Taking a step up from baking soda to working with some everyday, commercial yeast, this week's bread is a simple loaf of the fruit and nut variety. Studded with figs, roasted hazelnuts and fennel it is only faintly sweet, making for a nice variation on fruit toast and a wonderful accompaniment to wine and cheese.
This particular pairing of fruits, seeds and nuts is a pleasingly tasty combination, and while the flavour and texture of crumb would, of course, be far better if it were made as a sourdough (I personally find the loaf to be lacking in oomph!), it is a nice simple recipe for those just starting out, or for anyone finding their starter to be on 'extended holiday'. *guilty as charged*
That said, where this bread really shines is beneath cheese, benefiting from the sharp salty bite of a strong cheddar or pungent creamy goodness of a blue brie. The original recipe suggests serving alongside goat's cheese - a most excellent idea indeed.
FIG, FENNEL & HAZELNUT LOAF (Adapted from Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries II)
- 250 g bread flour
- 100 g wholemeal flour
- 150 g spelt flour
- 7 g active dry yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 45 g treacle
- 350 g water, warmed
- 70 g hazelnuts
- 250 g dried figs
- 2 tsp fennel seeds
Cut the figs into eighths and soak in freshly brewed tea (I used Earl Grey) for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside until ready to use. Toast the hazelnuts in a 150°C oven for approximately 10 minutes, until the skins have cracked and the nuts are lightly golden. Cool slightly before removing skins and then chop roughly. Toast the fennel seeds in a small pan over medium heat until fragrant. Set aside to cool.*
In a large bowl combine the flours and yeast before adding the salt. Dissolve the treacle in the water and then add to the dry ingredients and mixing until smooth. Turn out and knead for around 10 minutes until springy, smooth and no longer sticky. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave in a warm place for 1 hour.
Turn the dough out and press through the fruit, nuts and seeds by kneading it lightly. Divide the dough in two, shape each into a batard and place in a lightly oiled small loaf tin. Leave in a warm place for 1 hour to prove, then scatter with fresh fennel seeds before baking in a 220°C oven for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and hollow when tapped. Remove from tins and allow to cool. Serve sliced with a sharp cheddar or strong blue cheese.
** You can always skip the soaking and toasting steps, if you wish. The loaf will just have a slightly different flavour.