The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Chocolate cherry sourdough bread

JMonkey's picture

Chocolate cherry sourdough bread

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.

  • Comments

    Floydm's picture

    Wow, that looks messy as heck, but really good.

    JMonkey's picture

    ... unless you cut it while it's still warm. Then the chocolate goes everywhere. But if you let it cool, the chocolate resolidifies nicely. It's a tasty loaf, though the sourdough flavor is decided in the background as a supporting player. With the tangy cherries and the sweet chocolate, it just can't compete.

    In fact, I'm wondering whether it might be better and easier just to forget the sourdough altogether and add 1/4 tsp yeast, a la Sullivan St / NY Times. It'd be easier, and likely just as tasty.

    mountaindog's picture

    Great write-up and pics! Somehow I am having a tough time envisioning the taste of crusty sourdough bread mixed with chocolate - that's just me, but perhaps it is similar to a real pain-au-chocolate in France? My husband says he used to have that as an after school snack where a baguette was split and heated with chocolate pieces inside that melted, rather than the usual croissants with chocolate you see sold everywhere as pain-au-chocolate.

    Anyhow, we love the combo of cherries and dark chocolate, so this looks good...maybe  a yeast bread would be easier as you say, on the other hand it is nice to use up excess starter too!

    JMonkey's picture

    Ah yes, the chocolate sandwich (that's what I called it in English when I was over in France back in college). I suppose it's similar, yes, though the dried cherries add a very distinct flavor. If you got rid of the cherries, I'd bet you could bump up the chocolate by 50% or more, and it would still work out great.

    Next time I make it, I'm just going to use yeast unless I've got some extra starter around. The long no-knead rise is convenient, so I'll still do it that way, but the sourdough flavors really are mostly over powered by the sweet stuff.

    Of course, I'm not saying that's a bad thing, necessarily.

    merrybaker's picture

    OMG, that's not the picture to see before breakfast!  That looks SO good.  What kind of chocolate did you use, and would you change that?

    JMonkey's picture

    I bought a One Pounder of the dark Belgian chocolate from Trader Joe's.

    I might change from sourdough to commercial yeast, but I'd definitely not change the chocolate.

    edh's picture


    I've now commented on this bread in several other posts, but not yet done you the courtesy of thanking you directly. What an extraordinary bread! You did some fantastic work, figuring out how to fold the yummies in properly, a fact I didn't appreciate fully until I made the bread. Everything stayed inside like it was supposed to, thanks to your careful instructions!

    I didn't use sourdough, though; I was already immersed in an experiment to convert Hamelman's Rustic bread to 50% whole wheat, with a poolish rather than a biga, so I used half the dough to make this. To my surprise the whole grain worked very nicely with the decadent chocolate and cherries, though I'll probably have to try it with white sometime as well. Pity. I just happened to have an 11# brick of Callebaut bittersweet chocolate in the house, so I used that. It works.

    Thank you!


    Catlikethief's picture

    This bread is so yummy. I had one problem with it. I use a dutch oven and when i pulled my bread out the entire bottom was smelly burnt chocolate.  Do you have any tips on how to avoid this?

    I ask because I am in the processe of making two loaves today for some family friends and well I can't give them burnt bread.  However the plus side is, if they do burn more for me!


    And a last note my husband is from Ann Arbor and grew up eating Zingermans, such good food.

    Shlomo Dovid's picture
    Shlomo Dovid

    I wonder if fresh may be substituted for the dried cherries called for in this recipe? In this case, maybe tossing them in a little flour would anchor them in the mix?


    BMS's picture

    There are some amazing recipes here for the Chocolate Cherry bread that seems to only surface at Christmas.

    New Seasons Organic Markets on the West Coast has a boule that is very dark, and the ingredients appear to be very simple (cocoa, sour dried cherries & chocolate chips)

    Does anyone know if this is a sourdough recipe like the one here by JMonkey for the same?  Time wise it'd be easier if I could re-produce it without having to make a starter. 

