Rounding Out The Year: Chocolate Cherry Sourdough

The first bread book I purchased was Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  In the introductory pages he outlines the twelve steps of making bread, from mixing and fermentation to cooling and storing.  Before all of those, however, is the critical mise en place, French for putting in place.  Essentially it means that before you start you should have your ingredients organized, necessary tools out, and recipe read and handy.  You’d think after three years of making bread I would have mastered this step, but apparently not.


Failure to do this is how you end up trudging through 7 inches of snow at 8 AM on Sunday looking for chocolate and dried cherries while the dough you already started begins to rise.  Looking back, perhaps it would have been wise of me to obtain chocolate and cherries before endeavoring to make chocolate cherry sourdough.  Both the nearby market and food co-op were closed, but lucky for me Zingerman’s was open and happy to help me make this delicious bread (inspired by them) with nothing but the best chocolate and cherries.  You could read that last sentence in a sarcastic tone, but Zingerman’s usually really does have the best.

From there, everything went much better.  Great in fact.  What started out as potential bread disaster resulted in two of the best loaves I’ve ever made.


There were two things I did differently than usual that made this a success.  First, I proofed the dough under a reading lamp.  Our apartment is significantly cooler in the winter (we keep it at 66) which affects the rising times for bread.  I found several methods for constructing a makeshift proofing box, but in the end just stuck the rising loaves under a small lamp.  In the future it would be nice to have a thermometer nearby to keep track of the temperature.


There was a significant improvement in the rise and I will probably utilize this method for much of the winter.  The second change I made was lining my proofing baskets with pizza flour.  I liberally coat my baskets with all purpose flour each time, but there’s always one or two parts of the dough that seem to stick and ruin an otherwise perfect shape (and cause a loss of built up gas).  Well, I had run out of AP and bread flour so the pizza flour was my only choice, and it worked wonders.


The dough transferred effortlessly out of the basket when it was ready to bake and I didn’t have to overly coat it with flour.  This will definitely be my go-to method from now on.  There was also a much better oven spring than usual, most likely a combined effect from the proofing temperature and not getting stuck in the proofing basket.


The same day I made these I also tried recipes I drew up for a multigrain sourdough and Tartine-style rye bread, but in a loaf pan.  I’m going to fine tune them a bit more but hope to post about them next month.


I’ll be doing a year in review post next week, so this the final new recipe post for 2013, and what a way to go out!  This made a great bread for the holidays and is incredible once you toast it.  The crisp and caramelized crust combined with the tartness of the cherries and warm gooey chocolate…hurry up and make this already!  But of course, make sure you have the chocolate and cherries first!

Chocolate Cherry Sourdough (Makes 1 loaf)


  • 100 g active sourdough starter
  • 350 + 25 g warm water
  • 450 g bread flour
  • 50 g whole wheat flour
  • 10 g salt
  • 120 g bittersweet chocolate chips/chunks
  • 150 g dried cherries, rehydrated in boiling water


The night before (or at least 7-8 hours) you make your dough combine 2 tablespoons of unfed sourdough starter with 100 g of water, 50 g of all purpose flour, and 50 g of whole wheat flour.  Still until there are no dry bits of flour, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit out overnight.  This will be your active starter the next morning.  A drop of the starter will float in water when it is ready.

When ready, disperse the 100 g of active starter in 350 g of water in a large bowl.  Add all flour and mix by hand until there are no dry bits.  Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

After the rest add salt and remaining 25 g of water.  Mix well and cover the dough again.  Boil two cups of water and in a separate bowl pour over the dried cherries.  Let sit for 15 minutes before draining.

For the next two hours ‘turn’ the dough every 30 minutes.  This means grabbing the underside of the dough, and stretching it up and over the rest of the dough.  Perform a few of these turns each time you handle the dough.  When you perform the first set of turns, add in the chocolate and cherries.  After two hours is up, let the dough rest for another hour before you turn it again.

After the third hour, let the dough rest another 30 minutes.  Then turn it out onto an unfloured surface.  Flour the top of the dough and flip it over.  Work into a round shape and let rest for 30 minutes.

Following the bench rest flour the top of the dough again, flipping it over after so the flour side is face down.  Fold the third of the dough closest to you inward, and then stretch the dough out to the sides.  Fold the right, and then left, sides in toward the center.  Fold the top of the dough inward, and then wrap the bottom part of the dough over it all.  Work this into a round shape, and place seam side up in a proofing basket lined well with flour.

Let rise for 3-4 hours (or overnight in the refrigerator).  Before baking place a dutch oven, with the lid on, in the oven and preheat to 500 degrees.  Once hot, drop the dough into the pan and score the loaves.  Immediately place the top back on and return to the oven.  Turn the heat down to 450 degrees and cook for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, remove the top of the dutch oven and rotate the pan.  Continue to bake the bread for another 20-25 minutes, until the crust is deeply caramelized.  Enjoy!

Dough recipe from Chad Robertston’s Tartine Bread and inspired by JMonkey on The Fresh Loaf and Zingerman’s Bakehouse.

7 thoughts on “Rounding Out The Year: Chocolate Cherry Sourdough

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  6. I have found in the winter months when the house is cooler I rise my dough by sitting it on a heating pad set on the lowest setting with a kitchen towel in between the bowl and the pad. seems to work terrific

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