Spiced Fig & Walnut Bread
Every Sunday night once the house has been blanketed in silence and both Beau and Viviana have drifted off to the land of dreams I slice two thick slices of sourdough and place them into the toaster. The kettle has been boiled and my mug awaits. Chamomile has been my choice of late.
As soon as the toast pops up, I smear a good dose of butter over each and watch as it melts into the light golden crumb. A lick of vegemite on one and the other, marmalade. At the moment its a luscious almost creamy apricot and lavender.
This is something that I so look forward to and after our Sunday lunch feast that has now become quite an enjoyable tradition, this simple pleasure is indeed all that is needed. And I know many of you out there are also lovers of toast for tea as I had so many messages a couple of weeks ago when I posted my toast up on my stories on Instagram. Some of you were even having it right then too.
Now it is normally only the plain sourdough variety that is dressed in all the vegemite and marmalade glory, however on the rare occasion when I have made a fruit loaf complete with plump apricots or figs and the crunch of walnuts, or pinenuts, together with a concoction of warming spices it takes this Sunday night toast session to a whole other level, oh yes, it is really quite lovely. So I thought I would share this recipe with you on the off chance that you may like to switch things up or have a go at making your own fruit loaf. It is particularly good with a smear of crunchy peanut butter...or smooth if that is more your thing. Some ricotta and honey don't go amiss here either if you get a little fancy...
Spiced Fig & Walnut bread
You will need 50g of sourdough starter for this recipe. I usually make a plain sourdough loaf at the same time too, just dividing each into their own bowl. So all up you will need 100g of the starter if doing this. If you don't have a starter then your best bet is to find someone who does and ask very politely if you could have some, bakers having the big hearts that they possess will almost always say yes. I got mine years ago from my mother in law and I have now passed some of that one on to a couple of people as well. Such is the joy in sharing!
This recipe is based on the method for the overnight sourdough on the Fig jam and lime cordial website which I can highly recommend having a look at as it is full to the brim with information. Over the years I have tried many methods and I find this one to be the best for me, both for the timing and for the results. Sometimes it can all seem a bit too complicated this whole sourdough bread making but when its stripped back it really isn't hard at all and when you are not too concerned about all the sourdough jargon, like hydration levels and how open your crumb is, then it becomes a part of your day or week, and really is the gift that keeps on giving.
50g ripe sourdough starter
450g bread flour
50g spelt (or another flour of your choice)
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp ground ginger
1/4-1/2 tsp cloves (depending on how strong you want this flavour to be)
150g dried apricots or figs
100g walnuts (or pecans, pine nuts, almonds, whatever you have on hand)
The same goes for the dried fruits, play around with different ones. I have used a combination of dried pears, apricots, figs and golden raisins which was really lovely too) Singing Magpie Produce has the most wonderful selection of dried fruits if you fancy purchasing from a 100-year-old family orchard in the Riverland, South Australia.
You can also add in a scattering of poppy seeds or sesame seeds if you feel like it too.
Mix together the starter, flours, salt and water with your hand until almost combined and then add the rest of the ingredients into a large bowl. You don't need to worry about chopping any of the fruits or nuts. Cover with a tea towel and let it rest for 30 minutes.
Now you need to perform your stretch and folds. Wet your hand and taking the dough in your cupped hand, stretch it up and then fold it back into itself while turning the bowl and then picking up the next fold until you have completed one whole turn of your bowl, this should take about 8 folds. Cover again and let rest for another 30 minutes.
Repeat this step three more times before leaving your dough to rest, covered, at room temperature overnight.
In the morning you should wake to find that your dough has grown and resembles a soft pillow. Preheat your oven to the highest setting, mine goes to 250 degrees celsius. Place a dutch oven or large pot with a lid into the oven to heat up too. Making sure that it is quite high so that the bread has room to rise. Mine measures 12cm x 20cm and I got it from Aldi and its the best!
With a wet hand, scrape the dough out onto a lightly semolina dusted workbench being careful to not knock it around too much. Taking one side up and over into the middle and then repeating this on the other so that it is like a neat little parcel. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rest once again for 20 minutes on the bench. This dough will feel quite dense and maybe a little tricky to get the folds done properly, but as long as you have something that resembles some sort of round then you will be fine.
During this time you can prepare your breadbasket if you don't have a "proper" one the baskets from the ricotta tubs make an excellent alternative. Place a tea towel into the basket and dust with semolina.
Take your dough onto a semolina dusted bench and bring the sides up and over into the middle to create a ball. Turn this over so that the seam is now on the bottom and give it a few turns then place it into the basket with the seam side up. Cover and allow to sit for another 20 minutes while you clean the dishes/put a load of washing on/get the kids dressed/make yourself another cup of tea.
Now rip off a piece of baking paper and then holding the basket in one hand place the paper on top, tip the bread onto the paper and take the tea towel off the top, brush the semolina over the top so that it is nicely covered and then with a sharp knife make a cross on top. (that's a lot of tops)
Remove the pot from the oven and place your bread on the baking paper into the pot, pop the lid back on and place into the oven for 20 minutes. When the time is up, reduce the oven to 200 degrees celsius and remove the lid before placing back into the oven for another 20 minutes. When she's done, take her out and turn out onto a cooling rack, removing the paper if it's stuck on the bottom. Allow to cool and then slice and generously spread with butter and give yourself a little clap.