Tracking down an obscure recipe
May 14, 2020 5:00 AM   Subscribe

Okay, here’s a long shot. For his upcoming birthday, my husband has requested “Italian chocolate bread.” It is not any of the versions I can find on google. Perhaps you can help with the info inside.

He is basing this request on a cookbook he used to own that had this recipe. What I know about it:
- he purchased it at a store in Bathurst, Australia in the mid-late 90s
- the title was something similar to Nonna Morelli
- he recalls the cover being hardback and “yellowish”

The recipe he has in mind does not use leftover stale bread and does not include currants, raisins, or any other monstrosity. It is basically chocolate cake, but Italian.

Anyone have a clue?
posted by olinerd to Food & Drink (21 answers total)
Could he mean chocolate panettone?
posted by warriorqueen at 5:02 AM on May 14, 2020

chocolate salami?
posted by vacapinta at 5:07 AM on May 14, 2020

Is the cookbook this?
posted by Salamander at 5:09 AM on May 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

If he cooked the recipe, maybe he can tell you if it used yeast or baking soda / baking powder for leavening. That would help immensely.

Also, whether it was as sweet as what Americans think of as "cake".
posted by amtho at 5:36 AM on May 14, 2020

There's also this cookbook. It's got a yellowish cover, and was published as a hardback with a yellowish cover in 1997, so it's possibly the right one.

However, the recipe listing at the above link doesn't include anything by the name "chocolate bread", so either the listing is incomplete or it's the wrong cookbook. Still, it couldn't hurt to show him the cover and see if it's the right one.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:06 AM on May 14, 2020

Response by poster: Ah a key point I forgot to mention: the book also contained prefaces to each recipe related to stories of the Nonna in question as an Italian immigrant to Australia, so US-oriented cookbooks are definitely not the right ones.

Husband confirmed he used baking powder and baking soda for leavening, not yeast.

I don't *think* it'd be chocolate panettone but I'll have a look around and ask some more questions.
posted by olinerd at 6:32 AM on May 14, 2020

Best answer: In Nonna's Kitchen, the book Johnny Assay links, is described as a collection of stories and recipes from various Nonnas, with a profile of each. It's definitely Italy-based, but has a yellow cover and the preface/story aspect.

I also found an Australian cookbook called Nonna Morelli's Favourite Recipes, which tells the story of Nonna Morelli's life, having been born in Italy and then emigrated to Australia. Here it is for sale on Has a yellow border on the cover.
posted by carsonb at 6:44 AM on May 14, 2020 [13 favorites]

Response by poster: Holy SHIT carsonb you just blew my husband's mind - "Nonna Morelli's Favourite Recipes" is exactly the right one! THANK YOU! God I love this place.
posted by olinerd at 6:53 AM on May 14, 2020 [7 favorites]

On further examination, it seems pretty likely that the book carsonb has found is the right one. It was published in 1995, and at least one of the photos of book's pages shows a reminiscence of how Nonna Morelli ran her kitchen. (And, after posting, this has been confirmed.)

The WorldCat entry for that book shows a few Australian libraries holding it. If your profile location is accurate, you probably won't be able to check it out yourself. But if your local library has a research/reference desk, they might be able to make some calls and get a copy of the recipe for you.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:55 AM on May 14, 2020

Also, if you're Googling for this book title, be sure to use the Australian spelling of "favourite"; I got 0 results a few times because I used the American spelling.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:57 AM on May 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: We've got plenty of family/friends in Australia - though most physical libraries are still closed for COVID so I'm not sure they can get it for us. But I will definitely email some librarians and try my luck! Waaaahahahaha this'll teach him to troll me in answering the "What should I make you for your birthday" question.
posted by olinerd at 6:57 AM on May 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm going to be very disappointed
If a recipe for chocolate bread
Does not appear
In this thread.
posted by Rash at 7:47 AM on May 14, 2020 [31 favorites]

I like that Nonna Morelli writes separate chapters for desserts and cakes. Good sign there was some interesting cake recipes in there.
posted by carsonb at 7:50 AM on May 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

I see Nonna Morelli's Favourite Recipes available on I never know how much to trust such things, but...
posted by blob at 8:29 AM on May 14, 2020

There's a version on which appears to be incorrectly described as 'Nolla Morelli's Favourite Recipes" but it looks to be the same book.
posted by essexjan at 9:02 AM on May 14, 2020

It's possible that the ebay seller would send you a photo of that one recipe as a favor. You'd need to have an ebay account to contact them, though.
posted by moonmilk at 12:56 PM on May 14, 2020

Response by poster: Y’all! The State Library of NSW came through! Just got a photo of the recipe emailed to me. Thank you all SO MUCH!
posted by olinerd at 6:01 PM on May 14, 2020 [22 favorites]

No rush or anything, but would you please share the recipe? I've been having weird dreams about chocolate cake and Italian grannies.
posted by carsonb at 8:08 AM on May 15, 2020 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Okay here it is, and I'm super interested in people's experiences baking it because i feel like mine maybe didn't turn out quite right (husband admits it's been so long since he's made it he can't remember for sure what it should have been like).

100g cooking chocolate
60g butter
4 eggs, separated
100g sugar
100g plain flour
1 small liqueur glass rum
1/2-1c preferred jam

1. Melt chocolate in a saucepan
2. Add butter. Remove from heat.
3. Mix in an egg yolk at a time. After each yolk add a couple spoonfuls of sugar.
4. Whisk egg whites in a small bowl.
5. Add flour and fold in egg whites into chocolate mixture.
6. Cook in a well greased round cake tin at 180C for approximately 20 min.
7. When cooled, cover with rum and jam.

(Note: serve with Irish coffee or coffee with a dash of rum)


So making this with my assumptions, it didn't rise *at all* during baking. The texture was sort of.... dry brownie/torte-ish I guess? I expected it to rise and be a little more moist but it did not, and I felt strongly enough that I'd done it wrong that I made a second one... which turned out identical.

My assumptions:
- I assumed "cooking chocolate" was "baking chocolate", not dark chocolate or anything
- I whisked egg whites the first time to frothiness, the second time to more peak-holding consistency, though not fully "holds stiff peaks"

The big issue was that "folding in the whites" became an exercise in delicately folding in egg whites into a clay-like chocolate mixture, which feels like it can't be right. Surely the batter should have been a bit looser. So what would I have done wrong up front? Should it not have been baking chocolate, so that there'd be a little more fat (?? maybe?) from dark chocolate to keep the batter looser?

Another MeFite sent me this recipe for a very similar looking recipe, but it uses a lot less flour and a lot more chocolate, and that in-between step photo appears to be much creamier than the chocolate clay I was trying to fold egg whites into. But who am I to argue with Nonna Morelli?? (and yes, I was weighing ingredients, not measuring them) It does show the egg whites beaten a lot more than I did, so I would beat them longer next time. And interestingly, this recipe says NOT to pre-heat the oven, which Nonna Morelli does not indicate one way or another, but now I wonder about it.
posted by olinerd at 1:41 PM on May 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: To be clear, husband enjoyed it, and with the jam it was a totally acceptable level of sweetness, it just... wasn't quite what I expected?
posted by olinerd at 1:42 PM on May 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Thank you olinerd!

My nana's banana bread recipe is very similar to that except for the addition of 1/2C buttermilk mixed with 1tsp baking soda, which gets pretty foamy, added between the yolks and the flour. It calls for 'frothy' egg whites, not whipped into peaks or anything, and between the foam and the froth I usually get pretty good rise and excellent moistness.
posted by carsonb at 7:08 AM on May 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

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