Jeffrey Hamelman’s book ‘Bread’ is studded with recipes for fruit and nut breads made with different base doughs. This bread was a little late but definitely worth the wait. You can see what the other Mellow Bakers made of this one by clicking here. This month the random bread picker has thrown up a different variation again, a prune and hazelnut levain, which is possibly even more appealing, as I love French prunes.
April’s simple slow rising yeasted dough was stuffed full of roasted hazelnuts, dried figs, and scented with fresh rosemary and sweet cecily from the garden. Sweet cecily has a sweet aniseedy taste and I nibble at the seeds and fronds as I pass it growing in the garden, and occasionally add it to salads, I thought it would make a good substitute for fennel seeds, which didn’t appeal to me last time I put them in a bread.
I decided to use my tiny crop of hazelnuts from the red hazelnut shrub featured in the previous post. As I had no dried figs of my own, I bought some organic Turkish figs which were very juicy. I do have a fig tree, but it is young still and I eat the figs that it manages to produce as they ripen. I can’t imagine having enough to dry for many years.
The dough was very firm and was quite nobbly with the whole nuts and the chunks of figs, so I decided to bake it in a closed pot as I wanted it to have a thin crust. The dough had its final proof inside the pot. I heated the oven up to 250 C, put the pot in cold (lid on) and then after twenty minutes took the pot out, took the lid off to a great whoosh of steam and put it back in the oven at 215 C for another twenty five minutes.
I think the bread could possibly have gone longer in the closed pot as it hadn’t fully risen when I took the lid off. However, it definitely gave the bread the thinner crust I was hoping for and I think the crumb is softer for that intense steaming too.
A couple of notes:
My hazelnuts are thinner skinned than the commercial ones, and despite being well toasted in the oven, they didn’t really want to rub off like the regular ones do. It didn’t matter at all.
I wasn’t sure whether to put the figs in whole or not, so I quartered them in the end and this seemed to produce a good sized piece. I was surprised at how good and juicy they remained after being baked, I was expecting them to go mushy or dry – never having put figs in a bread before. I was pleasantly surprised.
I put maybe a quarter of a teaspoon of finely snipped rosemary leaves in, less than called for, and the same of cecily seeds. I didn’t want to be overpowered by the aromatics and for my taste this was fine.
I upped the quantity of both nuts and figs as I am not making this bread commercially (see C’s comment below, it is indeed a lesson learnt from Dan Lepard!) I decided to put more in and the dough easily managed to absorb this as you can see from the pictures.
I made one loaf with the following, needing more water than the original recipe gives as my flours are very thirsty. Possibly I should have upped the water even more, as the nuts and figs absorb moisture from the dough.
- 250 grams very strong Canadian wholemeal flour (Waitrose brand)
- 250 gram strong bread flour (Shipton Mill)
- 370 grams warm water
- 10 grams seasalt
- 3/4 teaspoon dried yeast
- 100 grams of chopped figs
- 100 grams of toasted whole hazelnuts
- a little chopped rosemary and a scattering of sweet cecily seeds
Mix all the ingredients together apart from the nuts and the figs, which you incorporate once the dough is mixed and has come together well. The dough has a long unhurried first prove of two and a half hours in a cool spot and then a second prove of about ninety minutes. Bake technique as above. Very hot to start with and then a cooler temperature for the second part of the bake.
Even though I adored the flavours and mouthfeel of this bread, with its surprising textures and tastes, I don’t know that I would make it that often as I can’t imagine turning it into sandwiches. Sliced fresh and spread with cold butter, it is sweet and rich; a meal in itself. It might work as rolls, but I would want to bake them covered somehow so as to keep the crust thin.
You left out the fennel? I think it was good with the nuts and figs.
Great looking bread.
Ah ha! I included sweet cecily instead – much nicer, I didn’t like the fennel seed in the bread we made before :D
I love the worm’s eye view!
And the offset slashes- and of course the figs and hazlenuts.
I think I will have to make this- it sounds like what I’ve been hankering for, lately.
Although my sweet cecily is very far behind yours- perhaps if I ground the fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle a bit?
Your Spring is so much further along than mine.
I love the pictures from your garden.
I can’t remember if you have the Hamelman book, but the original recipe is with fennel seeds, he just flings them in. I had great fun chasing round the garden and trying to prop the bread up this morning to take a different picture. Just watched a bat hunting over the lawn, whirling away. Our Spring has gone mad, we’re about 2/3 weeks ahead right now, no rain for weeks, windy and dry, and everything is blooming super fast, there’ll be nothing left to flower if it carries on like this Heidi!
Beautiful bread Joanna, and stunning photography too. Your garden looks really beautiful, you must be very proud of it!
