chocolate-cherry bread

An improvised bread experiment which, happily, ended very well. I’ve had a glass jar of Trader Joe’s dark Morello cherries (they come packed in light syrup) in the fridge for weeks, & they finally found their life’s purpose.

1 c. black coffee
1/3 c. milk
2 Tbsp of syrup from the Morello cherries (or 2T of brown sugar or honey)

Combine the coffee, milk, & syrup (or sugar). Heat to very warm but not hot (too cold & the yeast beasties will not activate, too hot & you’ll kill them). Dissolve 1 Tbsp yeast in the warm, sweet coffee-milk & set aside to proof.

Meanwhile, whisk together in a mixing bowl:

2 c. white bread flour
1 c. white wheat flour
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbsp. vital wheat gluten
1 tsp. salt

When yeast has begun to bloom & foam, add liquid ingredients & 1 Tbsp soft unsalted butter to dry ingredients, & mix to combine. When it has formed a shaggy dough-batter, stir in 3/4 cup drained, coarse-chopped Morello cherries. At this point, let the dough hook attachment on your stand mixer do its thing (or knead by hand on a lightly floured surface) for 5-7 minutes. The cherries add quite a bit of wetness, so you may need to add up to another cup of white bread flour — go sloooowly here, adding just 1/8 cup at a time & combining completely before you add more, so you don’t over-do & end up too dry. Coarse-chop 2-3 squares of good quality dark chocolate & knead into the dough. If you’re in the stand mixer, tip out onto a floured surface & knead by hand for a few minutes more until the dough feels properly springy & elastic. Smear the dough ball with soft unsalted butter to coat, put in mixing bowl & cover with a dish towel — let rise a hour or two someplace warm (or overnight somewhere cool) until doubled in size.

Tip out the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface, punch down & knead a few minutes, then shape dough into desired form — round, oblong, loaf. Place dough on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover with towel, & set on top of the stove to rise for about an hour or so while oven pre-heats to 425. When the loaf has puffed up & nearly doubled in size, score lightly with a serrated knife, making slits just 1/4 inch deep — parallel lines on an oblong loaf, tic-tac-toe on a round one. Brush lightly with egg white, sprinkle with sugar (I used turbinado “sugar in the raw” because that’s what we use for coffee), & bake for 35-40 minutes. The bread is done when you lift it (use a towel, it’s hot) off the baking sheet & knock on the bottom & it sounds hollow.

Let cool on a baking rack until you can slice without burning your fingers. Serve with soft cream cheese, or unsalted sweet butter, or all by itself with coffee or tea or milk.

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