No-Knead Chocolate-Cherry-Pecan Bread: (a) toast to the holidays

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You know those really dense, chewy rounds of bread you can buy at artisan bread bakeries?

Breads with a satiny, dark-brown crust, packed with fruit and nuts and, most of all, with incredible flavor from their long, slow rise?

Believe it or not, you – yes, YOU – can make a loaf like this at home. With no particular talent, and no special equipment.

Truth.

“How can this be possible?” you say. “I’m not even a very good baker – let alone a bread baker.”

Thankfully, you don’t have to be – so long as you’re willing to read and learn.

Follow these directions, and I’ll show you how to make a loaf of delightfully dense artisan-style bread, chock full of dried cherries, toasted pecans, and dark chocolate. Bread that’s perfect for a smear of soft cheese; some jam or preserves; or simply enjoying all on its own, no enhancements needed.

Well, maybe butter. Did I mention what awesome toast this loaf makes?

And what a lovely hostess gift, nestled in bright tissue and tied up with a pretty holiday bow?

Are you ready to bake this bread? Read all the way through the instructions first, so you can see what you knead. Er, need.

Flour, water, yeast, and salt – those are your key ingredients for bread.

And to make the best bread, don’t choose just any flour and yeast; if you do, your results will be different than what you see here. We recommend King Arthur Flour, and SAF yeast.

“Well, of course you recommend your own flour,” you say.

And for good reason. The bag of King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour you get here at our store in Vermont will be the same as the bag you get at Publix in Miami, and Wegmans in Syracuse; at Meijer in Ann Arbor, and at Vons in Pasadena.

Quality is the first thing you should consider, when choosing ingredients. But consistency is just as important as quality when you’re talking flour, the building block of most of your baking.

King Arthur Flour is not only top-quality, it’s incredibly consistent. We mill to the toughest specs in the industry, and we NEVER accept flour that doesn’t meet our exacting standards.

And as for yeast – we use SAF yeast in both our test kitchen, and in our bakery. Again, it’s the marriage of quality and consistency that makes us feel good recommending SAF.

If you use Fleischmann’s, or Red Star – both good yeasts – and want to stick with them, that’s fine. In fact, Red Star, which is owned by Lesaffre (SAF yeast’s parent company), offers a good instant yeast in single-use packets – Red Star Quick Rise yeast, good for you infrequent bread bakers out there. Just be aware that some of the rising times indicated here may be different for you.

By the way, when making yeast bread, don’t go strictly by suggested rising times, because that’s all they are: suggestions.

No one but you knows how hot or cold your kitchen is; what the weather’s like outside your door, or where and when you bought your yeast. Let the dough rise not for X hours, but until it looks like the picture, or sounds like the description in the directions, rather than adhering to a specific rising time (sorry, all you engineers out there…).

Click anywhere on this block of pictures to enlarge them to full size – this will work for any of the photos you see in this blog post.

Place the following in a medium-to-large bowl:

3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup (2 ounces) rye flour, any type; pumpernickel is probably the most commonly available
1/2 cup (2 ounces) King Arthur Premium Whole Wheat Flour or White Whole Wheat Flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) cool water

OK, first obstacle: you have neither rye nor whole wheat flour. Can you make this bread using 100% all-purpose flour?

We recommend using both, but yes, you can use 1 cup all-purpose in place of the rye and whole wheat. Or you can use 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, if you have it, in place of the rye.

How will the bread change? The flavor will be a bit less nuanced, it’ll look lighter in color, and you’ll be missing out on a bit of welcome fiber. But, like most recipes, it’s OK to amend to your own taste and circumstances.

Stir everything together to make a very soft dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap; a clear shower cap is a handy choice here.

Let the dough rest at room temperature overnight, or for at least 12 hours; it’ll expand.

See the difference between the two middle photos above? That’s the kind of rise I’m talking about. Not crazy, overflow-the-bowl type rising, but slow and steady – which is what develops this bread’s great flavor.

