The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Holiday Chocolate Bread from Gluten Free Sourdough Starter

sharonk's picture

Holiday Chocolate Bread from Gluten Free Sourdough Starter

I decided to stop being so pure and create a bread with all the ingredients I avoid all year long: sugar, chocolate, etc. I wanted it to still be highly digestible so I used my basic gluten free boosted sourdough starter. I was concerned that the "sourness" might conflict with the sweet but it worked out really well.

I had an interesting time developing the recipe. I wanted to use cocoa powder, chocolate chips and dried cherries. At this point I have enough experience to have some "instinct" about what basic ingredients to use without following a recipe. By now, I have made enough breads that resulted in excellent texture that I know what I'm looking for in the batter texture: like thick oatmeal. I hand mixed it with a wooden spoon so I could feel the texture change with each addition. At certain times I could feel it needed a bit more arrowroot or flax or water. It was satisfying to choose based on my perceived need and watch and feel it shift to its next stage. I had a rather special experience from it all. I felt connected to centuries of many other bakers who never used written recipes perhaps because they didn't have access to paper and pen or were too busy to write anything down.

The first try was too bitter and not sweet enough. The second was just right! Someone in my family asked why I called it a bread and not a cake. I told him that this bread was not as sweet or light as a cake might be but was more like a sweet bread that wouldn't crash one's blood sugar or turn one into a couch potato. The bread is also made from whole grains and properly fermented so it is highly digestible.

The splurge happens in the chocolate chips and the cherries but the bread itself is not overly sweet. The resulting loaves were very good and were consumed by my family in record time. I made the breads the day before the family came, sliced them, toasted them and served them with a bowl of sweetened whipped cream. They were consumed in record time.

Holiday Chocolate Bread
Yield: 2 loaves

2 1/2 cups boosted brown rice starter
(boosted with water kefir)
(I wanted a lighter starter so I began it with brown rice flour and used sorghum flour for the other feedings)
½ cup chia gel
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup brown rice or sweet rice flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons melted coconut oil or other oil or butter

¾ cup sugar (I used organic light)
¼ cup coconut flour
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon vanilla powder or vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

¼ cup tapioca flour
1-2 tablespoons arrowroot flour
3 tablespoons flax seed, ground
½ dried cherries
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used vegan chocolate chips)
½ cup chopped walnuts

A few hours before making bread soak ½ cup dried cherries in water, then drain (this hydrates the cherries making them less likely to burn)

Measure out starter into a mixing bowl
Add chia gel, salt, rice flour and mix.
Add cocoa powder, ¼ cup water, oil and mix.
Add sugar, coconut flour, ¼ cup water, vanilla, cinnamon and mix.

Add tapioca flour and 1 tablespoon arrowroot and mix. If the batter seems very thin, add another tablespoon of arrowroot keeping in mind you will next add the flax seed next which will thicken it considerably.

Add ground flax seed. The batter should now be medium thick. If it needs another tablespoon of arrowroot add it now.

Fold in the cherries, chocolate chips and walnuts.

Carefully spoon into 2 loaf pans only half full. (I used parchment paper with the paper higher than the sides of the loaf pan so I could easily lift the loaf out when it came out of the oven)

Let rise 7 hours and bake at 350 for about 50 minutes.
Remove and let cool 5-10 minutes and lift the bread out of the loaf pan for the rest of the cooling.

This bread rose well during the rise but lost a lot of height during the baking so it became a dense almost brownie-like bread/cake.
It was very good right out of the oven.
It’s best warm so after it’s fully cooled it can be reheated by toasting in a toaster or oven.

I also tried slicing half a loaf when it was only out of the oven about 10 minutes. Then I put the slices back in the oven for about 15 minutes. They got a nice outer crust, on the road to Biscotti but not so hard. These were good later on without toasting or reheating.


Zeb's picture

Sounds amazing, did you get a picture before it was consumed?  To make a gluten free starter would you start from scratch or do you think if I fed my rye starter with brown rice flour for a few weeks that might work?  I loved reading your post and your description of adding the ingredients and assessing what the results were - I am stll a bit lost without a formula but I think at a pinch I could make bread without scales and paper!  regards, Zeb

sharonk's picture

HI Zeb,

Thanks for reading! Sorry to say I did not photograph these lovely breads, I was too busy doing the rest of the holiday meal. Where's the staff photographer when you need them? I'm glad you liked reading about the process and the experience of feeling through hand mixing. It seemed an important piece of the process, almost meditative...

As far as feeding your rye starter with brown rice flour...I worked hard to develop gluten free starters because I did just what you're talking about, adding rice or just using rice in the rye starter method. My experience is that the rice flour is far more vulnerable to spoilage than wheat or rye. A friend suggested I "boost" the starter with a fermented liquid called water kefir, which is live and full of probiotics so it boost the yeast/bacteria activity while preserving against spoilage.It really works and has become a mainstay in my gluten free baking. Using live yogurt or fermented milk will work, also.

I think if you began a rice and water starter and added some of your rye starter to it, just a couple of tablespoons, it would boost it in the same way. I also find gluten free starters must be fed 2-3 times daily, unlike wheat and rye starters.

I'm giving you the link to my gluten free boosted brown rice starter if you want to understand more about it:


let me know how it goes,







Zeb's picture

What  a lot of work you have put in to creating these foods, I have just been reading your blog, so interesting. I eat mainstream food, but I do know people who are coeliac who I will tell about your work.  I am not sure I could feed a starter three times a day on  a regular basis, I tend to keep my starters in the fridge, and take them out 2 days before I know I am going to bake and then refresh them several times so they are at their best.   I have heard of kefir, but not water kefir, don't know if that is available in the UK, also must look up what chia is  - but thank you for taking the trouble to reply, much appreciated. I have fed the starter with yoghurt from time to time, in fact I think the method I used to make my white starter involved yoghurt and organic raisins and it is still going well 2 years on, though I have replaced my rye since then.   Zeb

sharonk's picture

Yes, I worked hard to create these foods so I could eat bread again and it was a labor of love. As far as feeding the starter2-3 times a day, sometimes I can stretch it to twice if I put it in the fridge to ferment. I find the rice starters deteriorate pretty easily in the fridge even after a week so I make the amount of starter I need for each bread baking session and use it all up. It's easy to start a new one, I just have to plan for it.


One interesting difference between my bread technique and traditional sourdough bread is that with traditional you use a small piece of starter and knead a large amount of flour into it. With my technique you create a lot of starter and add a small amount of flour to it for the final rise. There is no kneading involved, it's a thick oatmeal-like batter bread. No need for a mixer or bread machine.


Water kefir is very nice as a drink, if you can find any.

Chia seed, latin name salvia hispanica, is a very potent food that originated in Central America. It absorbs a lot of water and contributes boyancy and long shelf life to the bread.


Thanks for passing my blog on to your Celiac friends.



althetrainer's picture


Is it possible to make this brown rice starter using milk kefir instead?  Just curious.


sharonk's picture

Hi Al,

It is easy to make this starter using milk kefir, it actually gets going a little more quickly. I use water kefir because I am allergic to milk.



althetrainer's picture

I definitely will give this a try when I have time.


thespencers06's picture

what did you use for your sourdough GF starter?

A lot of my family are celiac and I am interested in making them some bread and shipping them possibly