I decided to use a sourdough starter and followed the Coconut Yeast Water Challah formula I had made last year which came out very nice. This dough is very wet and does not really allow for braiding, so if you want to braid it you should cut down on the water even though the overall hydration is only 68% most of it comes from the egg yolks.
I ended up baking this a little too boldly for this type of bread since I needed to run out for lunch and get back in time for a meeting. I turned up the heat a bit since it was taking a long time to finish baking and still almost took 2 hours to bake.
The end result is a nice breakfast/dessert bread with a ton of chocolate goodness. My wife thought it could have been sweeter so next time I would increase the honey or add some white sugar to the mix. My wife also insisted on adding some cinnamon/chocolate sugar on top right before baking which ended up burning off mostly, so next time that would be omitted.
If I make this again, I would also add some cocoa powder to the dough itself to make it more interesting even though I used so many chocolate chips and cherries you can’t help but get a taste in each bite.
Mix the starter with the water and break it up. Next add the flour and mix until incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 5-6 hours until you have a bubbly active starter. Either refrigerate for a day or use right away in the main dough.
Mix the flour with the egg yolks and water for about 1 minute. Let the dough autolyse for 30 minutes to an hour in your bowl covered with a cloth or plastic wrap. Next add in the starter, salt, oil, vanilla and honey and mix on speed #1 for 4 minutes and #2 for 2 minutes or by hand. This dough is very wet but it should start to come together after mixing but will still be very wet. Now add the chocolate chips and dried cherries into the bowl and mix until incorporated for about 1 minute.
Next take the dough out of the bowl and place it on your work surface or in an oiled proofing bowl. Do a stretch and fold and rest the dough uncovered for 10 minutes. Place the dough in an oiled bowl after the rest and do another stretch and fold and cover the dough in the bowl and let it rest for 10 minutes. Do one more stretch and fold and put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and let it sit at room temperature covered for 2 hours. (If the dough is still too lose, you can do several more stretch and folds until you are ready to put in the refrigerator). After 2 hours you can put the dough into the refrigerator for 24 hours or up to 2 days before baking. (Note: this dough is very moist and you may want to add more flour, but try to resist or you will make it too dry. It will firm up while in the refrigerator overnight.)
The next day (or when ready to bake) let the dough sit out at room temperature for 2 hours. After 2 hours form the dough into your desired shape and put them in floured bannetons, bowls or molds. If desired use an egg wash of 1 beaten whole egg with a little water. I added 2 coats to try and get it shiny.
Set your oven for 450 degrees F. at least 30 minutes before ready to bake. When ready to bake place the loaves into your on your oven stone with steam and lower the temperature immediately to 350 degrees. Bake until the loaf reaches an internal temperature of 200 degrees F. which in this case took about 2 hours. I’m not sure why this took so long this time as the last time I made this it only took about 70 minutes. I also started the oven at 550F this time and lowered it to 450 and then 350 F until I got impatient during the last 30 minutes and put it back to 425 F.
Let the loaves cool down for at least an hour or so before eating as desired.
This post has been submitted to the Yeast Spotting Site here: http://www.wildyeastblog.com/category/yeastspotting/.