I’ve heard that climbing Mount Everest is pretty hard. For most people, anyway.
We all have our version of that, the near-impossible summit that we can’t reach no matter how hard we try. For years, that was my grandmother’s mocha bread. When I was little, I didn’t like apple pie. Chalk it up to youthful foolishness. So when my grandmother made the pie, she’d also make this bread. And I loved it. It was so special that I’d eat it slowly, sliver by sliver, to make it last. Usually, I gobble up my dessert. But this was too special.
And when I grew up, I tried to make it. Over and over again I followed the recipe, calling my grandmother each time I failed. It was too light in color, or too heavy in weight. What was I doing wrong? It got to the point where I suspected her of recipe sabotage.
Finally, about a year ago and shortly after my grandmother’s death, I got the mocha bread right. I’m still not sure exactly what I did to make it correctly other than acquire more knowledge and skill, but I feel like the torch has been passed. She was a phenomenal baker who used scant resources in harder times to make amazing food. Later in life, she still had the knack for producing recipes that nobody else seemed to have.
So I’m sharing this piece of my family legacy with you. I almost want to call it a mocha pound cake, but I’ll hold back because though the crumb is dense, the bread is light and spongy. And as you’ll see, the chocolate is not dominant. The lighter brown color indicates that the bread really features coffee above chocolate, though both flavors come out in excellent balance.
I should also mention that I call this a bread because it’s a loaf cake, very much like a banana or pumpkin bread. It has that appealing softness and is never dry.
While I often encourage being experimental, don’t change things up when you’re making this. It just won’t turn out the same way. That’s why I’ve written the minutes into how long everything gets mixed. And when you’re scraping the melted chocolate into the mixing bowl, get as much of it into the batter as you can. That will produce the richness in color.
Having this bread with a cup of coffee is awesome, but it goes equally well with tea or, as I can attest to having first eaten it as a child, milk. And be ready: people will ask you for the recipe.
- 2/3 cup butter or margarine, softened (the latter if you want to avoid dairy)
- 2 cups flour minus 2 tablespoons
- 1 and 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon instant coffee
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 eggs
- 1 square unsweetened chocolate, melted
Preheat the oven to 325. Grease a loaf pan with cooking spray.
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Cream the butter or margarine in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the dry ingredients and mix slowly. Add the water and vanilla, mixing until the flour is dampened, then beat more vigorously for two minutes.
Add the eggs and melted chocolate and then beat for an additional minute.
Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 65-70 minutes until the edges are browned and the middle is firm. Test with a toothpick if in doubt.
Cool and remove from the pan. Using a serrated knife, cut into slices.