The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


JMonkey's picture

I've been wanting to make this bread for years, ever since I first had a bite of chocolate cherry bread from Zingerman's in Ann Arbor, Mich. I've tried making this several times over the past few months, all of them flops. Pancakes, covered in charcoaled chocolate (Yum-o!) were the usual products of my labors. Not this time. I finally got think I nailed it. Here's how I made it (note: These cups are Laurel's Kitchen-style cups. Don't fluff up the flour and spoon it in -- dig deep and let it settle.


  • 120 grams or 1/2 cup active sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 340 grams or 2.25 cups bread flour
  • 8 grams or 1 1/8 tsp salt
  • 210 grams or 3/4 cup + 3 Tbs Water
  • 150 grams or 1 cup dried tart cherries
  • 125 grams or 1 scant cup big chunks of chocolate

    I've found I get more flavor out of my sourdough if I let the starter ripen at above 80 degrees. It's not necessary, though. Just make sure your starter is ripe. The night before, dissolve the starter into the water as best you can. Mix the salt with the flour (You can try using all-purpose -- I think all-purpose has better flavor and texture for sourdough, personally -- but I find that bread flour gives this bread the heft it needs to rise well despite the weight of the goodies). Then dump the flour into the starter slurry and mix it all up together until it's all hydrated. The dough should be very tacky and maybe a little sticky, but not super sticky. We're shooting for the texture of wet French dough, not ciabatta.

    Cover the bowl with plastic or a plate, and let it sit at room temperature (about 70 degrees F, more or less) for about 12 hours (anywhere from 10-14 should be fine). Once it's ready, it should look something like the photo to the left.

    Meanwhile, pour some boiling water over the cherries. If you can't find dried tart cherries (Trader Joe's sells them around Boston), dried cranberries will usually do almost as well. Let the fruit soak for about 15 minutes, drain and then place them on towels or paper towels to dry. You want the interior wet enough so that the fruit won't draw moisture from the dough, but dry enough on the exterior so they won't turn your dough into soup (it can happen -- believe me, I know). When the fruit is ready, mix it up with the chocolate in a bowl, and have it handy.

    Flour a workspace lightly, and then gently turn the dough out onto the board. With wet hands, lightly pat the dough into a rectangle. Stretch the dough to about twice its length, and then spread 1/4 of the chocolate cherry mixure in the center. Fold one-third of the dough on top, and again, spread 1/4 of the mixture on top. Fold the final third of the dough like a letter, and then turn the dough one-quarter. Follow the same procedure, and then cover the dough. Let it rest for about 15 minutes. Here's a photo sequence to show you what I'm talking about.

    Stretch and spread.

    Fold and spread.

    Fold again. Then turn the dough one quarter and repeat! Easy-sleazy. (That's the final product above. I skipped a few steps in the photos. It's well-established that stretch and fold only remains exciting and engaging for ... oh ... no more than three photos, I believe..)

    Folding the chocolate and cherries into the bread ensures that the vast majority of the goodies stay protected from the fierce heat to which you're going to subject the dough in order to get that lovely, crunchy crust we all adore. The yummy stuff is not as evenly distributed as it would be were it mixed in from the beginning, but uneven distribution is highly preferable to charcoal. Trust me.

    Now, after letting the dough rest for 15 minutes, gently shape the dough into a boule, and place it in a well-floured banneton. I splurged a while back and bought one of my own, but you can easily construct a makeshift banneton out of a bowl and a well-floured linen napkin.

    I like to let my sourdough proof in the makeshift proof-box you see to your right. I pour a cup or two of boiling water in there and close it up. It'll stay within 3-4 degrees of 85 degrees F for about 90 minutes. I then pour in another cup or two of hot water.

    After 3 hours, my bread looked like this.

    About an hour beforehand, I'd put my cloche in the oven and preheated it to 500 degrees F, but if you don't have a cloche, a dutch oven or oven-safe casserole will do. If you don't have that, just use your baking stone and steam the oven. If you don't have that, just put the bread on a baking sheet. Once the bread was scored, I baked it covered for 30 minutes, and uncovered for about 17-18 minutes, and then let it cool an hour (can you believe it?) until we dug in. I had a minor mishap with a bit of my bread sticking to the peel, thus the odd shape to the left. It didn't disuade us from gobbling it all up with 48 hours though.

  • jim2100's picture

    Care and Feeding of Sourdough Starter

    February 9, 2007 - 6:01pm -- jim2100


    I have begun a sourdough starter, recipe here , but have a few questions about feeding. Question is: Do I repeat this day 4 feeding for several weeks, using a 1/4 cup of flour each day for the next two or three weeks?


    "Once your wild yeast is growing, the character and flavor will improve if you continue to give it daily feedings and keep it at room temperature for a couple of weeks longer.
    After that time, it should be kept in the refrigerator between uses/feedings."

    mnkhaki's picture

    What & When: Sourdough

    February 9, 2007 - 5:52pm -- mnkhaki

    Hello. I am new to this forum, and for the past few days have found many answers to my questions.

     I do have a question that I can't seem to find the answer to.

     If I have a recipe for bread without the usage of sourdough. In straight recipes with the straight mixing method, can I use sourdough, (recipes for baguettes, french bread, ciabatta) and if yes, how much?

     Is sourdough the same as 'poolish'?

    Thanks all,


    Srishti's picture


    Oops... I forgot to slash it.....

    Everybody seems to think I'm LAZY..

    I don't mind, I think they're crazy......

    Please don't spoil my day, I'm miles away....

    And after all I'm only sleeping..................................




