Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Stout Bread

At the risk of seeming bitter in the face of an impending romantic holiday, I decided to post another recipe for a treat that’s a lot less sweet. Now, I’m all for the employment of heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and pink-frosted cupcakes in the celebration of Valentine’s Day. I’ve just been married long enough (10 ½ years) to know what my Sweetheart likes, and that is foods and beverages with at least a hint of more bitter flavors.

One of Harry’s favorites is this bread fortified with Guinness stout and studded with bittersweet chocolate and dried cherries. It starts with a simple starter of the beer, some bread flour and yeast and ends with soft bites of melted chocolate and hints of sweet and tart from the cherries. Actually, it ends with an empty plate and rather quickly, which is why I form the dough into two small loaves and freeze one for later. Delayed gratification can be a very romantic thing.

I’ve made this bread by kneading it in a heavy-duty mixer with a dough hook, but recently, I’ve been kneading bread by hand. This bread comes out best if I allow the dough to remain a little sticky rather than too stiff. The dough is slow to rise compared to other doughs and if I add too much flour, I find the loaves to be too dense.

I’m afraid I may have posted it too late to make it for Valentine’s Day. The starter requires about 8 hours to properly mature, so you have to think about making it ahead of time. If your tooth is not as sweet as your romantic disposition, you might like to make this bread instead of a sugary treat, for some other romantic occasion. If, on the other hand, you’re more bitter than romantic, this might fit the bill as well. Our plans for the big Valentine weekend: curl up with a homemade pizza and watch the movie Zombieland. You keep Valentine’s Day in your way, I’ll keep it in mine.

Stout Bread with Chocolate and Dried Cherries
adapted from Cooking Light magazine

3 ½ - 4 cups bread flour, divided
1 (12-ounce) bottle Guinness Stout
2 teaspoons dry yeast (or about 1 package)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup dried tart cherries
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken or chopped into bite-size pieces

1. Combine 2 cups flour, stout, and yeast in a large container. Stir well to combine completely. Cover loosely (I just set the lid of the container on top without sealing it) and refrigerate at least 8 hours.

2. Remove the starter from the refrigerator and let stand until it warms to room temperature, at least 1 hour, perhaps longer.

3. Add 1 cup flour, sugar, and salt and stir to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface (or into the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer.) Knead the dough by hand (or with the mixer’s dough hook) until it is smooth. While kneading, add ½ to 1 cup flour a little at a time. The dough should still be slightly tacky, but should not continue to cover your fingers or stick to the kneading surface (or the mixer bowl).

4. Stretch the dough out into a thin circle or rectangle. Place the chocolate and dried cherries on the dough and roll it up. Work the dough to evenly distribute the chocolate and cherries.

5. Shape the dough into a smooth ball. Place the dough in a large bowl that has been oiled or coated with cooking spray. Oil or spray the top of the dough ball. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on top of the dough and cover with a clean towel. Let the dough rise until it is double in size, 1-1 ½ hours.

6. Oil a large baking sheet or coat it with cooking spray or line it with a silicone baking mat. Divide the risen dough in half. Form each half into a smooth ball and place on the baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let rise about 1-1 ½ hours or until about double in size.

7. Preheat the oven to 350 F. With a sharp knife, cut an X into the top of each loaf. Bake at 350 F for 35-40 minutes. To ensure the loaf is fully baked, you can insert a thermometer probe. The bread is done when the internal temperature is 200 F. Cool on a wire rack. You can slice and serve slightly warm, or when it cools completely.

Makes 2 loaves of 8-10 slices.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. That looks incredible. How well does it ship?;-)