Sneak Preview: Fig and Almond Bread

No, I haven't runaway from home; in fact, I've been right here at the computer for a couple of months now working on a book of breads that's going to be published in Fall 2012.  I've lifted a new favorite from the as yet unpublished manuscript to share today.  Let me know how you like it.

Fig and almond bread 3 

FIG AND ALMOND BREAD

Royal Crown Bakery in Brooklyn, New York bakes a fig and walnut batard-shaped loaf that I’ve enjoyed many times.   My friend Ann Nurse has been a loyal customer for years and whenever I see her she has a couple of loaves of Royal Crown bread tucked under her arm for me.  When I was planning which breads to make for this book, I thought of the bread but the owner was busy opening another shop and didn’t have time to talk about it.  I embarked on an attempt to recreate the flavor I remembered, but with almonds instead of walnuts.  Ann and I both agreed that there might be a little sugar in the dough, and that it looked and tasted as though there might also be a little whole wheat flour.  It took a few tries but I’m happy with the result.  

Makes two small round loaves, each about 8 inches in diameter

1 cup/about 6-7 ounces/230 grams dried Calimyrna figs

1 cup/5.5 ounces/150 grams whole unblanched almonds, coarsely chopped and lightly toasted

1 3/4 cup/375 grams room temperature tap water, about 75°F

2 1/4 teaspoons/7 grams fine granulated active dry or instant yeast

3 cups/400 grams bread flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

1 cup/135 grams whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon/15 grams sugar

2 teaspoons/14 grams salt

Olive or vegetable oil for the bowl

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, for brushing the loaves after baking

A heavy 12 x 18-inch jellyroll pan dusted with cornmeal, plus a spray bottle filled with warm water

Fig and almond bread 7 

1.  Snip the stems from the figs; if they’re at all hard or dried out put them in a bowl and cover them with boiling water.  Let them steep for 15 minutes, the drain and pat dry with paper towels before cutting into 1/2-inch dice.

2.  Pour the water into the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk in the yeast.  Wait 30 seconds and whisk again.

3.  Mix the flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, and salt together and use a large rubber spatula to stir them into the liquid a little at a time until you’ve used all the flour.  Make sure all the flour is mixed into the liquid and there isn’t any clinging to the side of the bowl.

4.  Place the bowl on the mixer and attach the dough hook.  Mix on lowest speed until the dough comes together around the dough hook, a minute or two.    Stop the mixer and pull the dough away from the hook; let the dough rest for 15 minutes.

5.  Increase the mixer speed to low/medium and mix until the dough is smoother and more elastic, about 2 to 3 minutes longer.  Add the figs and almonds and mix another minute to distribute them as well as possible throughout the dough.  They’ll be more evenly mixed after the turns are given to the dough.

6.  Scrape the dough into an oiled bowl and turn it over so that the top is oiled.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough ferment until it starts to puff, about 30 minutes.

7.  Scrape the dough to a floured work surface, flour your hands, and give the dough 2 turns as described at the end of the recipe.

8.  Repeat steps 6 and 7.

9.  Let the dough ferment until it has fully doubled in bulk, about 30 minutes longer.

10.  To shape the dough into loaves, use a flexible plastic scraper to slide it from the bowl, right side up, to a floured work surface; try to keep from deflating the dough.  Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces.  Round each loaf by pushing against the bottom of the dough all around with the sides of your hands held palms upward.  The dough will quickly form an even sphere. 

11.  Place the loaves well apart on the prepared pan and cover them with a flat-weave towel or piece of sprayed or oiled plastic wrap.  Let the loaves rest until they start to puff again, about 30 minutes.

12.  As soon as you cover the loaves, set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.

13.  Once the loaves are proofed to about 50% larger than their original size, flour the palms of your hands and gently press to flatten them to about 1-inch/2.5-cm thick.

14.  Use an exacto knife or single-edge razor blade to cut a deep slash across the diameter of the loaf, and another at a 90-degree angle to it, or cut 4 overlapping slashes to form a square.  Generously spray the loaves with water.  Place the pan in the oven.

15.  Wait 2 minutes, then open the oven and spray the loaf again.

16.  Repeat step 15.

17.  Wait 2 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees.

18.  Bake the loaves until they’re well risen, deep golden, and the internal temperature reads 200°F. on an instant read thermometer, about 30 minutes.

19.  Place the baked loaves on a rack and brush them all over with the melted butter; cool completely.  Serve the same day or wrap loosely and keep at roomtemperature for a day or so.  Wrap and freeze for longer storage.

TURNING THE DOUGH:  Generously flour the work surface; scrape the dough onto it.  Flour your hands and gently flatten the dough to a disk.  Fold the two sides in to meet at the middle, then roll the top toward you all the way to the end.  Invert (seam side up), flatten and repeat.