrap them separately in plastic wrap or wrap them as a group in plastic wrap with sheets of wax paper between each piece.) To thaw, remove the loaf (or the desired number of pieces) from the freezer and let thaw at room temperature for 2-3 hours.
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