Fig and Fennel Bread
I spend an embarassing amount of time wading through online recipe collections, mentally baking things that sound good. One afternoon I came across a fig and fennel bread recipe at epicurious.com, *actually* made it and rather dissapointed. The flavor combinations had so much potential but the bread was pretty substandard. I fiddled around with their recipe until it hardly resembled the original at all and the results have yielded a tasty staple.
8oz bread flour
8oz whole wheat bread flour (or more white)
4oz whole grain rye
13.5 oz of room temperature water
2 tbs butter, melted
2 tbs blackstrap molasses
1 1/2 tbs fennel seeds, toasted
1 tbs caraway seeds
1/4 cup rye berries, popped (heat it a dry skillet, they pop like popcorn!) Hulled barley or walnuts substitute well but in general this ingredient in entirely optional
6oz calimyrna dried figs chopped coursely (other vareties are ok, I would avoid black mission figs though, they're a bit too sweet.
2tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
The procedure's fairly standard, but there are a few things worth mentioning along the way. From start to finish, this will take about 5 hours.
1. Combine flours, seeds, salt, yeast and berries; whisk together
2. Combine butter, molasses, and water; whisk together
3. Combine above. Bring dough together. Knead like mad.
4. Once your dough passes the membrane test, add chopped figs and knead just to distribute figs. Note: If you knead for to long you can pulverize the figs which on top of all the germ and bran, molasses and berries really prohibits bubble formation. Still tastes great but I generally prefer a lighter bread with good sized chuncks of figs.
5. Form dough into a tight ball, oil a bowl, toss to coat, cover and let it ferment until it has doubled in size.
6. Preheat oven, baking stone(bottom rack), and cast iron skillet(top rack) to 425F.
7. Shape your loaves (usually 2) on durum or cornmeal, and let them proof at room temp until they look ready to go, about doubled in size. Note: For a dinner party I once made 2oz round rolls, dimpled the center and plopped on a dollop of tangy goat cheese and let the rolls proof around it. If you do this, bake the rolls on a half sheet pan, at the temp as below, without steaming your oven.
8. Right before you put you loaves in, pour ~1 cup of water in the skillet, plop them in, then spritz with water at 1 minute intervals for the first 3 minutes of baking.
9. About ten minutes in, rotate your loaves to ensure even browning. When they look done, check for 200F.
10. Once they hit temp, get 'em on a cooling rack, wait, then eat. Best served toasted with butter, goat or cream cheese.
The final loaf has a chewy, thick crust and a soft moist interior. If you find your figs are too dry inside, mascerate them next time(I've never needed too). Chances are you'll have a burnt fig chuck or two on the exterior of you loaf. If that's going to get to you, just pluck them off before you put your loaves in the oven. I've tried topping loaves with rye bran, rolled rye or oats, and kosher salt and fennel seeds all of which looked tasted great. I'm sure there are more tasty ideas out there (I'm trying pecorino shavings next week)! This figgy bread makes a great figgy puddin' substitute at that annual Christmas party. You can find the 'original' recipe here. Let me know what you think!