Good point about increasing the amount of add-ins in the bread – I remember Dan mentioning on a few of his recipes that without the constraints of having to make a profit, home bakers can add far more of the expensive ingredients to their breads :-) I quite fancy adding figs to a bread, and I think they might go quite well with cashews….
C that is it! I must have absorbed that from Dan Lepard’s recipes, you are quite right and he is spot on. I reckon you could put even more in than I did. Jeffrey Hamelman has written his book with commercial bakers in mind, the mixing instructions all refer to big mixers and so on and one has to interpret those to suit home baking too.
Fig and cashew sounds good, or of course the classic fig and walnut. I have never made Dan’s red wine and fig bread which is in the Hand Made Loaf, but I know many people have and loved it too.
Figs and rosemary in a bread… how lovely! I never seem to have hazelnuts but I might play with some almonds. Thanks Joanna :-) I was wondering what ‘breakfast bread’ to do next.
I love your breakfast bread posts, I was thinking of you when I wrote this – Go easy on the rosemary as it is very strong I like being able to smell it rather than taste it in the bread, if that makes any sense. I’ve never seen whole almonds in a bread, but why not, I would definitely toast them first in the oven or a pan to bring out their flavour.
Sounds great. I’ve never heard of sweet Cecily before – obviously not common here in Oz. Like Brydie, I might try this with almonds as I don’t often use hazelnuts & I would sub fennel seeds for the cecily. Thanks!
I don’t think it is grown in many gardens these days, but I could be wrong. Nor is it used in modern cooking very much Amanda. Traditionally it was used to sweeten rhubarb and gooseberries. Its other name is myrrhis odorata. It grows strongly and is a perennial herb which flowers early. The leaves have a sweet taste too.
I know the name from English literature – it turns up in poetry and so on like here:
‘What virgin purity the flowers that grew
Nigh the bright winding river seemed to wear—
Sweet Cicely, and meadow-sweet, and rue!
And cuckoo-flowers and chervils bloomed so fair,
They were as magnets to my eyes; ‘
I absolutely love hazelnuts and figs. I’m making this as soon as I get back to Australia – my oven is better there. I am leaving this gorgeous place in 2 weeks.
It sounds like it is the bread for you then Debra :)
I adore fig and walnut bread, so I’m sure I’d love this too. I’m intrigued by the cold pot into the hot oven – nice idea for a softer crust. I think fig and nut bread is particularly nice with a cheese platter, maybe a nice ripe blue cheese…mmmm… :)
It might have sprung more if I had heated the pot first, but I was curious to see if it would work this way. I get a bit anxious manipulating a fully risen dough into a hot pot. I was wondering, have I asked you this before, whether you could bake bread in your Romertopf? I am sure it would be delicious with some dolce latte or gorgonzola Celia. (Sigh, Brian won’t touch figs, so I only made one loaf).
Jo, interestingly Linda Woodrow recently posted about baking bread in a cold oven. I’ve never had any luck with that – the couple of times I’ve tried, I’ve ended up with brick-like loaves.
You have to soak a Romertopf in water first (which is good), but then it has to go into a cold oven (which wasn’t so good). End result was heavy loaf. The second time I tried putting the soaked empty Romertopf into the oven to heat up, and then opened it up and put the dough in, and….I cracked all the glaze in the pot (cold dough into hot pot). Needless to say, haven’t tried it since. :)
I’m with you – I’m not a fan of pot baking because of the handling of the flaming hot pot, but some of the guys on sourdough.com (particularly Dom from memory) swear by it!
Ahhhh, your garden pictures cause me to long for an afternoon stroll thru your backyard! I might even find some bread lying about that I could nibble on while I strolled. I would not want to drop dough into a hot pot either, but it looks like it turned out fine using a cold one. Great pictures of the bread! How wonderful to have your own nut producing tree. Hazelnuts are our favorite. When we ever have our own house again, I’ll have to see if I can find some sweet cecily seeds. It looks like a very pretty perennial. Your rosemary plant looks very healthy!!
I would love to show you the garden Melanie and offer you some bread too :) I think the bread would possibly have sprung higher had it gone into a hot pot but this was good enough . Like you I am very fond of hazelnuts :D
loved the sliced pic you put up on twitter this morning and I’m sure I would eat most of this loaf when fresh because it’s the kind of thing I do :)
If you remember after the hazelnut cake post I made last year…we talked about the special qualities of hazelnuts and their distinctive roasted flavour that was so attractive…after posting the recipe I went back to McGee’s book and in there he states the distinctive aroma of hazelnuts:
“…comes from a compound dubbed filbertone (heptenone) which is present in small quantities in the raw nut but increases 600-800 fold when the nuts are fried or roasted.”
