Stout Chocolate Cherry Bread

Lee mentioned this recipe in a comment on an earlier post, and I got it from her when we made banh mi together last week. The sandwiches were delicious, thanks to a hot dipping sauce we made (I forget the book the recipe was in, but hopefully Lee will post something on this?) and a huge variety of real Vietnamese pork products! Unfortunately, the bread didn't turn out, and I learned that glutenous rice flour is not what you want to use to make them. (At least, I assume that's why they failed.) That's the third time I've tried that recipe, and it's been nothing but trouble. Next time, I'm mixing rice flour and white flour together in advance and using that mixture in a more reliable baguette recipe.

But on to the current project, which I actually baked on Monday. (I've just been busy with work and sleeping and my latest internet addiction, LibraryThing, where you can catalogue all your books online. I discovered I have three more cookbooks than I thought, and also have something like five copies of Treasure Island.) I was excited to try this stout bread, first because most of the beer breads I've had in the past have been cakier - more like quickbreads - and because this called for the stout to be used in making a sponge that is refrigerated overnight, which I think accounts for the incredibly delcious stout flavour in this.

I used my last bottle of New Glarus Brewing Company's limited edition Cherry Stout to make the bread. It was well worth it. It's a great beer to drink and it makes a fine bread, with both the cherry and stout flavours clearly present. I also used cherries from Door County, Wisconsin, so if only we produced chocolate (or flour), it could have been a very local bread. For the chocolate, I chopped up a bar of Lindt 85% (my eating chocolate of choice) because the bittersweet chocolate I bought contained milk, and my sister wanted to eat the bread too. The chocolate was overpowering, even though I used half the amount the recipe called for. Bittersweet is definitely a better idea. I tried my 'g' slash on the loaf again, but it was not as successful as my first, so it's not featured in the photo.

I was surprised this recipe came from a healthy cooking magazine (I forget which... Lee?) because stout, chocolate, and dried cherries do not a healthy diet make. But there's not much sugar in the bread, and no fat, and I think I remember the recipe's calorie count being in the neighbourhood of 150 calories a slice. More importantly, it is delicious. If I made it again, I would probably bake it at a higher temperature and do the whole hearth baking thing for a nice, thick crust. Following the recipe makes you the thin, soft crust Americans prefer. I might also like to try this with Wisconsin Belgian Red in place of the stout, leave out the chocolate, and just do cherries. Of course, the beer and ingredient possibilities are endless...

Stout Chocolate Cherry Bread

4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 12oz bottle stout
1 package dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dried cherries
4 oz bitterswet chocolate (I used half this amount)

spray oil
1 teaspoon water
1 egg white
1 teaspoon pearl sugar

Stir two cups of the flour, the stout, and yeast in a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Remove from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for one hour.

Add the sugar, salt, and as much of the remaining flour as is needed to make a firm dough. (Lee's notes had it needing much less flour than the recipe called for; I used it all.) Knead until smooth and elastic. Add more flour or water, if needed to correct the dough, then knead in the cherries and chocolate.

Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for one hour in a warm spot.

Degas the dough and let it rest five minutes. Shape into a boule on a pan covered with parchment paper. Spray with oil and let rise one hour, until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350*F. Mix the egg white and water together and brush this mixture over the boule, sprinkle with pearl sugar if desired. (I skipped this entirely. -tfb)

Bake 30 minutes, or until browned and the loaf sounds hollow on the bottom.