When I was growing up, it took only 49 cents each Christmas to please my mother. She loved those cheap boxes of chocolate covered cherries that flooded the shelves every holiday season. “Mary,” she’d say, “some things just belong together.”
While I agreed with her in theory (chocolate and cherries are a great combination!), I couldn’t get past the pool of sugary goo that spilled out whenever I bit into one of those candies.
Mom showed no preferences when it came to cherries. If sour cherry jam was on sale, she bought it by the truckload. When cherries were in season, she’d eat them till her belly ached.
Knowing her passion for them, Little Patrick and I stashed a few in a bag after we’d been picking one afternoon and took them to her at the nursing home. She lit up when she saw them! Because she was no longer able to feed herself, Patrick and I carefully pitted each one and gently fed her cherry after cherry until there was nothing left but the pits.
Is it surprising I thought of her while making chocolate cherry bread this week?
When the first loaf came out of the oven I took it to the middle school (where I work) in search of taste testers. I pondered how to stack it for success. Nutella and cream cheese as topping options seemed just the trick to create enough flavor combinations to make it a winner all the way around!
But just like there’s trouble getting middle school kids to consensus, there was a rift among the adults, too! Opinions varied from “Too sweet!” to “Can you put chocolate chips all over the top?” and from “Too many cherries!” to “Were there even cherries in there?”
Some loved it plain and visioned it with a steamy cup of tea as a mid-morning snack. Others loved it with cream cheese and pictured it on a table for brunch. One tester, Katie, after taking one slice with cream cheese and another with Nutella, decided it would make a great sandwich. She slapped both halves together and declared it delicious!
I took their feedback into the kitchen with me as I started round 2. The second loaf was a bit lighter in texture, a bit less dense in chocolate, and included more cherries (whole this time instead of chopped). Everyone in the second round of testers was pleased with the result.
Happily, I think my mother would have been, too.
Don’t hesitate to give this a try. With Valentine’s Day coming up in just a couple of weeks, you have the perfect excuse!
Chocolate Cherry Bread
1/4 cup warm water
3 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder; lightly tamped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 Tbsp softened butter
1 cup water (may need a little extra)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
3/4 cup dried tart cherries (leave them whole, not chopped)
Mix 1/4 cup warm water with the yeast and let it sit for a few minutes to begin working.
Mix in the remaining ingredients stirring until a dough is formed.
On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for 6-8 minutes until it becomes soft and supple. (shoot for Post-It note tacky not sticky)
Cover and rise again about 60 minutes. (You could also divide the dough and make two small rounds: one to share?)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with a cookie sheet on the bottom shelf.
When the dough has risen, flip it onto a pizza stone or a greased cookie sheet. Slice the top (don’t skip this step, the gas needs a place to escape and besides it’ll make it beautiful!) When you put it into the oven add a cup of water to the cookie sheet already in there to create a little steam. It’ll make the crust awesome!
Bake for 35-45 minutes. Thump the bottom to be sure it’s cooked through. It should sound hollow. It’s always better to overcook it a little rather than undercook it. Tent it with foil if it seems to be getting too dark.
Cool, slice, and slather…..or let it be elegant all on its own!
While you’re enjoying the bread if you haven’t read The Game of Life about Little Patrick and my mom, you might find yourself inspired by his 6 year old wisdom!
Also take a minute to add a 3 word comment about what your favorite flavor combination is (other than chocolate and cherry I suppose!)