    It's a 100% whole "wheat + rye" sourdough sleepping chamber


    Wayne's picture

    Wild Yeast Sourdough

    February 8, 2007 - 10:13am -- Wayne

    My wild yeast sourdough starter is now in it's 10th day.............and I cannot seem to get it to double or anything close.  It bubbles, etc. but still smells like alcohol.  Have even tried a 1:4:4 build (see picture) but it never rises or doubles.  Maybe sourdough lady or Jim can shed some light on my problem.  All help is appreciated.

    caribbaker's picture

    I recently moved to a very small island in the Caribbean called Nevis.  I am a professional pastry chef by trade however am only working two days a week as we really moved here for my husbands job (a chef also).  I bake bread several times a week at home as well as at work.  When I moved here and tried to bake bread like I was used to I was quite dismayed.  There really are no alternatives to AP flour and even that I kind of weak.  Sometimes we get whole wheat flour but nothing like the choices I had at my local co-op in the states where I moved from.  To top that off, sometimes the flour had an off taste from sitting on the shelves too long or from the boat it came over on, also there seems to be only instant yeast here.  Sounds bad for a baker huh? 

     I almost gave up until one day I decided to try a recipe from Julia Childs book "Baking with Julia" for a pain de campagne which directs you to make a levain without using yeast.  Attempting to catch wild yeast got my excitement level going again for making bread.  I made the chef in the bread area of my pastry kitchen where bread has been baked for about 20 years figuring there had to be some wild yeast there.  The book says that after 2 days you might get a little rise and it will smell somewhat yeasty.  When I walked into work the two days later I was shocked to see my little pint container full of bubbly yeasty wonderful stuff!  Now we are talking!  As I followed her recipe, my little starter became more and more healthy and robust to the point of, on the day I made the first loaf it was kind of crazy tangy.  Now, I know that I only have to leave the starter out a few hours when I feed it and it is a lovely sucessful starter.  I have decided that the climate here being warm and humid is just wonderful for a sourdough.  I divided my start and keep some at home also for everyday baking.  

    A sour dough is not really a dough that the Nevisians take to all that much (they like soft and sweeter bread) however the guests at the Inn seem happy.  I did give a taste of my first loaf to the morning bread baker who is from here and she tasted it and said that she had tasted something like it long ago.  "The old people used to make it." she said.  This made me very happy because it tells me that a starter is probably how it was once done, even here, and in a way I am bringing something back.  Needless to say, I am jazzed about bread baking again even with my all purpose flour!


    CountryBoy's picture

    Autolyse, Vital Gluten, Oven Temp ?s

    February 7, 2007 - 5:50am -- CountryBoy

    #1-Re Autolyse: some say 15 mins and others 60 mins. #2-Vital Gluten is suggested for more chewy bread but I see no difference #3-Sourness: I put my dough in the fridge after it is shaped and the final loaf is still not sour. I try thick or thin starter and still not sour.  My homemade starter is fine for having the bread rise but just not for sour.  Is the idea of homemade starter a myth and do I have to buy one for real sour? #4 Baking temp- Rose Beranbaum in the Bread Bible sets the oven at 450 and others at 350 degrees; is there a difference?

    bwraith's picture

    how/where to get/work with flour fresh from the mill

    February 6, 2007 - 9:54am -- bwraith

    I've done a fair amount baking of sourdough hearth breads using standard recipes from Reinhart, Glezer, et al. I've always used standard flours from KA, such as their whole wheat, white whole wheat, rye blend, bread flour, Sir Lancelot high gluten, and others. Recently someone brought me some "sifted stone ground whole wheat flour" from Littleton Grist Mill in NH. I found I had some trouble with it that I suspect revolves around the need for malted barley flour addition, possibly aging, and possibly hydration differences, as well as needing to figure out the protein content and adjust for that, as well. But, it did get me thinking about exploring the availability of flours straight from mills in retail quantities and motivated the questions below.

    sewwhatsports's picture

    I got home this morning from work and decided to refresh my wet starter in preparation for making some more bread.  I had 140 gms of starter in the refrigerator that I mixed with 150 gms of water and 150 gms of organic white flour after letting it warm up.  Popped it into the closed oven with the light on and 6 hours later I had a nicely bubbled starter.  Divided that to do 2 different breads.  I am doing the Vermont Sourdough with added whole grains (rye flour) from Hamelmann's book and am trying the Pane Siciliano again.  My first attempt there was less than successful so this time I am going to try to be more diligent with it.  I now have good semolina flour as well as the organic white flour.  I have both preferments in the closed oven right now.  Last I looked the temp was about 78-82 degrees.  The Pate fermente' is rising nicely and the Vermont sourdough is just beginning to bubble.  I plan to retard the sourdough to bake late  tomorrow in the evening.  I think it will also be that way with the Siciliano but with a bake earlier in the day.  I will have to check the temperature in my laundry room.  It is very cold outside (18 degrees here in Delaware) and supposed to get into the single digit temps so my laundry room may be just right to retard the dough tonight. 

    I will try to remember to get pictures along the way with these loaves.  I don't go back to work until Wednesday at 7pm so I should have lots of time to get these loaves done.

    T4tigger's picture

    Conversion question

    February 4, 2007 - 2:59pm -- T4tigger

    I'm looking for help in the method I'm using to convert standard recipes to sourdough. In either Breads from the LaBrea Bakery or The Bread Bible I read the following method: 1) add the total weights of flour and water [I'm using a weight of 140 g./cup for flour and 225 g/cup of water] 2. Find 30% of the above weight to determine the amount of starter to use. 3. With 100% starter, divide by 2 to determine weight of flour and water in the starter. 4. Subtract the weight of flour and water in the starter from the amount called for in the recipe to know how much to use.
    I tried this with the recipe for No-Knead bread and ended up after 18 hours with dough that was more like a starter than an actual dough. I'd appreciate any help!


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