Not to sound too dramatic about this, but I have a slight confession to make. You know those deliciously sweet cakes and treats I’ve been sharing with you over the past few weeks? Like this cake and these waffles and these cookies? Purely out of curiosity, I made all of those treats with at least 1/3 less sugar (in some cases, even less) than each recipe called for. And then I served those treats to people without telling them what I had done. And not one person noticed. Not one. Not even I noticed, and, believe me, I tried. Eyes squinted in concentration, methodically chewing my food and analyzing each bite as though I were a culinary Columbo, I failed to detect even a hint of missing sweetness. In some cases, even though I had removed a good chunk of a recipe’s sugar, I still thought that a case could be made to take out even more of the sugar. I know, right? It just can’t be possible.
But it is, and there is no better example of this experiment, I believe, than this bread. Yet another bread in only name (due to the fact that it delightfully toes the line between living as a bread and living as a cake), this is an absolutely wonderful treat with its chunks of bittersweet chocolate, hints of cinnamon, and delicate crumb. Everything in this bread, from top to bottom, is perfectly sweetened. A lid of light streusel topping is the perfect antidote to the moist bread beneath, and, with 1/3 of the sugar removed from both the bread and the topping, the crunchy streusel never propels the taste experience from “Oh, this is so delicious,” to “Ouch, call the dentist.”
I am telling you, I’ve totally been converted. 1/3 less sugar. Do it. Last week I made reduced sugar chocolate chip cookies and then gave them out to people and, I am telling you, not a single soul knew my secret. The week before that I made a vegan dark chocolate zucchini cake with 1/3 less sugar and, again, no one was the wiser about the cake’s triple punch of secrets. I almost feel as though I am getting away with something sinister, only, in reality, I think the opposite is actually true. If no one misses the sugar, why not keep up with my experiment? What’s the harm? And, more importantly, if I am eating 1/3 less sugar with each slice of cake, does that logically mean that I am then able to nibble off a 1/3 more cake and suffer no ill effects? These are important questions, and I intend to do my best to get to the bottom of them, 1/3 more dessert at a time.
Chocolate Swirled Bread
Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts
2 large eggs
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped into pea-sized and smaller pieces
2/3 cup buttermilk or sour milk
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour an 8 ½” by 4 ½” loaf pan (Moosewood notes that a 9” by 5” loaf pan would also be all right, so I can only assume that it’s true).
Separate one of the eggs, placing the yolk in a large bowl and the white in a smaller bowl. Add the chopped chocolate to the bowl with the egg white, mix to combine, then set aside. To the bowl with the egg yolk, add the second egg, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Beat with a fork for at least 1 minute, until well blended. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine all streusel ingredients. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the other ingredients until the mixture turns crumbly, but not too finely textured. Spread 1/3 of the streusel mixture over the bottom of the prepared loaf pan. Combine the buttermilk mixture with the sifted dry ingredients and mix until just blended. Fold the chocolate and egg white into the batter, being careful not to overmix everything and ruin the marbling effect of the chocolate.
Pour the batter into the loaf pan and top with the remaining streusel. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the bread is firm and pulls away slightly from the sides of the pan. Allow the bread to cool before removing from the pan.