    Any opinion also on sourdough vs classic bread recipe?



    jaypat's picture

    This is the most awesome bread !  Made it for Valentine's day in our wood fired brick oven, thank you JMonkey!!

    modthyrth's picture

    Jaypat--did you modify for use in the WFO?  I've only started baking in mine, and love how you can really push temperature and hydration.  But I haven't tried that with a sweet dough.  Did you wait until the oven was 325 to bake the bread or could you throw it in in the 400s? 

    Miss Moo's picture
    Miss Moo

    I am attending a bakery and pastry arts program and tried out this bread for my in-class project.  I altered the recipe a bit, partially due to time constrictions: 

    - Autolyse for one hour

    - Added 3g of fresh yeast

    I really loved the folding method but I felt like there was a little too much chocolate.  I'd say that I ended up using 75g of chocolate instead of the 125g.

    I forgot to double the recipe (I wanted a whole loaf to take home) so I made another loaf while the first one was in the autolyse process.  I ended up having to rush as I was running out of time, so the first loaf had enough time to autolyse and proof properly, but the second loaf did not.  

    I was worried when I looked into the oven and saw some chocolate oozing out of the sides (especially the underproofed one).  But once they were done, the properly proofed one looked better so I submitted that one for our class tasting.  As I was the last to finish, chef had to cut it open right away so the chocolate was very melty and smeared.  Not very attractive but chef understood that it needed time to cool.  

    Boy was it a hit!  I brought the remainder of the properly proofed loaf along with the underproofed one.  My boyfriend tried both of them and said that he actually liked the underproofed one better as the chocolate and cherry mixture was more dense due to the fact that it did not rise as much. 

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful recipe!  Will definitely be making this one again :)

    saltandserenity's picture

    That is my ravourite combo of flavours.  I have heard of theis famous Zingerman's Bread but never seen it.  Now I can actually make it at home.  I am very excited!!  Your loaf is just beautiful.  Great tutorial.  Thanks for sharing.

    whosinthekitchen's picture

    and is, I am sure.... 

    I used to get something similar at City Market in MIlwaukee, WI and that was in the 80's-90's....

    now I have this one on my gotta bake list... I can almost taaste your photo

    whosinthekitchen: LIsa


    oceanicthai's picture

    I am starting you recipe tonight with a few modifications, like adding 100g of Dutch process cocoa powder & using cranberries.  I did something similar a week or so ago from Sourdough home & loved it, but felt it needed something sweet, so I found yours with the added chocolate.  Great idea with the folding, I can just imagine the mess without it.  My mouth is watering just thinking about getting this bread out of the oven!    :)

    messlia's picture

    the little loaves are loaded with three different kinds of chocolate, which is more than you'll find in most cakes in this town. Finally, a sweet treat that's as good as it is good for you. At least, that's how we justified scarfing a whole loaf in one sitting. Those cherries must count for a daily serving of fruit, right? It's the perfect excuse to knock back a slice or three after dinner as the perfect capper for any meal. Or lunch. Heck, even breakfast. Some people call it toast; we call it heaven.

    brighteyedbaker's picture

    I just finished making this bread, and I love it, but the crust burnt in the oven. I had the oven at 500F and baked with the loaf covered the whole time, but thirty minutes in the loaf was already burnt. Any suggestions? Thanks!

    Breadandwine's picture

    Made this on Thursday 20th September with my special needs group at a local care home here in Taunton, England:

    The shaping method in the OP we found quite tricky, so, after the first one we changed to assembling the loaf a la pane casereccio - or, as you guys call it, Stromboli. Made one in the style of a schiacciata con l'uva, using up some spare grapes.

    Wonderful bread, went down a storm.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    Cheers, Paul


    h12rpo's picture

    Tried this............cut the chocolate to 50 grms of chips and added a rounded tablespoon of cocoa powder and add another 30grms of water Absolutely fantastic result - thanks for the recipe :-)

    CAphyl's picture

    CAphyl's picture

    I will make the cherry chocolate sourdough next!  CAphyl