Now, add the following:

3/4 cup chopped dried cherries or cranberries
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups diced pecans, toasted
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

How do you toast pecans? Easiest way is simply to spread them in a single layer in a pan, and bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 6 to 8 minutes or so, until they’re starting to brown and smell “toasty.”

Knead the fruit, nuts, chips, and yeast into the soft dough. As you do this, try to keep the “add-ins” inside the dough; any nut, chip, or cherry poking through the top once you shape the loaf is likely to burn as the bread bakes.

Next: choose your pan. I’m going to use a 9″ round cake pan here, as it’s a pan most people have. But if you have a stoneware bread crock or enameled-steel lidded Dutch oven (or a heavy, 4- to 4 1/2-quart oven-safe pot with lid), you can certainly use that. You might also try using a covered cloche.

Your goal here is to use a pan that can be covered – either with its own lid, or by another pan. The cover will trap steam as the bread bakes, giving the loaf its signature shiny, chewy crust.

One pan you don’t want to choose: a dark cast-iron skillet.

Well, why not? This loaf looks pretty good, doesn’t it?

On top, it sure does. But turn it over, and the loaf’s bottom crust is 1/4″ of pure black char.

Take a lesson from one who’s baked this bread in cast iron: don’t go there.

Form the dough into a slightly flattened ball, and place it in the pan of your choice. Leave some room around the edge of the dough (photo, bottom left), as it’ll expand sideways as it rises.

Cover the dough (again, that reusable shower cap comes in handy), and let the dough rise until it’s noticeably expanded. If you’ve used a 9″ cake pan, it’ll be close to hitting the edges of the pan.

This second rise could take only a couple of hours, or upwards of 5 hours or so, depending on the warmth of your kitchen, the weather, and the many other variables that affect yeast dough.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 450°F. If you’re using a round cake pan, find a large oven-proof bowl, deep cast iron skillet, or something else that can serve as a cover for the bread. Keep in mind that it’ll rise a bit, so make sure your cover is tall enough.

Cover the bread; my 10″ x 3″-deep cast iron skillet proved a suitable cover.

Bake the bread for 35 minutes. Remove the cover, and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until the bread is golden brown.

The loaf’s interior should register 200°F to 205°F on an instant-read thermometer. If it’s not fully baked, return it to the oven – tenting it with foil or returning the cover, if necessary, to prevent over-browning.

When the bread is done, transfer it to a rack to cool.

Tempting as it may be, DO NOT slice into the bread until it’s completely cool! Doing so will make the sliced side of the loaf gummy.

OK, is it cool?

Slice away! See that nice open structure (read: lots of irregular holes)? Looks just like your favorite artisan loaf, doesn’t it?

And the flavor… the long, overnight rise, plus a long, slow rise once the loaf is shaped, gives the yeast a chance to produce organic acids and alcohol, both of which enhance the naturally nutty (though usually subtle) flavor of flour.

OK, at this point I have a confession to make: I didn’t follow our online recipe for No-Knead Chocolate-Cherry Pecan Bread to the letter. So don’t click to it and expect it to read exactly the same as the recipe I’ve provided here.

First, if you don’t have a bread crock, it didn’t offer you any alternative pan; I like to be as inclusive as possible.

Also, the dough was a bit too soft, in my judgement, so I cut back on the water. Decreased the amount of salt, and increased the amount of yeast, to reduce the rising time just a bit.

Finally, the original recipe calls for letting the shaped loaf rise in a bowl, then gingerly transferring it to a very hot pan. Well, I’ve tried it that way, and couldn’t see any gain in texture; so I decided to simply let the loaf rise in the same pan in which it’ll bake.

So, why didn’t I go ahead and make these changes to our online recipe?

Because so many of you have already baked the original version and given it 5 stars!

Just goes to show, baking is as much art as science. Whatever recipe works for you – in your kitchen – is the “right” recipe.

Enjoy – and happy holidays!

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Sarah

    There are flours other than KAF????

