Chocolate cherry cinnamon rolls

I’ve never had the “retro classic” Black Forest gâteau. That, I decided last summer, had to change. I was going to make one and it was going to be totally authentic. I have a German cookbook, which dutifully provides a recipe for the country’s most famous cake and since it’s German, I trusted it would be as authentic as you get.

First problem: the recipe calls for 750 g of sour cherries. Now, I have never seen sour cherries for sale in the Netherlands and I know of just one sour cherry tree: it grows in the village where my parents have their holiday cottage, next to the sand road we take when walking to the forest. It’s kind of nobody’s, so anybody from the village who wants to make a cherry bubble cake just rushes out with a basket and picks what they need. Alas, when we arrived, hopefully carrying a basket, we found, there was not a single cherry to pick. I drowned my disappointment in blueberry cinnamon rolls and that led to a spark of inspiration: why not take the best of the Black Forest Gateau (chocolate and cherries) and wrap it into a tender buttery roll? I used dried cherries which means I can have these rolls even if all the flowers on that only cherry tree freeze again next year or every cherry gets picked before I get there.

I am safe, and so are you. Phew.

Also: we can eat our cake for breakfast!

Chocolate cherry cinnamon rolls

500 g (3 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp sugar
½ tsp salt
seeds from 6 cardamom pods, ground (I use a pestle and mortar)
125 ml (1/2 cup) warm milk
20 g fresh yeast or 2 ½ tsp active dry yeast
115 g (½ cup) butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
½ cup sour cream

2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 tbsp cinnamon
3 tbsp (natural cane) sugar
150 g (1 cup) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup coarsely chopped dried cherries

In a large bowl, mix the flour with sugar, cardamom and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the warm milk in which you have dissolved the yeast. Mix in some of the flour to make a sponge in the middle of the bowl. Slice the butter and put the slices around the sponge (the warmth of the sponge will soften the butter slightly and make it easier to incorporate). Cover the bowl with plastic and leave for about 20 minutes, until bubbles have formed. Then add eggs and cream, mix everything together and knead until the dough feels silky and smooth. Cover the bowl and set aside to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour, though it will take longer in a cool environment

While the dough is rising, prepare the filling: chop the chocolate and cherries and mix the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.

Butter a 23 cm (9-inch) pie plate or baking dish (I used my Le Creuset cast iron tarte tatin pan which is 24 cm in diameter).

Push the dough down. Roll into a 30 x 40 cm (12 x 16- inch) rectangle. Brush it with melted butter and sprinkle the sugar mixture over the surface. Spread the chocolate and cherries evenly over the sugar. Tightly roll up the rectangle lengthwise. Slice into rounds about 2,5 cm (1 inch) wide (I end up with 12) and set them in the pie plate, cut side facing up. Let rise for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius (375 Fahrenheit). Bake the rolls in the center of the oven until well risen and browned, about 30 minutes.

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