Chocolate and cherry focaccia

A sweet focaccia is a joy to eat, and my chocolate and cherry focaccia gives a lovely twist on a classic bread – it is also very easy to make. This focaccia is particularly great served in slices with a cup of tea, especially when spread with salted butter or with a dollop of tangy crème fraîche.

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This focaccia is also excellent sliced horizontally, cut into small squares and topped with a little white chocolate ganache crème fraîche for quirky, but very delicious, sweet treats: perfect as a sweet component to Afternoon Tea.

And a bread and butter pudding made with this focaccia is sublime!

An overnight rise

As I almost always do with breads, once the dough has been mixed up and kneaded, I pop it in teh fridge overnight. This slows down the yeast, so that the fermentation process happens much more slowly, giving a much better flavour to the final bread.

However, you can omit the chilling and stick to room temperature, which will be quicker and will still give you a very nice focaccia. Increasing the yeast to 7g will speed up the process if you want, but the slower the yeast works, the better the flavour.

Oil or butter?

While olive oil is most certainly the fat of choice for focaccia, for this sweeter version I have used melted butter in the dough. The butter gives a more enriched dough, almost along the lines of brioche, but the higher water content of this dough compared to a brioche dough ensures you have the open hole structure inside the baked focaccia.

I have subseqently made this focaccia with olive oil, too, which I woudl nebver thing of replacing in a savoury focaccia, and it did indeed work excellently, but for a sweeter focaccia I do prefer the flavour that the butter brings. Sacrilege, perhaps, but I can cope with that!

While I usually go for thin focaccia rather than deep, but for this sweet version a thicker focaccia hits the spot.

Recipe: chocolate and cherry focaccia – makes one large one

  • 320g strong plain flour
  • 5g easy-blend dried yeast (go for a 7g sachet if you want to speed things up a bit)
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 50g light muscovado sugar
  • 80g melted and cooled unsalted butter
  • 5g fine sea salt
  • 260ml cool water
  • 80g dark chocolate (70% solids), in smallish chunks
  • 120g dried cherries that have been soaked in kirsch or rum for at least a few days, drained and chopped roughly. Alternatively, soak in orange juice or even water until they are juicy and plump
  • icing sugar for dusting over

(1) Mix the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, salt and yeast together in a large mixer bowl. Add the water and the melted butter. Mix to give a very wet, lumpy mixture: you will have a very slack dough that is more like a thick batter.

(2) Knead the dough using the paddle or even the whisk attachment on medium speed for about 20 minutes: (these work better than the dough hook attachment for this wetter dough). The dough will become silky-smooth and almost gelatinous in texture. Add the cherries and the chocolate pieces and continue to mix for a few more minutes to incorporate.

NB: alternatively, adopt the stretch and fold technique for the dough – see my earlier focaccia recipe (here) for details on this approach

(3) Cover with clingfilm and leave at room temperature for about an hour to help start off the yeast. Chill overnight until risen a little: it won’t rise much in the fridge because of the butter and the cool temperature working against the yeast, but the yeast will very much be active and the flavour will have already develop wonderfully overnight.

(4) The following day, remove the bowl from the fridge and leave to come to room temperature for an hour or so to waken up the yeast. Transfer the dough gently onto a large well-oiled shallow baking tray that has been base-lined with non-stick greaseproof. Gently ease the dough into the edges, trying not to deflate it.

(5) Leave for at least a couple of hours at room temperature until well risen, with many bubbles over the surface. Toward the end of the rise preheat the oven to 200C(fan).

(6) With wet fingers, make dimples all over the surface, going right down to the greaseproof. While doing this, push some of the cherries down into the dough so they don’t remain on top and risk burning in the oven.

(7) Bake for about 35-40 minutes until a deep golden brown colour, reducing the temperature to 180C (fan) and covering with foil after about 20 minutes to prevent the top from getting too dark. Remove the focaccia from the oven and dust with icing sugar.

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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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