    —-

    Thanks for this recipe – One of the supermarkets in my area carries a nice cranberry-pecan artisanal-style bread around the holidays – I adore it for toast. So now I’ll make my own — but without the chocolate. I love chocolate, but not in bread. Or muffins. Or pancakes. etc. I’ll probably add some orange zest instead.

    Sarah, this bread is a good candidate for all kinds of add-ins – crystallized ginger, any kind of dried fruit, sunflower seeds, toasted nuts… Let your imagination be your guide, and enjoy! PJH

    Reply
  2. gaa

    You know the old saying … garbage in, garbage out. That definitely applies to baking, yes?? Use inferior ingredients and get an inferior product. That definitely ain’t my style! I “Bake my Best” by using only KAF flour, SAF yeast and the best quality ingredients. When people say to me, “I tried to make your chocolate bread but it didn’t come out as good as yours. What did I do wrong?” my first question is, “What flour did you use?”

    PJ, thanks for the heads up on the alterations that you made to the recipe for this bread. I had printed out the recipe from the website long ago and it has been sitting patiently in my “Recipes to Try” file. With my holiday gift baking almost completed, next week I can relax and turn my attention to trying some of those recipes I have set aside. This bread will surely be one of them. Here is my question to you … I have a long covered clay baker (as opposed to the round cloche). I would like to use it for this bread but I’m not sure if there will be substantial differences in baking time from that you have suggested here. Any thoughts??

    Bake at same temperature and test after 30 minutes for internal temp. between 200′ and 205′. Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  3. kmwwrench

    Just popped over from the Bake at 350 blog where they’re giving away some gorgeous King Arthur goodies. I always find a zillion things I want – including that big block of caramel.

    Reply
  4. waikikirie

    Well PJ, aren’t you the smartie…..Covering the pan with a larger pan/pot…..This is going on the “to do list”….Agree with Sarah. Maybe not the chocolate but that’s what great about baking/cooking. Tweaking to you own tastes. Merry Christmas PJ (and to all your fellow KA employee/owners) …xoxo

    Reply
  5. Michele Stegman

    I have made this bread many times (plain, part whole-wheat) using a dark cast iron pan and lid. It worked great for me–and my KAF!
    No charred bottom at all. Just right.

    Reply
  6. Ellen in KY

    I’ve made this kind of bread in a cast iron dutch oven with lid many times. No char. I did bake it at 425 though – maybe that’s the secret.

    Reply
  7. JuliaJ

    PJ, maybe you should re-write the recipe as a “version 2″ revision. The recipe you linked to includes all the add-ins on the first rise. I think PJ’s way of having the dough rise by itself before adding in the chips/cherries/nuts is better as the dough doesn’t have to struggle to rise with all the add-ins.

    PJ, did you try bread flour instead of AP, instead of adding the extra boost of yeast on the second rise? I have the dough rising right now but if it’s a slow riser, will switch to bread flour for the next batch.

    I also had to add more than 12 oz water to get the dough to look like the blog photos (it’s always dry here in CA). 12-14 oz is the right amount, just let the dough tell you how much it needs.

    All good thoughts, Julia. No, I didn’t try bread flour; I don’t find that it speeds up the rise, just that it helps it rise higher. I think subbing bread flour and adding a little extra yeast boost the second day would produce a somewhat lighter loaf – although I do like the density of the loaf as is. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  8. ponygirl

    Must try this one soon. I make bread and rolls with your flours every week! Could I use my sourdough starter in this recipe?

    Yes, that would be fine. Substitute 1 cup starter (unfed is fine) for 1 cup of the AP flour and 1/2 cup of the water. Thanks so much for using our flours on such a regular basis – bake on! PJH

    Reply
  9. JuliaJ

    Yum! Didn’t need to add the extra yeast for the 2nd rise–this dough rose quite well without it. I think the organic rye flour I used gave the dough that extra boost.

    I baked the dough in two medium loaf pans set on a half sheet pan and covered with a roasting pan–the loaf pans for ease of slicing. I lined the loaf pans with parchment and the cherries STUCK in places so will have to be more careful in making sure the dried cherries are well buried inside the dough.

