Chocolate, Cherry and Almond Sourdough

On Saturday our local radio station held the Wandsworth Bake Off to raise money for charity, which was really great fun, and drew a lot of entries across the various categories.

Since it’s Sourdough September, I decided to enter something a little unusual: a chocolate, cherry and almond sourdough. And while I didn’t win the category, it got marked 18/20, which I’m pretty happy with!

The bread is chocolaty but not super-sweet and I think the quantity of fruit, nuts and chocolate is about right – though feel free to adjust according to taste! It’s great to eat plain, or toasted. But just remember that it’s best to toast under the grill rather than in the toaster, as the chocolate chips tend to melt.

Give it a go, and let me know how you get on!

Ingredients

Poolish
15g sourdough starter
115g strong white bread flour
115g water

Loaf
Poolish (from above)
340g strong white bread flour
200g water
8g salt
30g caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
30g cocoa powder
1 tsp espresso powder (optional)
40g flaked almonds
60g cherries
100g dark choc chips

Method

To make the poolish, mix 15g of your sourdough starter with 115g water and white bread flour. Cover with clingfilm and leave overnight for approximately 12 hours. Come the morning, it should be bubbly and ready to use.

The next morning, mix together the vanilla extract, sugar, poolish and 2/3 of the water. Then add in the cocoa, flour and espresso powder. The espresso is optional and the bread will taste fine without it, but it tends to boost the chocolate flavour in the loaf.

Mix the ingredients together and slowly add the rest of the water to bring it together. Knead it in the bowl for a minute, then cover and leave it for 20 mins. This is the autolyse stage, where the gluten will begin to develop without requiring heavy kneading.

After 20 minutes, add the salt and knead in the bowl for about 2-3 minutes to ensure the salt is distributed well. You should feel the dough change texture and become more firm and smooth.

Remove the dough from the bowl and flatten it out on the work-surface. Spread the cherries, chocolate chips and almonds over the dough and then stretch and fold the dough in on itself, shaping into a rough ball. Try to keep as many as possible of the fruit, nuts and chocolate chips on the inside. Then return to the bowl and leave for 30 mins.

Do three more stretch and folds at 30 minute intervals, either in the bowl or on the bench; whichever you find easiest. The added extras make this dough harder to manipulate than a regular loaf.

After the final stretch and 30 min rest, it’s time to shape the loaf. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and shape either as a boule or batard. Either work nicely, although I tend to find that if I want to serve slices of this, a batard is better; if I’m happy serving up wedges, a boule is quite pleasing. Shape tightly; don’t worry too much about chocolate chips ending up on the surface, although you may want to push cherries back inside, as they will catch easily when you cook the loaf.

Transfer to a banneton, dusted generously with rye flour. Then cover and leave to prove for 2 ½ hours.

Preheat the oven and whatever you plan to cook the bread in to 230c. For the best spring, I like to cook my loaves inside a cast iron pot, which takes about 45 minutes to get up to a decent temperature.

When the loaf is proved, turn it out gently into the pot, being careful not to burn yourself! Score, and return to the oven. Bake for 45 minutes: 20 mins with the lid on, and a further 25 without.

Leave to cool for a good couple of hours – if you can resist that long. And enjoy!

A few assorted pictures of various attempts:

 

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