The Kenai, pronounced “key nigh” is on most fishermen’s bucket lists. In fact, there were nearly as many fishing poles disembarking in Anchorage as passengers. Not really, but there were a lot! We weren’t there to fish this time.
This was our first vacation in a long time in what we then thought was “post-pandemic”. Traveling within the United States in July seemed the easiest destination to access and return from. Everyone on our Gate 1 Tour was vaccinated and it was the first week the tour company was back in business. No cruise ships this summer of 2021 so staffing throughout Alaska was at a minimum but adequate.
We were not in The Kenai to fish, but we still had our bucket list. My husband had always wanted to go to Alaska and I wanted to find and taste the Two Sisters Bakery Chocolate Bread!
My first encounter with chocolate bread was not my finest moment. We were living in Dubai in the late 70s. It was not the jet set location that you know now. Certain items were challenging to purchase in those days. Case in point: French bread and good chocolate. If you can, picture my dismay when I walked into our kitchen to find our visiting Swiss friend eating a sandwich with my costly stick of french bread filled with the last of our holiday chocolate! I’m not known to be rude to guests, but I lost my cool that day.
Fast forward a few decades to a morning’s read of Instagram posts. I follow quite a few bread bakers and there it was–a recommended post from Two Sisters Bakery in Alaska. They were advertising the time they would be closing that day and what they had left for sale.
Further investigation into their social media brought me to their recipe for Chocolate Bread and the back story of mimicking the Swiss idea of chocolate on bread. They had what many would consider an inappropriate name for the type of dough used that led me to come up with my own best recipe. If you are only reading for the recipe and have no interest in our Alaskan Tour, now would be the time to skip to my recipe. I was pleased to sample their original Chocolate Bread at their Bakery in Homer, Alaska to know that my version was just as good!
Most visitors to The Kenai will fly into Anchorage. We started our trip a day earlier than the tour to be able to adjust to the time change from Florida to the other side of the continent. We also wanted some exploring on our own time in Anchorage. After a two-mile walk in the wrong direction to find the Dimond Center Saturday Market, we stumbled across the best breakfast in 50 states! We were actually going to get a bottle of water, but the door to the diner next door was propped open. One look inside told us it was a popular place. Alaskan blueberry pancakes and a jalapeno cheddar biscuit later told me why. My husband chose the more traditional route but he also had the biscuit. FYI it was a secret recipe–I did ask.
We finally hopped a bus to the Dinard Center market. I bought the first ornament for a new Christmas Tree that I had planned for this year.
We finally made it back to our hotel in time for an Alaskan Beer. Hallelujah, they like IPA in Alaska. Not a bad beer was had our entire trip!
The weather was almost disappointingly warm. So much so that I needed to buy a pair of shorts! Enjoy this short video of Anchorage, complete with grizzlies, reindeer sausage, halibut tacos, and of course more beer, before we started our tour.
Our first morning with our Gate 1 Tour Group found us on the Alaska Railroad train to Denali. We had the Gold Star Service so our carriage was glass-topped which afforded us 7 hours of scenic views.
And then we saw Denali on a nearly cloudless day.
We weren’t fortunate to see many animals. That was a disappointment to my husband. We mostly saw single caribou at quite a distance.
We were finally headed to The Kenai Peninsula! On our way to Seward we stopped at the Harding Icefield Trail. Sad to see how much it has receded in a short number of years. Global warming is real in Alaska.
In Seward, we took a boat trip out to see whales and other sea-loving creatures, as well as the Holgate Glacier. Refraction goes through the ice and only blue actually passes through. We were fortunate to see it on a cloudy day (yes, really, as the color is more vibrant).
My taste buds were starting to water as we were at last headed for Homer and The Two Sisters Bakery! A visit to the bakery was the first item on my agenda after our included tour of the local museum. Luckily for us, it was just a short block from our hotel.
Homer is a really cute place. The Homer Spit can be reached by a Trolley the runs from 11 am to 6 pm and costs $25 for an all-day on-off pass. Don’t miss the 10% off coupon on the back of your ticket for Ulmer’s–the buy-everything-you-need or want in Homer store. I bought Alaskan-themed fabric to make some of the ornaments for my Alaskan-themed Christmas tree. You can also buy the famous Xtratuf fishing boots there in the event you didn’t bring them with you as I did.
Alaska is all about scenery and fish, whether you catch it or just eat it. Homer also has some super cute shops and one of the best gelatos I have tried outside of Italy.
One last video for you before the Chocolate Bread recipe. A final meal in Anchorage overlooked the after-work fishing stream for locals. They are allowed 3 salmon per day. It was enlightening to see them throwing back 25-inch salmon that would be keepers for us any day of the week. I guess if you are only allowed 3 then they need to be really big, or maybe since you can catch 3 in 10 minutes you want to stretch out your evening’s entertainment!
Chocolate Bread–K is for The Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
I can recommend 3 dough recipes for Chocolate Bread. They are all good. For my followers, you can use the easy sourdough with yeast recipe in my blog post Sourdough Seduction. Just click on the highlight for the recipe. Here is the Two Sisters recipe.
I follow Bake with Jack for a weekly bread video on his YouTube channel. Check him out--I know you will learn a lot and enjoy doing it. I am using his recipe for the dough below but with American measurements. You can see his original with the apple filling at Bake with Jack Apple and Cinnamon Buns.
Whisk milk, egg and yeast together until the yeast is dissolved.
Add the flour, sugar, and salt. Mix everything together with a scraper or wooden spoon until the dough comes together with no dry or wet bits.
Poke small pieces of butter into the dough with your fingertips.
Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead it well for 10 minutes without dusting with any flour. The dough will be slippery as the butter gets incorporated. Use a dough scraper to unstick your fingers and to bring the dough together.
Shape your dough into a ball and place it back in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces.
Roll the pieces into balls and flour them lightly. Roll each into 3-inch rounds.
Place the rounds on two parchment or silicone lined baking sheets. Rest them for 15 minutes.
Place 1/4 cup of mini chocolate chips into center of each round. Fold up edges to enclose. Put sealed side down on tray.
Cover the buns with plastic wrap and allow another hour to an hour and a half to rest and puff up.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees while the buns are rising. Place a deep roasting pan on the oven floor. Half fill a kettle with water and boil.
Place the trays in the oven and carefully pour the hot water from the kettle into the tray beneath. Close the door and bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden on the base.
This video is with only 2 Tablespoons of mini chocolate chips and my easy sourdough. The final photo is Bake with Jack's recipe with a quarter cup of chips. My vote is for the quarter cup of chips. Both breads are good.
Eat warm, fresh out of the oven or freeze once cooled and thaw and reheat either in a toaster oven or 15 seconds in the microwave.