For challenge #11, I basically went back to the beginning. It hadn’t really been my plan for this month. I expected this month to be cinnamon rolls or some kind of formed yeast product. But I started to get a craving for these delicious fig rolls that are sold at the Pearl Bakery in Portland, Oregon. They have sweet fig and a crusty crust and I love them. I didn’t realize until today that anise is the flavor in them that I adore. I’ve always just remembered the fig, but now that I know it’s anise, it’s no surprise I love them. I have a fondness for anise/fennel flavors. I’ve been craving one of those rolls for a while so I decided I was going to have to make them myself.
Our local supermarket had a dried fig show up that I purchased for a party. They turned out to be really delicious but they aren’t always easy to find. I ended up having to order them via sources like Amazon. It’s worth searching them out!
It’s not really sad, but I started this loaf yesterday with an internet recipe that called for cinnamon, not anise. Had I thought to look up the bakery yesterday, I could have made that swap out. Still, I knew cinnamon was not exactly what I wanted in the bread. I wanted the sweetness of the figs, the nuttiness of toasted walnuts, and some kind of warm spice, but not a heavy cinnamon like a cinnamon roll. So while I used the recipe I found to guide the amounts of fig and walnut to use, I used only a quarter of the cinnamon called for in the recipe.
Here are my amounts:
- 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour — because of the amount of water called for and the humidity in our air from so much rain, I ended up using nearly 4 cups of flour in the first step
- 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup chopped dried figs or raisins — I love figs so I used figs
- 1/4-1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted if you like — I toasted
- 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons water
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon — versus 1 teaspoon in the original recipe
It turned out my impulse was good, at least for me. The cinnamon gave a warmth to the bread but it didn’t overpower the fruit or the nuts. It smelled awesome once it was finally time to bake.
One of the best parts of these kinds of recipes is that you can’t kill the yeast unless you have expired, old yeast. You start with cold water straight from the tap, so there’s not a lot you can do wrong. When I started this resolution almost a year ago, I needed a quick win and this gave me that win.
In most of the recipes, they have you start by mixing in the dry ingredients, mix in the water, and then mix in your mix-in ingredients like olives, nuts, fruit, etc. To me, there’s no possible logic for why that would necessarily be the case, and once the dough is wet and sticky, trying to incorporate the mix-in additions seems harder. As a result, I do something contrary and always mix in my extras with the yeast/flour/salt mixture and then add the liquid to that mix. I find my ingredients get distributed nicely that way with minimal work.
I think this recipe might have a mistake in the amount of liquid or it was just too humid on the day I made my dough. I used the amount of water stated in the recipe and my dough was very, very wet. Too wet. It was resisting becoming a shaggy ball like it had with recipes from trusted sources like Jim Lahey. I knew what I was going for based on my previous loaves, so I felt confident to add in more flour bit by bit until my shaggy dough pulled away from the sides and I no longer had a slick of liquid around the bowl. Even so, things were still much stickier than previous times with this kind of recipe. Once to my liking, it went to bed under some cling wrap for the next 18 or so hours.
On day 2 I was able to do the “kneading” process which with recipes like this simply involve putting down some flour, plopping the sticky mess on it, and folding the dough a few times to incorporate flour. No kneading. Just a little folding. This dough was sticky, still, and it was some work to get it out of the bowl. As a result, before putting in a new bowl for the final rise (2-3 hours after the folding and forming into a ball), I made sure to spray the bowl with oil to keep the final loaf from sticking.
When I got home from work, all I had to do then was heat up the oven and my dutch oven at the same time to 450 degrees. Once hot, in goes the dough, covered, in the hot dutch oven for 30 minutes. My loaf was already pretty brown, so once I uncovered it, I only baked my loaf another 8 minutes. The recipe suggests 10 – 20, but you have to keep an eye on it for your conditions.
I let it cool for a while but to be honest it was very hard to resist eating it right away. I did cut off a hunk while it was still warm. DELICIOUS. Of all of my yeast projects, this is my favorite. It’s not totally the same as the rolls I was craving from the Portland Bakery, but it has the same figgy/nutty flavor in the soft bread center and the crusty/crunchy crusty on the outside.
This morning I cut off two slices. Once got made into toast. The other got made into a grilled cheese sandwich under the broiler with a smoked cheese called “Campfire.” Both were delicious. The toast had a lovely combination of flavors — sweet fig, crunchy crust and nuts, delicious butter. It was really lovely. The sandwich, however, was a dream. The crust got extra crunchy and and browning of the sandwich deepened the flavors in the bread. The sweet figs with the smoked cheese and nuts were a really great combination.
Even though it wasn’t what I had intended to make this month, it’s a total winner. I am sure I’ll be making this again soon.
Yay yeast, but especially yay to figs and walnuts!