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As it turns out, lots of things are better when filled with chocolate. Example: Would you rather eat a plain croissant or a chocolate-filled one? That's what I thought. (If you answered plain, well, here is a regular pumpkin bread recipe. Godspeed.)
Not only does the addition of chocolate take this moist, sweet pumpkin loaf up a notch, but it adds an element of surprise. This is like the James Bond movie of quick breads. You think it's classic and unassuming, the Bond equivalent of a calm drive in a Porsche down a picturesque Swiss highway, then boom! Chocolate filling! A high-speed car chase!
If I seem to be overstating the thrill factor of the bread, I'm not. It really is exciting to slice into the loaf and see the rich chocolate filling. Alternatively, you could marble the two batters (plain pumpkin and pumpkin chocolate) by swirling them together with a knife. Marbling is prettier but less exciting: Your call.
I found the recipe for this bread on the Libby's pumpkin website, but if you happen to have sweet potatoes instead of pumpkin on hand, you can easily use those instead, and I've had great success baking the loaf with both pumpkin and sweet potatoes. Tweaking it in a few places, I made the original recipe richer and full of more spices, which better complements the chocolate.
A note on the recipe: Be sure not to overbake the loaf, or it will dry out. The chocolate filling makes it more difficult to tell when the bread is ready, since the melted chocolate will cling to the cake tester regardless of time. Instead, stick to the recommended baking time in the recipe and let the bread cool fully before slicing to allow the chocolate filling to set slightly.
This bread is sweet enough for dessert, but a toasted slice would also make an excellent holiday breakfast. Since it is so tender and moist, you can easily make it a few days ahead. Consider baking a few loaves, wrapping them up, and giving them to friends or coworkers. Do it in advance of the holidays and you'll find yourself on everyone's nice list, just in time for gift season.
Adapted from Libby's
Makes two 8- by 5-inch loaves
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
15 ounces canned pumpkin
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Photos by Posie Harwood