The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Fig and Fennel Bread

beenjamming's picture

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, *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.

Fig and Fennel Bread

check it:

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.


Toasted, topped with goat 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!

merrybaker's picture

That sounds and looks great!  I've tried Nancy Silverton's sourdough Fig-Anise Bread, and that was quite nice.  She uses black mission figs and anise seeds, but it's all white flour.  Yours sounds a lot heartier.  I love the idea of popping the rye berries!  Will have to try that.  Do you use them in other breads, too?  Do they stay crunchy or soften up? 

beenjamming's picture

They soften up a bit and end up with a sunflower seed like texture. I use them when i make multigrain and rye bread as well.

browndog's picture

I didn't do the rye berries, I threw in chopped walnuts instead. My loaves weren't the things of beauty yours is--crust never colored up at all, and I could have shaped them better, but this bread is AWESOME. A little like heaven when you bite into a fig and then the fennel and the caraway and the rye  just sort of join forces and wash over you in a warm warm wave. I could barely bring myself to butter it even, for fear of changing anything, but I bet goat cheese would be a treat. I finished the last bit at lunchtime, this is definitely moving to the head of the class.

Paddyscake's picture

which we dried last night, went into this loaf of Fig, Fennel and Rye. It's still cooling, so I haven't tasted it yet, but it smells wonderful, anise and slightly sweet. I didn't have any rye berries or walnuts, but used pecans. It got good color and spring in the oven.

fleur-de-liz's picture

Paddyscake:  I adore figs.  This looks absolutely delectable.  I can smell it through the monitor! Let us know how it tastes. 

Paddyscake's picture

chewy rye texture, very mildly sweet. I'm sure the type of figs you use will vary the sweetness. Next time I'll add more fennel and toast the seeds, which I neglected to do.

browndog's picture

Paddyscake, never mind the figs, just send me that loaf of bread.