Friday, May 16, 2014

Eats: Sourdough/Chocolate Chunk Bread

Hello! Several years ago, we stopped at Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor, MI on our way to a Detroit Tigers game. Zingerman's is known for their breads, but before that visit I'd never heard of sourdough/chocolate chunk bread. At that time, Zingerman's baked it in fat, individual breadstick-like shapes, and I bought one as a snack to nibble on during the game. 

We attended the game with several relatives, all of whom asked what I'd gotten from Zingerman's when they saw its distinctive bag. All seemed skeptical when I told them it was a sourdough bread with chocolate chunks in it. But when I tore into it several innings later, everyone said it looked good. And upon passing around samples, we all agreed it tasted as good as it looked! 

Sometime later Zingerman's stopped making this breadstick-type goodie, but a few years ago reintroduced the sourdough/chocolate chunk flavor in loaf form. Never bought it, though. 

Then this Sunday we encountered another bakery's sourdough/chocolate chunk bread, being sold at a grocery store in the Lansing area. I saw my husband eyeing it with interest, then saw the $7.99 price tag. I told him I could make it at home, for less money. 

I'd never made sourdough bread before, but since I'd said I could do so, I wanted to keep my promise. Fortunately, I recalled a sourdough starter and several accompanying recipes in one of my cookbooks, More Bread Machine Magic (Linda Rehberg and Lois Conway, authors).

Sourdough starters had always felt intimidating before, which is why I'd never made one. It seemed like the starter would need a calendar schedule all its own, what with all the stirring, using and feeding involved. I would read through the various steps and get lost in what to do. 

But not so with the Rehberg/Conway Basic Sourdough Starter. "...this is an easy and nearly foolproof recipe" they assure the reader. And guess what - it is! 

Milk or water and yogurt are stirred together and set aside for 24 hours. Then white or whole wheat flour (I used the latter) is stirred in and set aside to ferment. A once-a-day stirring was the only additional work needed at this point. 

The starter was supposed to be ready within two - five days after the flour was added. I let it go four days, which meant that this morning was the moment of truth for my first-ever sourdough attempt. I used the Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread recipe in the same chapter. Made the dough in my bread machine, then took it out for a second rising on a baking sheet.

Before that second rising I chopped up some dark chocolate. Zingerman's and the other bakery probably use a better-quality chocolate than I did. I had a package of Hershey's dark chocolate eggs, bought on clearance after Easter. These were the size of Hershey's kisses and were just as much a pain to unwrap and chop up, but it wasn't too bad. I would have saved time if I'd used a package of chocolate chunks, like those found in the baking chip section at grocery stores. It took some doing to add all that chocolate in, but by folding it into the dough a little at a time, I got it in there.

After all this discussion, time for a couple of pictures:

An epic loaf of bread! I'd made the large size, and it baked up to a 3 lb, 6 oz size. It was probably at least twice the size of the one we'd seen in the grocery store last weekend. Of course, part of the weight is in chocolate chunks. I wasn't sure how much chocolate to add and was too lazy to research this on the Internet. I just kept cutting up chocolate candy until I had around 2 cups of chunks. 

I baked the bread at 375 for around 35 minutes. 

After cooling, I cut myself a small slice:

Yum! The tangy sourdough flavor is noticeable, as it should be, but the dark chocolate holds its own. It was quite a treat! My husband agreed when he tried some at lunchtime. We both agreed, though, that I could have gotten by with less chocolate - one to one and a half cups would have been plenty.

I replenished the starter, as specified in the recipe, and right away it started bubbling again. That means I can try a number of other sourdough bread recipes in the chapter and in other cookbooks. If I get tired of sourdough, Rehberg and Conway say I can freeze my starter as is, or else dry it and then freeze it (supposedly the dried starter holds up in the freezer longer). 

Or I can throw the starter out and just make a new one some other time. As easy as it was to start, that's an option. 

If you'd like to try making your own sourdough starter, the sourdough chapter from More Bread Machine Magic can be found HERE. I'm guessing the recipe can be made without a bread machine, using the usual hand mixing/kneading/rising steps.  

PS I used dark chocolate because the two commercial breads I discussed both had done so. I can't vouch for how using other types of chocolate would taste, but feel free to try them if you wish! 


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