    I think more dried cherries and more nuts for the next batch!

    Thanks, PJ, for a fantastic recipe!

    Julia, I’m interested how the crust did in a loaf pan – is it nice and chewy? Good idea, as it makes such nice “toast-shaped” slices… Thanks for all your feedback here! PJH

    Reply
  10. JuliaJ

    Re: using 2 medium loaf pans
    Yes, the crust was nice and chewy. I could have probably made one big loaf but I wasn’t sure how much the dough would rise so opted for two pans (hey, more crust!) to avoid one of your April 1 overflow disasters!

    I put the two pans right next to each other on a half sheet baking sheet and covered both with a cheap disposable roasting pan.

    p.s. One loaf is already gone, mmmm….

    Reply
  11. kgohl1062

    I’ve just baked this loaf and, horrors, it stuck to the pan! I bake no-knead bread several times a week, so I wasn’t expecting this to happen. Any suggestions?

    It may help to lightly spray the pan (even though the recipe didn’t call for it), cover during the bake, and test to 200-205′ before removing from the oven. Once the pan leaves the oven – shake to wiggle the bread off the base of the pan, then slide out of the pan to the cooling rack. Another alternative may be to wait a bit and let condensation or cooling work in your favor. Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  12. danceswsissors

    I baked this tonight after starting the dough yesterday, It is yummy. I used the ceramic insert to my crockpot and lid to bake it. Worked great.

    What an excellent idea, to use the crock pot and lid – why didn’t I think of that? Thanks for sharing this great tip – PJH

    Reply
  13. Anna M.

    This looks great, but I’m now living in Europe, and our glorified toaster oven definitely can’t take the weight of a big pot over the baking pan. Will tenting the loaf with tin foil work, or should I just accept that I won’t be able to get the desired texture?

    I tried it with tin foil, Anna, and it was fine. Just make sure to “balloon” the foil over the pan, so there’s room for the bread to expand a bit. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  14. IASTEEL

    Made this Tonight, with raisins as the cherries I bought must have fallen out of the sack on the way home Very good, i need to let it rise more, and get the cherries.

    Reply
  15. Mary.LC

    Our family is coming to visit for a week at Christmas and I would like to make this for our teenage grandsons who have a bottomless appetite. We live in the mountains at 6400 feet. I have problems baking at this elevation. What would you recommend?

    See high altitude baking tips at the lower part of the recipe home page. There’s also contact info there for the resources at Colorado State University that may be helpful. Happy High Altitude Baking! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  16. Mary.LC

    I would like to make this for my teenage grandsons. They are coming to visit for Christmas. We live at 6400 feet. Could you give me some recommendations on how to bake this bread successfully at altitude?
    Hi there,
    You’ll find a great chart of high altitude baking tips online. I’m sure it will help you out.

    Reply
  17. rcoronadocila

    Dear PJ, I made this beautiful, absolutely delicious bread this morning , after the overnight rise. I left out the chocolate chips though. It is outstanding, just as an artisan bread should be. My neighbors loved it too! I am thinkng that next time I will also leave out the cherries and pecans and just add the KAF whole grains. Would 2 cups repalce the 1 1/2 cups of pecans and 3/4 cup of chopped dried cherries? Raul

    Raul, unless you’re thinking of adding whole grain berries (e.g., wheat, rye) that have been soaked to soften, it’s not possible to substitute whole grains for nuts and fruit without affecting the texture of the bread. By all means, add soaked whole grain berries if you like; the bread may be too dense and moist, as some of the liquid needed to soften the grains will leach out into the dough and make it “soggy.” But if you don’t mind a really, REALLY dense loaf, go for it. PJH

