Wednesday, March 16, 2016

New Zealand Almond and Fig Bread Roundup

Nancy of Bread & Cake & More's New Zealand Almond Fig Bread

A picture says a thousand words, at least that’s what they say. Indeed, the image  of the New Zealand Almond Fig Bread  in the Bread Bible  is so attractive and delicious looking, it just seemed like an obvious choice for this month. Nancy's loaf looks as beautiful as Rose's picture, with her dried black figs, almond nuggets and beautifully browned almond slices. Very nice!

All of the Alpha Bakers were enthusiastic about making this attractive loaf. As well, everyone seemed to agree that they preferred a loaf that was a little less dense. Still, the Almond and Fig Bread turned out well across the board and was successful.

For Nancy, this is her second time making this bread, and having learned, she made a few key changes. First, she didn't like the apricot jam coating, so she brushed the almonds with egg white instead, which made the bread brown faster. (Her trusty foil cape saved it from charring.) Still, even after the second time, she admits that the flavour isn’t stellar, but the loaf is still very pretty and the figs give a nice effect.

For Svetlana, living in Israel, where figs are fresh and delicious, black figs are not commonly dried as often and are harder to find than the light brown variety. She had to make a special trip to a health food store to find the dark figs for this bread. It was well worth her efforts because she felt the figs paired perfectly with the almonds, and the apricot glaze added a lovely shine and touch of sweetness. She enjoyed the loaf as is, but also thought soft white and blue cheeses complimented it as well.

Marie B’s Fig and Almond Loaf cut beautifully and yielded a terrific looking crumb. For her though, she too preferred the lighter texture of the Harvest Bread to the denseness of this loaf. Still she was glad to have tried it. 

Next month are the Sacaduros on page 315. The tiny cube of butter and flour de sel inside the dinner roll sounds charming. It's time we tried out hands at a quick and easy recipe. Right?

Friday, March 4, 2016

New Zealand Almond and Fig Bread

New Zealand Almond Fig Bread The Finer Cookie
With Easter early this year, the New Zealand Almond and Fig Bread seemed to be a perfect compliment to spring. I’ve been wanting to make this bread since I bought the book, so now’s my chance.
I couldn’t resist the urge to cut the bread right down the middle like the picture, and much to my surprise, the fig and almond left a very soft visual imprint. Granted, I didn’t use black mission figs, but I thought that the amount of dried fig would have been very visible. Oddly enough, the seeds distributed evenly throughout the loaf, and most of the flesh of the fruit sort of melted into the bread itself. Hmm. 
The crumb was dense and the bread overall didn’t have much flavour. For me, it was more of a texture thing. The seeds from the fig were lightly crunchy and the almonds, well they do what almonds like to do—be nutty. Still Rick and I really enjoyed eating our way through the loaf. 
Here’s how it went for me:


Making this is rather routine by now. I left the starter in the fridge overnight.

Dough starter eating through the flour blanket


I’m really enjoying making bread by hand these days. I worked hard with this dough due to the bread flour and whole wheat flour combined. It made a very dense dough. 

First mixing of the dough
What is always interesting to me is the technique of letting the dough rest for 20 minutes changes the texture and suppleness and elasticity, then the kneading makes it sticky again. 

Rested Bread Dough

 The dough was too stiff to push it into a rectangle, so I had to pull out the rolling pin. It’s wondrous that the thinly rolled dough accepts all the almonds and figs. At this stage, it seems that the title should be Almonds and Figs with a Little Bread Dough.

Chopped almonds with dates

Rolled dough with chopped almonds and dates

Rolled dough with chopped almonds and dates

Rolled dough twice

Bread dough kneaded with chopped almonds and dates
It rose normally at this stage.

Almond fig Bread after having risen to double

I made two biz folds and let it rose again.

Bread dough in a biz fold
The rise was a little less vigorous, but I was resolute not to over proof the dough this time around, as I’ve done on the last two loaves I baked. 


Ready to encrust the bread dough with almonds

Shaping the dough made the figs and almonds push out from the surface. The dough was just oozing with them. Still, I rolled the dough in the sliced almonds, but they weren’t sticking very well. I had a difficult time getting the almonds to stick in a thick layer. And for the whole fig, I had to cut a hold in the dough to insert the whole fig, and I pushed it in best as possible.

bread dough encrusted with almonds--sort of

I let it rise for the final time while preheating the oven. 


On baking, the dough pushed out the fig and it looked rather weird to me. In retrospect, I didn’t like the glaze. It was sticky and not nice to handle. I didn’t get a nice crust of almonds like the picture. Darn.

The bread pushed out the fig while baking.
The New Zealand Almond and Fig Bread The Finer Cookie

WHAT ARE THE ALPHA BAKERS? : Here's how it works: once a month, for the next two years, 25 Alpha Bakers commit to baking their way through every recipe of Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible. Each month we post our experiences on our blog sites: our successes, our failures, our like and dislikes . The recipes are scheduled in advance so that everyone is baking the same recipe at the same time. No recipes can be shared in my Alpha Bakers Bread Bible posts due to publishing restrictions enforced by the publisher, but if you love to bake bread, this is a must-have book. You can see other tutorials for the same recipe at the following link The Bread Bible Alpha Bakers at