Friday, April 24, 2015

Recipe Revisit: Stout Chocolate Cherry Bread

This is an old recipe, one that I’ve posted before. We love it in our house, but I never made it very often. I finally realized that I tended to avoid it because it was a bit of trouble to make, requiring a refrigerated overnight starter that then had to be brought back to room temperature before being used to make a very stiff dough that was hard to work the chocolate and dried cherries into. This recipe had to be made simpler and more effective if I was going to make it more than once or twice a year.

I really didn’t notice any negative difference in flavor or quality of this bread dough when I cut the starter time to 2 hours and left it at room temperature. I still think that if you do want the convenience of popping the starter in the refrigerator for 12 hours to work its magic while you pretty much completely ignore it, that would work just fine.

I also cut down the amount of flour in the recipe, a move that seemed pretty obvious once I thought of it. I used to just put into my dough whatever volume or weight of flour was called for in a recipe. After some years of experience in bread baking, I have learned that a bread dough needs as much flour (or water) as it needs, and it’s better to learn what a good dough is supposed to look and feel like: smooth and stretchy and slightly sticky in some cases.

Both of the simple changes I made to this delicious bread help make it a better bread that’s easier to produce. It’s slightly bitter in flavor from all that super-dark beer and super-dark chocolate. The dried cherries give it some sweet-tart bursts in every slice. This is a great bread for breakfast or an afternoon snack with coffee or tea.

Back in March I was going to post this recipe as Reason #2 to not drink all the Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day (with this beef stew being Reason #1). Now, I can firmly recommend it as a good reason to go out and acquire some more!

Stout Bread with Chocolate and Cherries
Based on a recipe in Cooking Light magazine

3-3 ½ cups bread flour, divided
12 ounces Guinness stout (or your favorite stout)
2 ¼ teaspoons yeast (1 envelope)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup dried cherries
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1. In a large bowl or plastic container, combine 2 cups bread flour, Guinness, yeast and sugar. Mix until very smooth. Cover with a towel and let stand 2 hours. (You could also cover and refrigerate overnight. Allow to come to room temperature before continuing the recipe.)

2. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixture. Sprinkle the salt over the batter. Using the dough hook, knead in as much of the remaining flour as you can while keeping the dough soft, stretchy, and still a little tacky. Knead for a total of about 10 minutes. Knead in the cherries and chocolate.

3. Shape the dough into a smooth ball. Spray a large bowl with cooking spray. Set the dough ball in the bowl. Spray the dough with cooking spray. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on top of the dough. Cover with a towel and let rise until double in size, about 1 hour.

4. Gently deflate the dough. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Divide the dough into two equal portions. Shape each portion into a slightly flattened ball and place both on the prepared baking sheet, leaving room between them to rise. Let rise until double in size, about 1 hour.

5. Preheat oven to 350 F. With a sharp knife, cut an “X” into the top of each loaf. Bake at 350 F for 25-30 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes 2 loaves. You can freeze one or both loaves well-wrapped if desired.

One year ago: Banana Quick Bread

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