This loaf is dense, chocolaty, and moist, with undertones of pumpkin and autumnal spices laced throughout. I throw in some chocolate chips, and you may like to add other yummy things too, like pecans or walnuts.
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Have ready an 8 x 4-inch nonstick or silicone baking pan. Also, boil some water in a tea kettle (no need to measure yet).
2. Combine the applesauce and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, baking soda, and salt.
3. Measure out ⅓ cup of the boiling water and pour it into the bowl with the chocolate mixture, mixing quickly to make a smooth chocolate sauce. Add the pumpkin, sweetener, almond butter, and vanilla and mix well.
4. Dump about half of the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture and gently stir just to incorporate, then measure out 1 tablespoon of the boiling water, add it to the mixture, and stir again. Add the rest of the flour mixture, and another tablespoon of boiling water, and stir just until smooth (do not overmix). Fold in the chocolate chips.
5. Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan. It will be good and thick. You can smooth out the top with a spatula.
6. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes. Stick a steak knife into the center of the loaf to check for doneness. A little bit of wetness is okay, since it could be from a chocolate chip, but the knife should come out mostly dry.
7. Remove the loaf from the oven. Let it cool for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and carefully invert the loaf onto a cooling rack to cool most of the way. It’s yummy a little bit warm or thoroughly cooled. Slice and serve!
Note: Dry sweetener is a general term for non-liquid sweeteners. There are many kinds available, some more natural than others. Some sugars, like white table sugar, are bleached, sometimes chemically and sometimes using charred cow bones. The dessert recipes in this book were designed to be made using evaporated cane juice or cane sugar. Sucanat, date sugar, and maple sugar are other options, all with slight variations in flavor. All sugar has had the fiber and most if not all of the vitamins and minerals removed, so it should be enjoyed only on occasion.
Note: There’s a funny little method with boiling water in this recipe and you may wonder why I use it. The answer is simple: I don’t exactly know. Well, I know why I use it, but I’m not positive why it works. What you do is add boiling water alternately as you add the dry ingredients to the wet. I was introduced to this method in Nigella Lawson’s monumental book How to Be a Domestic Goddess, with her recipe for a chocolate loaf cake, and I’ve used it ever since. I’ve tried to disobey it, thinking it was frivolous and unneeded, only to be greeted by a loaf whose crumb was not as fine and rise was not as perfectly formed. And so I’ve stopped fighting it. Maybe it has to do with the baking soda, I don’t know. Just use it and be rewarded with perfect loaves every time.
Photo by Keepin’ it Kind