chocolate cherry sourdough bread

I have learned so much from working in a bakery.

Here are a few things, in no particular order:

  • Label and date everything. The proper way to write the date is month/day, like “egg wash 6/20”.
  • When in doubt, sprinkle on some Maldon
  • Tie apron strings together before tossing in the laundry to prevent them from knotting.
  • Chew gum to keep from snacking.
  • A couple tablespoons of OJ in a quart of seltzer will trick your stomach into thinking it’s full.
  • For safety reasons, always dry and put away knives immediately after washing.
  • Shout “behind” when walking behind someone, “door” when going through a door, “corner” when walking around a corner, and “sharp” when walking ANYWHERE with a knife.
  • Ratios are magic. Let’s say a recipe calls for 40 grams of whole wheat and 250 grams of AP flour. If I want to scale up to 1500 grams of AP, how much whole wheat do I need? 40/250 = x/1500, so cross multiply 40 and 1500 and then divide by 250 to get 240 grams of whole wheat. 
  • Organization via charts, schedules, and spreadsheets are half the baking battle. Maybe even three-quarters.
  • Whacking around baking sheets all day long will make your hands hurt.
  • If you need a tool, buy it.
  • If you want to learn something, learn it.
  • Experiment, experiment, experiment, and make note of EVERYTHING.
  • The proper way to cut a sourdough boule: slice it in half, and then place the half cut-side down and slice into pieces.  
  • To turn a craggy cookie into a perfect round, place a large round cookie cutter over it when it’s still hot from the oven and gently swirl.
  • Get creative with scraps! Some of our favorite products resulted from someone getting creative: vanilla braids, lemon lavender pull-aparts, everything bagel cream cheese buns, etc.
  • ALSO: don’t be afraid to through out leftovers. Sometimes the trashcan (pig bucket) is the best option. No need to waste time on failure.
  • Lavish love and samples on your customers. Their eye-sparkles are the best part of the job.
  • Sourdough bread add-ins are fancy as heck and not at all as complicated as I thought.

Each day we offer a different flavor of sourdough, and sometimes two: cracked 9-grain, roasted garlic and herb, sundried tomato and feta, pecan raisin, finocchio, etc. Days that we have leftovers, there might even be 4 or 5 different kinds to choose from (if you aren’t snooty about day-olds). 

One of the breads I was tasked with making was the chocolate cherry loaf. I’ve attempted chocolate sourdough on my own a number of times, but the bread was either too dry or the chocolate too bitter. It never was worth the trouble. But then our head baker did some research: apparently the trick was to first bloom the chocolate in oil and then add it to the dough. She also had me dump in a bunch of Callebaut and some fancy Amareno cherries. The loaves were a hit.

I’ve yet to taste our bakery chocolate cherry loaf, but I’ve made it at home a couple times now. My recipe is a little different, of course — 

*different dough: I make a country white as opposed to the bakery’s more wheaty loaf
*different chocolate: whatever cocoa I have, as well as whatever chocolate chunks (chips, disks, etc)
*different cherries: boozy sour cherries from homemade bounce

— but the method is the same.

Mix the cocoa with hot oil and let it soak for a bit (this is what’s called “blooming”), and then after the dough has been mixed and rested for 30 minutes, fold in the bloomed cocoa. Rest the dough for another 30 minutes and fold in the remaining ingredients. Once the chocolate chunks and cherries have been added, repeat the lift-and-folds two to three more times, interspersing each series of folds with a 30-minute rest. When you’re done with the folding, let the dough bulk proof for 4-5 hours before shaping, proofing overnight, and baking. 

Thick slices of this bread, untoasted and well buttered, make for a fantastic breakfast with coffee.

Chocolate Cherry Sourdough Bread
Loosely adapted from Magpie’s recipe and method for Chocolate Cherry Bread.

2 pounds country white sourdough dough (one-half recipe, enough for one large boule)
50 grams cocoa
50 grams canola oil
150 grams semi-sweet chocolate (chunks, chips, disks, etc)
125 grams canned cherries (Amarena, bounce, etc), partially drained and chopped

Warm the oil in a small saucepan and stir in the cocoa. Stir for a couple minutes on very low heat (or off heat), and then set aside to cool.

Mix dough as per the recipe and let it rise for 30 minutes. Spread a third of the cocoa mixture over the dough, then lift one edge of the dough and fold it over the cocoa. Add another third of the cocoa, fold, and then the final third and fold. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

Add the remaining add-ins in thirds, as you did with the cocoa. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

Repeat this lift and fold process another 2-4 times, with 30-minute rests in between. The cocoa will never fully incorporate but by the end the dough should be heavily marbled.

Let the dough bulk proof for several hours and continue with the recipe: overnight proofing, docking, baking, etc.

Serve with butter.

This same time, years previous: the middle years, family road trip: New Hampshire, teen club takes Puerto Rico, buttermilk brownies, cherry picking, Korean beef, the quotidian (6.22.15), weigh in, please, beets, and more beets, spaghetti with fresh herbs and fried eggs.


  • Elva

    I like your list of useful suggestions!
    I just finished reading Demon Copperhead, and you are right, it is not an easy read or a feel-good story. I always enjoy Barbara Kingsolver’s writing, and I am glad I read it, but this was not a book I would recommend to my friends or family.

Leave a Comment