I am honored, excited, and stoked that today’s post is not my own. That’s right, it is the guest post from Alexandra of Alexandra Cooks that I promised last week. How did this happen? Via Twitter. I saw Alexandra, whose tweets and posts I follow religiously, asking what cheese to pair with chocolate. There was a little back and forth (other lovely bloggers contributed), and I admitted how much I’d love to have her post someday on my blog. After all, I’ve only been admiring the gorgeous photos, straightforward recipes, and the care she takes in her writing for… oh, I don’t know, years. Lucky for us here on “It’s Not You, It’s Brie,” she said yes. Yes! So here goes. If you don’t know Alexandra yet, meet one of my top-five favorite bloggers.
Chocolate Cherry (or not) Bread with Cheese
For most of my time in Philadelphia I lived on South 10th street between Fitzwater and Catharine half a block from Morning Glory Diner. Living this close to one of the most popular brunch spots in the city had its perks, namely that I never had to fight the crowds on the weekend because I knew that on any day of the week I could loaf across the street for a cup of coffee and an order of, among other treats, griddle-toasted chocolate-cherry bread. More than the monkey French toast and the goat cheese frittata, this toasty chocolate bread, made by Philadelphia’s Metropolitan Bakery, was what I craved most from this corner diner.
When I left Philadelphia, I found myself longing for this bread and a couple of years ago, after grumbling in a blog post that the Metropolitan Bakery cookbook failed to include the recipe for my favorite bread, a Reader emailed me a link to the recipe online. Flavored with orange zest and brown sugar, loaded with dark chocolate and dried cherries, the bread turned out beautifully.
I have now made the bread countless times, but most recently I’ve simplified the recipe, which was a little fussy, calling for making a sponge and requiring a few rises including a long one overnight in the fridge. The recipe included here still calls for an overnight rise (outside the fridge), but the mixing process is simple, taking no more than five minutes to whisk together. It bakes Lahey-style in a covered preheated Dutch oven and emerges with a crisp edge and soft, intensely chocolatey crumb. Sometimes I make it with the cherries, but often I don’t — I’ve come to prefer the simple combination of orange and chocolate.
I’ve always topped this chocolate bread, freshly baked or toasted, simply with a smear of butter, but last week, a Twitter exchange with a few friends, led to a new (for me at least) idea: chocolate bread smeared with cheese. And so, based on a few suggestions from Kirstin and others, I made a four-cheese cheese plate with brie, a chevre with honey, a Humbolt Fog-esque goat cheese, and blue d’Auvergne, and I sampled each with the chocolate bread. Much to my surprise, all of the cheeses — including the blue! — paired incredibly well with the chocolate bread but my favorites were the brie and the honey chevre. And now the gears are turning: what other unconventional cheese pairings might be unsuspecting successes? Chocolate bread panini with honey chevre and lingonberry jam? Chocolate bread French toast with fresh ricotta? Goat cheese gelato with toasted chocolate breadcrumbs? The possibilities are endless. My Valentine’s Day dinner menu is promising, at the very least, to be unique. I hope yours is too.
Note: This bread does require planning a night in advance, but the dough takes no time to mix together. The original recipe can be found here. Because dried sour cherries are hard to find, I have been omitting them, but if you can find them, they do add another dimension of flavor and texture. Otherwise, the bread tastes delicious simply with the grated zest and chopped chocolate.
Inspired by Metropolitan Bakery’s Chocolate Cherry Bread recipe
Yield = 1 large loaf or 2 small loaves
14 oz. (394g) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1.5 oz (42g) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 oz. (56g) brown sugar
1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
1.5 cups (12 oz) water
7 oz. chocolate (a mix of semi-sweet (4 oz) and bittersweet (3 oz.) is nice)
5 oz. dried sour cherries, (optional)
zest of 1 orange
In a medium to large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast, cocoa, brown sugar, and salt.
Add the 1.5 cups of water and stir to combine. The mixture will be a sticky, wet mass. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let sit overnight or for 12 to 18 hours.
One hour before baking, place a dutch oven into your oven and preheat the oven to 350ºF. Let the pan preheat for at least 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, roughly chop your chocolate. (You can do this in the food processor if you feel like it.) Roughly chop your cherries (if using). Add both to the bowl with the dough. Zest orange right over top of dough.
Using a spatula, stir ingredients to combine. This might take a little bit of time — there is a lot of chocolate that needs to be worked into the dough.
Place a large sheet of parchment paper (about the size of a sheet pan) onto a cutting board or pizza peel or something that you will be able to move close to your oven. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Flour your hands. Working quickly, shape dough mass into a ball, folding the edges of the dough over and under.
Transfer dough to parchment paper. (Note: At this step, you can divide the dough in half and make two smaller loaves. You also can freeze the dough at this step. Thaw at room temperature for at least 2 hours before baking.)
When your pot is preheated, carefully remove it from the oven and take off the lid. Grab the sides of the parchment paper and carefully drop it into your pot. Return cover to pan and place it in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
Remove pan from oven. Grab the sides of the parchment paper again and transfer loaf to a sheetpan.
Continue baking for another 20 to 25 minutes or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on rack for at least 20 minutes before serving.
Thank you, Alexandra!