    Reply
  18. nancess

    I read the recipe on your Web site earlier this month and just tried it. I have been baking for YEARS, and cannot imagine what went wrong here. What a waste of good and pricey ingredients! I did not see your blog until after I made the loaf, which never rose (yes, my yeast was fresh) and never reached 205 degrees, although I baked it a long time. It was burned on the bottom, because to fit the big crock into the oven, it rested very close to the bottom, and the cherries and nuts near the top also burned. The ratio of water to solids is way too low to make a “soft” dough, with all those things added in; it was always stiff and the amount of yeast is too small for the flours included. I don’t find No-Knead an appealing feature; I have been kneading bread doughs for years, and if it would make for a more successful product, I would be glad to do it. Any suggestions would be welcome here. Thanks anyway.
    Hmm, not sure what may have happened, so it’s probably best to call and chat with a baker to see if we can troubleshoot. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  19. IH

    I just tried making this on Christmas Eve and failed miserably. I forgot the second set of ingredients and ended up with a loaf as hard as a rock. On top of that, it’s stuck to the pot and won’t budge. I will probably try again at some point, hopefully with better luck.

    So sorry this didn’t work out for you; it’s a pain when that happens, isn’t it? If you have any questions before trying again, please call our hotline, 802-649-3717; they can definitely help talk you through the recipe. PJH

    Reply
  20. bbackstrom645

    I am making this as we speak. I’m on the second rise, but I don’t think I’m getting the rise that I should be. Maybe I’m not used to seeing bread look like this, but I think something has gone awry. Maybe my house is too cold!
    It could be the temperature or your first rise may have gone too long which could also lead to a weaker second rise. ~Amy

    Reply
  21. bobpetti

    I made this over the holidays with dried strawberries and walnuts and it was delicious – the texture was perfect. My only concern was the bottom got very dark – almost black. I could smell it scorching near the end of the baking time. I cooked it in a enameled cast iron dutch oven according to the directions above – the only difference was some parchment in the pot to avoid sticking. I’m thinking next time try putting the pot on a couple cookie sheets to prevent the burn? Other than that one thing (which was easy to fix – just trim the black from each slice) – it was delicious. It reminded me of some bread we can get in a bakery in Maine.

    Yes, Bob, cast iron can get super-hot, and even with the enamel it can burn the bottom. As you say, try shielding it a bit by putting the pot on a double layer of baking sheets; that should help. As I said in the blog, the first time I did it, in a plain cast iron Dutch oven, the bottom was totally burned… PJH

    Reply
  22. "Since 8"

    I saw this blog and then baked the bread 3 times in two weeks. First time I followed your modifications, PJ. Then I followed the original recipe. I found your modifications left me with too stiff a dough. I’m used to baking “no knead” bread, so I simply incorporated Peter Reinhart’s “stretch-and-fold” technique to the original dough, then put the add-ins into the dough pressed out into a rectangle like cinnamon rolls. That kept the add-ins inside, the dough was workable, and it turned out to rave reviews by those gifted with a loaf. It is amazing what a couple of simple stretch-and-folds can do for slack dough.

    Hear, hear!!!!

    Reply
  23. bbackstrom645

    I got the bread baked – it was really dark on the bottom and all the add-ins were on the outside of the loaf. I’ll try again with a couple of cookie sheets for a shield and use Since 8’s idea of pressing the dough into a rectangle and folding the add-ins inside. It was good and I’ll definitely try it again – hopefully with better results!

    You might also want to try turning the oven down 10F degrees and seeing if that helps keep the bread from over-browning! And I like to fold the add-ins into the dough, myself! Good luck on the next attempt! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  24. skoshismom

