The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Dark Chocolate Tart Cherry Levain

umbreadman's picture

Dark Chocolate Tart Cherry Levain

Inspired by the Chocolate Cherry bread from Zingerman's Bakery down the street, and spurred on by a fellow FreshLoafer's (JMonkey) post on the matter, I've finally made it my own!


I'll admit it. Asthetically, it's a brute. Shaping didn't really happen, clearly there are no slashes, the sharp chocolate corners broke through the dough because I wasn't thinking about how I was handling it, it oozed, and the chocolate on the outside was mildly charred.

None of that matters.

The smell was incredible. The essence of sour cherries and dark chocolate mingled beautifully and delighted the nostrils of everyone in the vicinity. I dare say it was very seductive. 

It tasted great. The little bit of honey I added to the dough helped connect the ingredients better. Otherwise, I wonder if there would have been too much contrast between the fruit/chocolate and bread flavors...

There is though, much room for improvement. I did not develop the dough adequately before folding in the additives. And I think it showed. I also made the mistake of not fully reviving my starter before introducing it to the dough; while it worked, it was rather weak. Also, the crust colored very quickly, and I pulled the loaf before it was fully baked, let it cool slightly, cut it, noticed it was underdone, and rebaked it. Next time, lower temp.

Still though. Very tasty. All the mistakes are rendered, at least temporarily, insignificant by the wonder of this creation.

Dark Chocolate Tart Cherry Levain

1.5 lbs Bread Flour (I used Golden Buffalo)

1lb 2ozs water

.5oz salt

Small amount of refreshed s.dough culture (adjust depending on taste/rising time preference)

~8ozs dark chocolate, broken into small bits

~12ozs dried tart cherries (if sugar is added, its okay. They will come out during soaking)

1) Soak cherries for at least 30 minutes to remove any added sugar and prevent burning

2) Mix flour, salt, and water until fully hydrated, let autolyse/sit for ~30 minutes (can do while cherries soak)

3) Cut up levain, add to dough with cherries, mix until fully distributed, knead to develop gluten (which I did not do), but be gentle not to destroy cherry integrity

4) Bulk ferment until approx 1.5x volume increase, folding once* halfway through.

*During fold, add chocolate bits inbetween each fold over. JMonkey's blog illustrates this well, here.

5) Very gently shape the loaf, trying not to puncture the future crust. While it's not tragic if it does happen, if there's a leak, chocolate can leak out and burn, and it might make you a little sad. But you'll be fine! It's okay!

6) Bake on a preheated stone with steam at ~400-425F (I did 450F and forgot to turn the heat down [it was a busy day in the kitchen], so the crust darkened very quickly. A lower temp would give a more thorough bake without the crustular trauma)until internal temp reaches 200F.

LET COOL BEFORE CUTTING. Molten Chocolate is very hot! It will burn if you, so it is imperative that you resist the nearly irresistable urge to eat this bread. Even after about 25 minutes, it was hot enough to burn my friend a little, so be careful. 

7) Devour. It will probably not last very long. Not because it won't keep. But because it's too tasty. Even if you mess up a bit. 


browndog's picture

umbreadman, if your loaf had turned out flawless, you might not have said

>Aesthetically, it's a brute.<

And life wouldn't look quite as shiny right now.

So that's okay. Plus the name alone makes up for any deficiencies  of appearance or process. But it sounds and looks decadent and wonderful. A slice with cream cheese right about now. And a cup of tea. Yes.

edh's picture

Remember, aesthetics covers more than just visuals!

Of course, I should be cursing you; I'd managed to forget about JMonkey's original post, but now I've seen it twice and I don't think I have the will power to resist.

Ack! Between this and Kippercat's sweet potato cinnamon rolls, I can feel self control slipping away in the wake of pre-holiday excess. Oh well, moderation is generally overrated. Luckily, it will be a while before I'm anywhere that I can buy dried cherries...

Nice job, and don't sweat the visuals; it just means you get to try again!


JMonkey's picture

Yes, it's not the most aesthetically pleasing loaf, is it, especially with chocolate charcoal sticking out here and there? But, man ... does it make up for it in the taste! Your loaves look delectable!

umbreadman's picture

Thank you for the kind words. It was incredible. I do take a measure of pride, as I think most of us do, in getting a good looking, as well as good tasting, result. But it definately did not matter at all. The only problems with this bread are that a) the cherries were way expensive ($15/lb!?!?) and b) i live with 19 other people that like what I make. This loaf disappeared in less than 24 hours. It's amazing though: For a loaf half of the size of mine, the bakery charges $10. TEN DOLLARS!!! But, hey, people pay for it, so kudos to them. I'll be here, making it myself....

JMonkey's picture

... but if you can find good, tart dried cranberries, they're a good inexpensive substitute. And, in any case, it's STILL cheaper than the ridiculous prices Zingermans charges for everything. Don't get me wrong -- Zingy's stuff is indeed tasty -- but the prices they charge! Oy!

caryn's picture

If there is a Trader Joe's near you, they carry wonderful tart cherries at a reasonable price.

umbreadman's picture

I agree completely, zingerman's is terribly expensive. My girlfriend's uncle wanted a vollkornbrot that only zingerman's had, $8.50 for a 2lb loaf!! I used it as an excuse to try making my first ever rye bread and made them a 3lb vollkornbrot that turned out, according to them (immigrated germans), great and reminded them of home. I think the ingredients cost ~$2. Infinitely more satisfying.


staff of life's picture
staff of life

You could take the easy way out (of actually having to develop a recipe, that is) and use the one in the La Brea book.  It's good.  I actually think the bread does better when it's made smaller, e.g. 4 oz buns.  You can pop them in the freezer and defrost them very fast if need be.  As a larger loaf, it seems to dry out fairly quickly.