Black Forest Chocolate Sourdough

Let me start by saying, I absolutely love this bread. Whenever we’re hosting or are invited to a dinner party, this is the loaf I make because it’s always a crowd pleaser. People are often puzzled whenever I bring out this mysterious dark loaf, as soon as I explain to them that it’s chocolate sourdough, their eyes get wide which is followed by the inevitable oohs and ahs.

Bread is usually just a side, something to be munched on while everyone is waiting for the appetizers or main course to be served, but this bread is something different — whenever I serve it, it turns into a main event.

This recipe was inspired by a Black Forest Gateau, hence the dry cherries, with added nuts and dark chocolate chips for more texture. Although Black Forest Gateau usually calls for Kirsch, we don’t normally have any on hand so I’ve always used port for my bakes.

This bread has an incredibly rich chocolate flavor balanced my the slight tang of sourdough, with an airy, spongy crumb. It’s great by itself but sublime with a soft cheese, like Delice or Brie.

Start by creating a chocolate starter

Before creating this bread, I converted part of my sourdough mother to a chocolate starter. I’d advise you to do that same as I cannot speak for the results of your bake using a normal starter. Create a chocolate starter by following this feeding schedule 2 to 3 times before you’re ready to bake.

To feed your chocolate starter, discard the entire mix except for 6 grams of chocolate starter, then refresh according to the proportions below.

QuantityIngredientBaker’s Percentage
6 gramsUnfed sourdough starter54%
10 gramsFlour (rye or bread flour)100%
2 gramsDutch-processed cocoa powder20%
12 grams Strong Brewed Coffee or Espresso120%


Chocolate Levain

QuantityIngredientBaker’s Percentage
30 gramsUnfed chocolate starter54%
55 gramsFlour (rye or bread flour)100%
5 gramsDutch-processed cocoa powder9%
10 grams Strong Brewed Coffee or Espresso18%
50 gramsWater90%


QuantityIngredientBaker’s Percentage
170 gramsBread flour 85%
30 gramsWhole wheat flour
(substitute rye or bread flour)
30 gramsDutch-processed cocoa15%
15 gramsCoffee7.5%
30 gramsSoaking liquid (see below)15%
112 gramsWater56%
6 gramsSalt3%
30 gramsSugar 15%
150 gramsChocolate levain 75%


30 gramsDried cherries
30 gramsKirsch, port wine or water
50 gramsDark chocolate chips
30 gramsPecans



The night before you’re ready to bake, combine dried cherries and port in a small bowl. Set aside and let cherries soak in liquid overnight.

Levain Build

Create your levain by combining all the ingredients in the chocolate levain section. Although this is a 100% hydration starter, it will feel drier than usual. Your final mix should look a bit like cookie dough.


Drain and save soaking liquid from cherries. You’ll use both the liquid and cherries so make sure you do not discard either of these ingredients.

After creating your levain, combine flours, cocoa powder, coffee, soaking liquid and water in a bowl. Cover with cling film and set aside until your levain is ready.

Dough Mix

Once your levain has doubled (about 4 hours), break it up and add it to your flour mixture. This flour tends to feel very dry at first, so feel free to add a little bit of water to help with mixing. Don’t add too much as this dough can go from dry to extremely wet very quickly.

Let dough rest for 30 minutes, covered.

Add salt and sugar to the dough and mix thoroughly. I tend to use a sturdy spatula or wooden spoon to mix this dough as it can be extremely sticky.

Allow dough to relax a bit for 30 minutes, cover with cling film so it does not dry out.

Bulk Fermentation

This dough doesn’t ever feel strong. It tends to tear and doesn’t lend itself very well to stretch and folds, and is a bit too sticky to knead. Mix with a sturdy spatula or wooden spoon instead to help develop gluten.

(I personally do not have a mixer, but I can see one working well for this type of dough.)

Mix dough 4 more times, allowing dough to rest for 30 minutes between mixes.

After mixing 2 times, add in cherries, pecans and dark chocolate. Mix thoroughly, dough will feel a little tight after fillings are mixed in.

After mixing, let dough rest for another 2 hours. Including mixing, I’ve pushed total bulk fermentation (including mixing) on this dough for up to 8 hours with good results.


Dump dough onto a clean work surface, shape into a boule or batard, and place seam-side up into a proofing basket, or a bowl lined with a kitchen towel, dusted with rice flour.

Final Proof

Place dough into refrigerator overnight, until you are ready to bake.


Place Dutch oven into oven and preheat to 450 F (232 C).

Score loaf, this is an extremely active dough which tends to burst so make sure you score deep slashes into your loaf before baking.  

Place loaf into preheated Dutch oven, bake covered for 30 minutes and uncovered for an additional 20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 200 F (93 C).

Let bread cool completely before serving, around 1.5 to 2 hours. Your entire house will be filled with a delicious chocolate smell when you bake this bread and you may be tempted to cut into it right away, but you must resist! You’ve worked so hard, and you don’t want to end up with a gummy loaf that will dry out after a few hours.


I’ve made this bread practically every week since I came up with the recipe, it is THAT good. The dark chocolate makes this bread taste like a rich brownie, with the airiness and chewiness of a sourdough bread. It’s not sickly sweet, so it’s really easy to eat half of a loaf in one sitting (which I guess is not necessarily a good thing).

If you enjoyed this recipe, please be sure to follow me on Instagram @MakeItDough for more baking ideas and to stay updated on my sourdough adventures. If you have questions feel free to DM me and remember to post a photo and tag me when you make this delicious loaf.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. I can’t wait to try this chocolate bread….one question though…coffee? Regular coffee liquid form? Coffee grounds?, Expresso Powder? Not sure which one….I’m new to sourdough and have only been making sourdough since the first of the year…maybe end of December. I hope to start the chocolate starter tomorrow…and I may try to by some Kirsch at the liquor store tomorrow, if not could you use cherry juice from marchino cherries? I use them daily in my Diet Dr. Pepper for a touch of cherry and cherry juice….although it’s hard to find a good brand that taste good these days….not all marchino cherries taste good.

    1. I use liquid coffee. And yum that sounds delicious although I’m not a soda drinker myself. I’m sure the maraschino syrup would work great, I’ve used water before and it also worked perfectly.

  2. Melissa says:

    Hello, I was going to make this today, but am missing some of the time details. About how much time does it take until the chocolate levain is ready?

    1. Hi Melissa,

      The chocolate levain is ready when looks bubbly and has risen in volume. This could take 4 to 6 hours depending on temperature and the activity of your starter.

      Hope this helps!

      1. Melissa says:

        Gah! Was hoping that wouldn’t pop up and thought I canceled the comment after I read more of the recipe. My apologies for being impatient and not reading more carefully.

        One more question though! As I did the mixing every 30 minutes, the dough actually seemed to loosen up and became more of a brownie batter than gain strength and become a dough. So any kind of shaping was hopeless! Any ideas on what I could have done to cause this for future reference?

        Thank you!

      2. HMM that’s super strange. I’ve had the experience of this dough tightening up as I mixed but never disintegrating. I’ll have to remake this again and see! I’m sorry yours didn’t turn out!

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