As some of you know, I’ve been participating in The Kitchn’s Baking School, trying to do the smaller homework assignments each night and then getting my bake on during the weekend.
The homework assignments have led to some mighty tasty baked goods, I must say, including choux pastry, which was turned into mushroom sandwiches; proper, time-consuming puff pastry, which became sweet and crispy allumettes; yeasted dough, which was almost effortlessly transformed into a stollen-like loaf full of dark chocolate, figs and walnuts.
I am not a novice baker, but I have found that the Baking School lessons are laden with information, history, chemical alchemy and tips and tricks that even the most qualified bakers out there would find useful. Although I want to take step back now that we’re coming up to the cake layering and decoration side of things… Still don’t see why I can’t just bake the goodies and leave the decorating to someone else… someone with a lot more patience…
A string of events forged a path to this bread. This bread had to be baked. And now.
It started with figs. It occurred to me that we were nearing the end of fig season and I had yet to cook with them. The Baking School lesson for Day 13 was rich yeast breads and sweet breads. I purchased and started reading A Year of Good Eating: The Kitchen Diaries III by Nigel Slater, where, in the very first entry, he evocatively writes about his tradition of baking bread on New Year’s Day. Around the same time, he also published a sweet fig and dark chocolate loaf recipe in his column for The Guardian.
I may not have followed the homework assignment to the letter, but I made the bread that I was meant to make.
Oh and if you make this, do yourself a favour and have a slice while it’s still warm and the chocolate filling is still gooey. Trust me.
It may not be warm any longer because I am so late this week, but I’m bringing the few slices I haven’t eaten to the Fiesta Friday 91 party, joyfully co-hosted this week by Angie @The Novice Gardner, Juju @ cookingwithauntjuju and Indira @ I’ll Cook, You Wash.
Sweet Fig and Dark Chocolate Loaf
For the Dough
- 50g butter
- 250g plain flour
- 7g easy bake yeast
- 100ml milk (warmed)
- 25g sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg (lightly beaten)
For the Filling
- 6 green cardamoms
- 3 figs (roughly chopped)
- 100g dark chocolate (chopped into small pieces)
- 50g walnut halves
- 40g golden sultanas
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the Glaze
- 50g butter
- icing sugar
- Melt the butter in a small pan, then leave to cool down. Sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle in the yeast then stir in the milk, sugar, salt, cooled butter and the lightly beaten egg. Mix thoroughly – the dough will be soft and rather sticky. Turn out on to a lightly floured board. As you knead, the dough will become less sticky, more like a bread dough. When it is soft, elastic and no longer sticking to the board, transfer to a floured bowl. Set aside in a warm place, covered with a clean tea towel, for a good hour.
- For the filling, break the cardamom pods and remove their black seeds. Crush the seeds to a coarse powder using a pestle and mortar or a spice mill. Mix the figs, chocolate, walnut halves, sultanas, cinnamon together.
- Dust the work surface with flour and tip your risen dough on to it. Roll out into a rectangle about 24cm x 20cm. Place the longest side towards you and spread the fig filling over the dough, then roll up, swiss-roll style, to form a plump loaf shape. Lift onto a floured baking sheet, cover with a tea towel and return to a warm place to prove for a further hour. Heat the oven to 180°C.
- Place the loaf in the oven and bake for about 35-40 minutes until pale gold. Melt the butter for the glaze and brush over the loaf. Cool on a wire rack, then dust generously with icing sugar.
Recipe by Nigel Slater as found on The Guardian’s website.