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.