Allow me to embarrass myself:
When I can’t sleep at night, I think about food.
I analyze recipes. I scrutinize them. I think about ingredients and techniques and plan out what I’m going to make in the morning. For whatever reason, I find comfort in this soothing mechanism because it tires out my mind. And I enjoy it.
This isn’t something new- it all stared when my youngest son was born. He had severe colic and screamed his head off from 6am- 6pm for six weeks straight. It was mental torture. There was no sleeping, no showering, no putting him down. I thought about food to stay sane. It distracted me. During this time I taught myself the metric system, demystified sourdough, scribbled recipe ideas on the back of junk mail, and dreamed of an heirloom garden. Was I going mad? Probably. But in retrospect, this otherwise
noisy difficult time in my life turned out to be surprisingly productive.
Three years later…
I exhibit the same behavior.
This recipe was born in the wee hours of the morning after my cat woke me up. I let him outside, and made a pit stop in the kitchen to feed my sourdough starter before returning to bed. I would bake in the morning.
This is sourdough noir.
Bread… with dark chocolate.
To begin, I added cocoa powder to my already existing recipe for country sourdough.
Round #1: Plain
Round #2: Chopped Chocolate Chunks
Round #3: Chocolate Chips, Dried Fruit + Nuts
The Geeky Stuff:
- My sourdough starter is 50/50 whole wheat + bread flour (fed at 100% hydration)
- 1 hour autolyse
- Salt and fillings added after autolyse
- Stretch and fold every 30 minutes for 2 hours
- Bulk ferment at room temperature (currently 65 F) overnight, about 12-18 hours
- 2nd proof = approximately 45 minutes- 1 hour
- Bake in Dutch oven at 400 F for 20 minutes (covered) + 40 minutes (uncovered)
- Crack open the oven door during the last 10 minutes of baking to harden the crust
For my bread posts, I always like to include this in-depth beginner’s guide to sourdough for your reference.
- 150g active fed starter
- 350g water, preferably filtered
- 50g sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract or 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped
- 500g bread flour
- 50g cocoa powder*
- 8g fine sea salt
- 65g chopped walnuts
- 65g raisins
- 150g semi sweet chocolate chips
- fine ground cornmeal, for dusting
- powdered sugar for decoration
- Make the dough: In a large bowl combine the starter, water, sugar and vanilla. Stir with a fork. Sift the bread flour and cocoa powder together and then add to the bowl. Squish everything together with your hands until all of the flour is absorbed. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest (autolyse) for 1 hour.
- To the dough: Add the salt, walnuts, raisins and chocolate chips. Lift and fold the dough over itself several times and squish with your hands to incorporate. The dough will tear slightly as you fold and the salt will not fully dissolve. Don't worry- this is normal. Work the dough as best you can until it comes back together into a rough ball.
- Bulk fermentation: Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Leave it in a warm, sunny spot to rise. Your dough is ready when it no longer looks dense and has increased in volume about 1½- 2x its original size. This can take anywhere from 3-12 hours depending on the temperature of your ingredients, the potency of your starter and surrounding environment. *See note below.
- Stretch & fold: To strengthen your dough, do a series of stretch and folds every 30 minutes for the first 2 hours of bulk fermentation. Simply gather a portion of the dough, stretch it upwards and then fold it over itself. Rotate the bowl ¼ turn and repeat until you have come full circle. You will have completed 4 folds. Try to keep the fillings tucked into the dough and not on the outside. This will prevent burning when baked.
- Shape the dough: To cut and shape the dough, divide your work surface in half; lightly flour one side (for cutting) and leave the other half clean (for shaping).
- Remove the dough from the bowl and place onto the floured section. You do not need to 'punch down' the dough; it will gently deflate as you fold and shape it.
- Cut the dough in half to make 2 loaves, or leave it whole for a single loaf. I prefer two small loaves as they're easier to shape and I like to freeze whatever we don't eat.
- To shape, use a bench scraper to move your dough to the non-floured section (if there is any flour present it will be difficult to shape- brush away any excess). Gather the dough, one side at a time, and fold it into the center. Flip the dough over and place it seam side down. Using your hands, gently cup the sides of the dough and rotate it using quarter turns in a circular motion. You can also pull it towards you to even out its shape. Repeat this process until you are happy with its appearance.
- Second rise: Place your dough(s) into a cloth lined basket, bowl, or floured brotform. It will need to rise again, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. It is ready when the dough is slightly puffy.
- Preparing the baking vessel: Preheat your oven to 400F. Generously coat the bottom of a Dutch oven(s) with cornmeal to prevent sticking. Carefully invert the dough into the pot. Use your hand to gently guide it in.
- Slash the dough: Right before your bread goes into the oven, make a shallow slash about 2 inches long in the center of the dough. Use a bread lame, sharp pairing or serrated knife.
- Bake the bread: Place your bread into the oven (lid on) and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the lid, and continue to bake (uncovered) for an additional 40 minutes. During the last 10 minutes of baking, crack open the oven door. This allows the moisture to escape, leaving your bread with a crisp crust.
- You can also take the internal temperature of your bread to double check that it is done. For sourdough, it should read about 205 F.
- Cooling: Remove the bread from the oven, and cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing.
- Dust with powdered sugar before serving.