Chocolate, cranberry & orange sourdough

This sweet sourdough loaf is stuffed with juicy dried cranberries that have been soaked in orange juice, and chunks of dark chocolate. While the aroma of the dough as you work with it is wonderful, the smells wafting through the house as it bakes is out of this world!

This particular sourdough is great sliced and spread with butter (salted is most definitely preferred here!) or made into a very special French toast. However, it makes THE most stunning chocolate bread and butter pudding (especially great served with a caramelised top and a lightly orange-flavoured custard):

As with most breads worth eating, it takes time to make in order to get real flavour out of it, but there is very little hands-on time as most of the time the dough is proving and doing its thing, so it is hardly a chore!

I use Whitworths dried cranberries here which remain plump, juicy and that wonderfully sharp flavour throughout the bake: perfect with the chocolte and the orange!

About the starter:

I used my rye starter for this, fed the day before with rye flour but any active starter works brilliantly. I normally feed with about 150g flour and 150ml water, stirring well to incorporate before covering. The starter is ready to use in a recipe if a small amount of it dropped into water floats.

Stretching and folding the dough:

For a sourdough with lots of extra goodies added, or for a slacker dough, I tend to favour the stretch and fold method over traditional kneading:

  • take a large handful of the dough, stretch it high out of the bowl before dropping it back onto the dough
  • repeat this for a couple of minutes, rotating the bowl each time: you will feel the dough start to tighten a little
  • cover the dough and repeat this process several times 20 minutes or so later for a couple of hours before letting the dough have its first rise (bulk fermentation): the dough wil bevine even tighter with later stretch and folds

Full details on sourdough, including how to make a starter and the stretch and fold method, are on my main sourdough post here.

Cranberry, orange & chocolate sourdough: makes 1 large loaf

  • 500g organic strong white plain flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 10g fine sea salt
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 200g sourdough starter, fed the day before (see above)
  • 320-340ml water
  • juice & finely grated zest of 2 oranges
  • 140g dried cranberries
  • 150g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

(1) Put the cranberries into a small pan along with the orange juice. Bring to the boil, stir well and then remove from the heat. Cover and leave to plump up for at least hour, ideally overnight: the cranberries will soak up most of the juice, but any surplus juice can be added to the main dough:

(2) Mix the flour, cocoa powder, sugar and orange zest in a bowl. Add the starter and most of the water, along with any orange juice not soaked up by the cranberries, stirring everything together, adding more water if necessary to form a soft dough. Cover with clingfilm and leave at room temperature to autolyse for about an hour.

(3) Sprinkle the salt over the dough and mix in. Cover with clingfilm and stretch and fold the dough (see main sourdough post link above) for a couple of minutes. Cover and repeat about 20 minutes later. Repeat the stretch and fold sessions a few more times over the next couple of hours before covering again with clingfilm and leaving the dough in the fridge for a day or so, which will give a much slower rise but will result in a tangier bread. Remove from the fridge for an hour or so allow the dough to get to room temperature.

(4) Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured board and then stretch and fold a couple of times to tighten it up. Flatten out to a large rough-ish rectangle with the shorter edge towards you and scatter over about half of the chocolate and cranberries over one half of the dough, leaving a border all around.  Fold the exposed half of dough over and press down on top of the cranberries and chocolate. Flatten out again and repeat with the remaining cranberries and chocolate.

(5) Pat out to a larger rectangle, with the width just shorter than the width of the banneton and roll up fairly tightly to give a taut dough. You shouldn’t have any pieces of cranberries or chocolate sticking out, but if you do, push them into the dough so they don’t burn during the bake. Place in a well-floured banneton, which also has a generous sprinkling of semolina: this is for extra insurance so the the dough will turn out easily without sticking after its second proving.

(6) Dust the dough’s surface with flour and cover loosely with clingfilm. Leave to prove at room temperature this time until the dough has well risen. Don’t over-prove: the dough should still feel fairly firm with a bit of bounce when you gently prod it; it shouldn’t feel too delicate, as if it is about to collapse!

(7) Preheat the oven to its highest setting and place a solid roasting tin on the bottom and a solid baking sheet on the top shelf. Turn the dough onto the hot baking sheet and score with a razor: just a few determined slashes, not going too deep.

(8)Place in the oven and pour some cold water into the roasting tin to create a good amount of steam and close the door. Bake for 10 minutes at this setting before turning the oven down to 220C(fan). Continue to bake for a further 30 minutes or so: the bread should have a dark brown colour and sound very hollow underneath.

(9) Transfer to a wire rack and cool fully before slicing and eating.

For a non-sourdough version:

Make up the initial dough with a total of 600g strong white flour, 7g easy-blend dried yeast and between 420-440ml water instead of the starter.


Author: Philip

Finalist on Britain’s Best Home Cook (BBC Television 2018). Published recipe writer with a love of growing fruit & veg, cooking & eating.

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