Marion Cunningham’s Chocolate Walnut Butter Bread

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Marion Cunningham--culinary superstar and “America’s grandma”*--passed away last July at the age of 90, leaving behind an indelible stamp on our national food heritage. As we ponder the year in chocolate to come, we gain inspiration from a woman whose mark in the culinary world is felt as much through her recipes as her wisdom.

Marion was in her 50’s when she began a new chapter in her life - overcoming agoraphobia and alcoholism – to focus on teaching, giving cooking demonstrations and revising the seminal Fannie Farmer Cookbook in 1979 and subsequent other much-loved cookbooks, including The Supper Book and the Breakfast Book.

Her writing invites you in with her gentle, conversational tone. She emphasized cooking through her teaching and writing as a medium for bringing people together; throughout her career she was an ardent advocate for modest, home-cooked meals prepared with care and, most importantly, shared. In her introduction to The Breakfast Book, she writes, “Gathering at the table for breakfast allows us to weave our lives with others--and that should be a daily pleasure.”

At Theo, our daily work is woven with the labor of many cacao and dairy farmers, nut growers, Washington state pepper growers and honey producers, and others without whose continued efforts we would not be able to produce our namesake chocolate bars and confections. (More to come on our cacao farmers and vendors in future posts, so check back!) Even though we may not share a common table with these people, through our work, our lives become entwined with theirs and also with you, our loyal Theo customers, who keep us connected to the community by visiting our factory and sharing our chocolate with those around you. 

Here we offer you a new way to share the Theo love around your own table: Marion’s Chocolate Walnut Butter Bread, which comes from The Breakfast Book. It is a barely sweet egg bread rich with butter, generous chunks of chocolate, and pieces of walnut--an unfussy but special delight, elevated not by advanced technique or fancy ingredients but by the company with whom you enjoy it.



Chocolate Walnut Butter Bread
adapted from The Breakfast Book
makes 2 loaves

½ C warm water (100-110oF)
1 package active dry yeast
3 ½ C all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 ¼ tsp. salt
4 eggs, room temperature
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) butter, softened
1 C chopped walnuts, in large pieces
6 ounces (2 bars) Theo 70% dark chocolate, chopped or broken into large pieces

Measure the warm water into a mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast and sugar over. Stir gently to wet the yeast and allow to stand for 5 minutes to proof. Add the flour, salt, and eggs to the yeast mixture and mix until well blended. (You can do this with the dough hook of a stand mixer, with a wooden spoon, or with your hands). Add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, until it is fully incorporated and the dough is smooth. Cover the bowl with a damp towel or a piece of plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise until doubled in bulk. (This takes 60-90 minutes. Placing the dough in a warm spot will speed the process). Stir the dough down and add the walnuts and chocolate pieces.  Divide the dough in half and place each half into a buttered loaf pan. Allow the dough to rest in the pans while you preheat the oven to 350oF. Bake for about 45 minutes, until a nice golden brown. Removed from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before turning the loaves out onto racks.

Serve warm with salted butter. Day-old bread may be rewarmed in a toaster, but do not leave it in the toaster for long or the chocolate may burn. Marion also suggests using leftovers for French toast, and we think it would make excellent bread pudding as well.

*Russ Parsons

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