I thought you might find that interesting. x
Interesting thanks Azelia ! Filbertone – do all nuts have these do you reckon? walnutone? almondtone? Almonds are transformed as well by frying and roasting. We always roast freshly blanched and skinned almonds at Christmas for a treat !
B wouldn’t eat this morning’s sourdough, he said it was too sour – so I have sliced it up and frozen it. The freezer has a collection of pieces of bread. They get turned into breadcrumbs and croutons if they don’t get eaten.
Your pictures are beautiful…I can’t believe your garden! Can I come visit?? :) I wish I’d waited to bake this until after I’d read your post…I love the idea of cooking it in a closed pot…I’ll have to remember to do that more frequently.
Of course you can come and visit. Photos are deceiving though. You have to lie on the ground to get that view ;)
I think many of us feel the same on this baking in a pot thing, it’s a good idea but it’s a bit of an effort and hot heavy dishes are no fun to handle, but it does give you this magic thinner crust and one of the things I don’t like about wholemeal (wholewheat) breads is when they have a thick coarse crust, so it worked for me with this one.
I love figs and hazelnuts too – I’m afraid I would make oinking noises if I was given a chunk of that (notice I even say chunk rather than slice). How lovely that a little squirrel does a bit of gardening for you – the rhythm of the seasons in your part of the world is beautiful – I hope you get rain soon – it’s quite ‘anxious-making’ when time goes on and it doesn’t rain.
Oink,indeed! I’m onto the second quarter of the bread now. Makes a good late night snack as well as breakfast and I have found some plum jam in the cupboard that goes well with it. I found even more seedlings today, got to lift them all I think or we will be overrun with hazel… Weatherman says there will be rain by the weekend….. cross fingers and all that ;)
Your picture of bread on a rock in the garden–very Zen, very lovely. I must try to put some aromatics in my fig breads, thanks for the reminder.
Glad you liked the pic Liz ! Trying to find different places to perch the loaves for their brief moment of glory is good fun. I like the way natural sunlight lends bread wonderful colour. At night in the kitchen I get a sort of bluish tone from the halogens which isn’t very inviting, one reason why I tend not to photo my supper very often ;)
Being new to the whole baking thing, do any of the Australian based followers of your fantastic blog have any suggestions for sources of suitable flours for bread making?
There is sourdough.au which is an Australian bread forum but you could nip over to Celia’s blog at figjamandlimecordial.com who is a wonderful source of information and a first class baker as well. She’s based in Sydney. The other place to go and ask for help is on Dan Lepard’s forum danlepard.com as there are several Australian baking folk who visit there regularly. Someone might answer here in the meantime though – have to wait and see !
I made this bread- well- an approximation of it.
I Love it! And you, for inspiring it.
I am making this a staple bread here.
It is so good for all my purposes.
Wow! You made it so quickly Heidi :) That’s great. Bread is so adaptable I’m sure you have made it your own already xx
Edit: I’ve just been to admire Heidi’s fig and hazelnut loaf – it looks fabulous and measurements in cups too. Bread is a great book in case anyone hasn’t got it, as the recipes are written in cups/ounces and grams and in three sets of quantities, for commercial and domestic bakers.
Turkish figs and French prunes, it all sounds so exotic and then add hazelnuts – I waaaaaaant some of your bread.
It’s all gone now, or I’d send you a chunk :D
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Hi, I made this over the weekend, chopped the hazlenuts and skipped the seeds – it is such a delicious sweet and savoury loaf, perfect for cheese sandwich or toast and marmite! just got the prunes to try next! oh good I’ve got the month to try that! x
It was a cracker of a bread, wasn’t it? I was just rummaging around in the garage for some more hazelnuts to make the next one too… Thanks for popping in Chocveg :)
Joanna, not sure if you’ve noticed that I’ve not yet baked *anything* from Mellow Bakers, though I now have the book and have enjoyed reading it. It’s partly because I tend to go looking for a new recipe when my starter is peaking, and I don’t have time to gather odd ingredients, start soakers, &c. But that’s it; I’m planning a bit in advance this time, and starting with this recipe (still late, go figure), inspired once again by your example!
I’ve also never heard of sweet Cecily; it looks and sounds lovely. Will have to see if my herb and veg plant lady has it.
Hi Em – lovely to hear from you. You could try making the prune and hazelnut one as that uses a starter… also delicious. You can be as late as you like, it’s a very relaxed sort of group, people drop in and drop out all the time, use it as it suits you :) I haven’t baked any of this month’s breads yet….
Sweet cecily or cicily is something like aniseed in taste, rather than fennel. I’m a huge licorice fan so love those tastes.
Looks yummo! (yes, new word) I only make focaccia….a certain type. It’ll be in a blog post later, mixed in with cycling.
Thanks for visiting Jean! Look forward to hearing about your focaccia soon :)