Homemade bread is such a good thing. It tastes so much better than store-bought bread. You get to control the ingredients, it makes your house smell wonderful as it bakes and it’s so very satisfying to slice, toast and eat knowing you made it yourself. When it comes down to it, you probably have everything you need to make your own bread —flour, sugar, water, eggs, salt, yeast. What’s missing from these ingredients? Time.We are all busy, busy, busy — work, school, activities, meetings, sports — you name it and it’s probably on the calendar. Thank goodness for the invention of the bread machine.
I can say without a doubt that I would not be able to make many, if any, yeast baked goods without my bread machine. When I first got mine, I let it do all of the work – from mixing the ingredients all the way to baking the bread. It opened my eyes to a whole other side of home baking. It also made me wonder about what else I could make using it. Out came treats like Mom’s Famous Cinnamon Rolls, Pizza Bites, Whole Wheat Bread with Dark Chocolate Chunks and Toasted Pecans, Cranberry Braid and English Muffin Bread as well as many, many other recipes you’ll find on our blog. My bread machine, the Breadman Ultimate, did all of the time-consuming work like mixing, kneading and rising the dough and I got to do the fun part of rolling, shaping and baking the bread in my oven. If you love to bake and are ready to venture into the world of yeast, I definitely recommend buying a bread machine. The possibilities are endless.
- A note to those of you without a bread machine: Don’t worry. You can still make this wonderful bread by following the simple steps on the bread mix box. It’s not hard to make yeast bread by hand. It just means you’ll do the mixing and kneading steps instead of the machine doing them. Then, just find a warm place for the bread to rise and let the yeast do their thing.
This recipe for Cherry-Chocolate Whole Wheat Bread begins with a box of Hodgson Mill Honey Whole Wheat Bread Mix. The lightly sweet, whole wheat dough is the perfect background for the tart, brandy-soaked cherries and milk chocolate chunks. And Hodgson Mill uses all-natural ingredients in all of its products including this bread mix, so my from-scratch mantra is intact – just simplified. I love it when that happens.
To get started, grab a box of Hodgson Mill Honey Whole Wheat Bread Mix, some quality milk chocolate, such as Scharffen Berger, and a heaping cup of dried, tart cherries.
Chop the chocolate into chunks, place in a medium-sized bowl and refrigerate to chill. This way the chocolate shouldn’t melt or soften when it’s kneaded into the warm dough later on.
Give the cherries a rough chop and put them in a small microwave-safe bowl and add ½ cup of brandy. Microwave the cherries and brandy for 1 minute and set aside. After about 10 minutes, drain the cherries and set them aside until the bread dough is finished rising. You can substitute apple juice for the brandy if you like – we’re just plumping the cherries up a bit so they don’t draw moisture out of the bread as it bakes.
Next, put the bread mix, yeast packet (included with the mix), milk, egg, melted butter, vanilla and yeast into a bread machine pan. Select the dough cycle and turn it on. So easy.
Before you let the machine take over, double check that the dough is coming together. The weather, the way you measure, the size of the eggs, can all affect the dough. It’s important to keep an eye on things for the first few minutes of the cycle. It’s perfectly fine to leave the bread machine lid up to monitor things. Sometimes I have to use a wooden spoon to help push around the ingredients so everything has a chance to get mixed.
Within the first 5 minutes, you’ll know how the dough is coming together. It should be soft, but not sticky, and hold together in a cohesive ball. My dough was a little sticky at first so I added two tablespoons of Hodgson Mill Naturally White Flour to help it come together.
This is what the dough should look like once it has come together and is ready to rise. You can either let the machine go all the way through the dough cycle or once the dough looks like this (it took my machine about 15 minutes) turn the machine off and set your timer for about an hour. I sometimes think my machine is a little over-zealous in the kneading department, so I tend to cut it off midway through the cycle – just after the dough has been kneaded well and the machine is warm and toasty inside.
This is what my dough looked like after an hour. It has doubled in size and looks ready for the next step. Thank you bread machine!
Dump the dough onto a floured work surface and flatten it out with the palms of your hands until it makes about an 8×10-inch rectangle. Pat the drained cherries dry with a paper towel and then sprinkle them on top of the dough. Take the chocolate chunks out of the refrigerator and scatter them on top of the dough, too.
Then fold each side of dough over the other, burrito style, encasing the cherries and chocolate chunks.
Next, fold the bottom of the dough up and the top of the dough down. Knead the dough about 10 times or until you start to see the cherries and chocolate getting mixed throughout the dough.
Put the dough into a bread pan that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray — pressing it evenly into the pan, seam sides down. Cover the pan with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and let the dough rise in a warm spot for about 45 minutes or until it rises just above the top of the pan. Preheat your oven to 350˚ F a few minutes before the dough finishes rising.
I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing perfectly risen dough – our little yeast friends have been doing their jobs while we folded laundry, (took a nap) or took care of other chores. Wait until you taste this bread. Yum!
Bake the dough for 30-35 minutes or until it’s golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap it on top. Take the bread out of the oven and let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and allow to cool completely before slicing.
I made this Cherry-Chocolate Whole Wheat Bread in the afternoon and served it for breakfast the next day. I have to admit, waking up that morning wasn’t as hard to do. I sliced a big piece, toasted it and gave it a good smear of butter. The milk chocolate was warm and gooey and the cherries added a sweet/tart flavor with a little kick from the brandy.
Making this bread was pretty simple with the help of Hodgson Mill Honey Whole Wheat Bread Mix and my bread machine. Now I get to enjoy this cherry-chocolaty whole wheat bread for the next few days from my own home bakery – if I hide it from my children. Enjoy!
Cherry-Chocolate Whole Wheat Bread from a Mix
- 1 box Hodgson Mill Honey Whole Wheat Bread Mix and yeast packet included in the box
- 1 cup milk, slightly warmed
- 1 egg
- 2 Tablespoons melted butter
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup dried tart cherries
- 6 ounces quality milk chocolate – I used Scharffen Berger
- ½ cup brandy or apple juice
- Extra flour as needed
Rough chop the cherries and combine them with the brandy in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute and then cool for 10 minutes. Drain the cherries and set aside. Chop the chocolate into chunks, put into a bowl and set in the refrigerator to chill.
Combine the bread mix, yeast, milk, egg, butter and vanilla in the bread machine pan. Turn on the machine’s dough cycle and monitor how the dough is coming together for the first 3-5 minutes. If the dough looks sticky, add a tablespoon of flour at a time until it comes together nicely and resembles the softness found in the palm of your hand. Continue the dough cycle or turn off the machine once the dough has been through the cycle for about 15 minutes, has been kneaded well and the inside of the machine is warm. Allow the dough to rise until it has doubled – about an hour or until the cycle is complete.
Dump dough out onto a floured work surface and pat into an 8×10-inch rectangle. Pat the cherries dry with a paper towel and then sprinkle them on top of the dough. Take the chocolate chunks out of the refrigerator and scatter them on top of the dough. Fold each side of the dough over the other – like a burrito, encasing the cherries and chocolate. Then fold the bottom of the dough up and the top down. Knead the dough about 10 times or until the cherries and chocolate have been evenly distributed throughout the dough.
Place the dough in a bread pan that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Cover the pan with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and allow the dough to rise until it is just above the rim of the pan – about 45 minutes. Bake in a 350º F oven for 30-35 minutes or until it is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on top. Let the bread cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then remove the bread from the pan and cool it completely on a wire rack before slicing.
Bread will stay fresh for up to three days if kept in an air-tight container.