    I made two loaves of this bread today, the first loaf I made according to the original recipe, it was delicious, dense and loaded with fruit, nuts and chocolate. Last night after I prepped the dough and had it sitting in my warm cozy laundry room for the rising process I started reading this blog and freaked out, I went to check on the dough and after a couple of hours it did not look like it was rising so I decided to make another batch and add the fruit, nuts and chocolate at the second rise and spread into the fold overs so the “goodies” would not burn as suggested by Since 8. I also used bread flour in the second loaf.
    This is what I discovered. The first batch did rise, I baked it at 450 in a Le Crueset oval dutch oven took the cover off at 30 minutes as the recipe called for, that is way to early, if I left the cover on longer it would not have gotten as dark and the fruit etc on the outside would not have browned as much, the taste was FABULOUS, my 87 year old father asked for 3 pieces during dinner and he usually eats very little of anything at any meal. The second loaf, I baked for the same amount of time as the recipe called for but I left the cover on for almost the entire time, I took it off for the last 15 minutes and the loaf looks better than anything I have seen at any gourmet bakery. I used the same dutch oven I used for the first loaf and I used the middle shelf of my oven and I put a pizza stone on the bottom rack for both loaves, the bottoms were not over done and as I said the second loaf is picture perfect, I even posted on facebook. Between this and the plain no-knead bread recipe I am in bread heaven! One more thing, I did put cornmeal in the bottom of the dutch oven before I put the dough in and nothing stuck the bread came out very easily.

    Wow! I am so glad you gave us this excellent feedback. We always appreciate knowing what works/doesn’t work for bakers at home. Thank you! Kim@KAF
    Good Luck and happy baking, next up Easter Breads.

    Reply
  25. Sarah

    I would like to make this as individual rolls in my new Emile Henry bread cloche…how do you recommend doing so? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Amy Trage

      Hi Sarah, you can shape the rolls and let them rise in the cloche, but you would need to decrease the baking time by a bit. ~Amy

  26. Lyle

    Since I didn’t read the comments before I forged ahead combining the flours, I used buckwheat flour in place of rye. I knew buckwheat’s flavor can be strong so I intended to only use 1 ounce. I’m still not sure, in my haste, if I used 1 or 2 ounces. The dough was not very wet so I had to knead it by hand to combine the flours. After the 12 hours, and a review of the blog, I added some water and kneaded just a bit more. But I wasn’t done making mistakes: I burned some of the pecans when I toasted them. Fortunately, most were usable. I had to knead the mix-ins because the dough wasn’t very wet. Should it be wet enough so you can stir the mix-ins? I managed to get a nice looking round with everything well integrated. It baked perfectly, exactly as the directions indicated (I finally slowed down and read them carefully). Even with the few mistakes, this bread still turned out great. You can taste the buckwheat but it’s reasonably balanced by the sweetness of the fruit and chocolate. I wouldn’t recommend using it, as you said in a reply to someone else’s comment. I’m not complaining, this bread is going to be enjoyed. Oh, since I read the recent posts about white whole wheat four—which were excellent—I used it in place of most of the all-purpose. If you’ve ever had Acme’s Cranberry Walnut Wheat bread, this is a great way to make your own version. Just take your time and read everything first. Preferably while enjoying a slice of this bread.

    Reply
  27. Sohelu

    Wow. This bread it amazing! I made it with walnuts instead of pecans, because when I was at the store, I picked up the wrong nuts. I also substituted wheat for the rye. My only concern was it didn’t brown up quite as nice as the blog pictures, but it’s just fine. I baked it in a pyrex souffle type pan with a foil cover. I put a pizza stone on the rack below it to ensure it didn’t get too dark on the bottom. I will be honest… I didn’t wait for it to cool all of the way before slicing. It just smelled so good I couldn’t wait! I will definitely make this again!!

    Reply
  28. Mike

    I made mine in an enameled cast iron Le Cruset set on top of 2 aluminum sheet trays and mine did not burn. It did however stick to the pot. I inverted the pot as recommended and allowed to cool completely (to allow the condensation to loosen) and then used (and broke) 2 non-stick spatulas before eventually having to pry it loose with my bare hands, scrapping off as much bottom crust as possible as it slowly released. To my delight I didn’t lose hardly any bottom crust as it was several cherries that stuck and the final buttered toast was WONDERFUL. Great flavor. Next time I will definitely be more diligent about making sure there are no ingredients exposed on the bottom before placing in the pot. Perhaps some greased parchment as well as an insurance policy.

    Reply

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