This walnut fig bread is a work of art which I learnt at a baking class organized by Rise. The Chef is very professional and patient who’s willing to explain each ingredient and step. I learned to use fresh yeast and to craft this bread into a beautiful leaf.
After trying a few different baking schools in HK, this is one of the best. My other favorite is The Mixing Bowl.
The ingredients for this bread are quite basic but the Chef used very good quality flour and yeast. The flour he used is Bagatelle T65 which is similar to but not as strong (in terms of gluten content) than bread flour. I’m sure you can make this bread with normal bread flour but the texture may be a little different – tougher.
As for the figs, they were cooked in syrup. Chef said you can skip the step if you want to be able to see the figs because if you soak them in syrup beforehand they will blend in with the dough when you knead it. As a result the figs will not be as prominent.
If you prefer to skip the hand kneading, you can also use your standing mixer to make this bread. I will definitely try that when I make this at home.
The recipe makes 4 loaves of bread that’s approximately 25cm long.
Ingredients for the bread:
- 375g of T65 flour (or bread flour)
- 125g of rye flour
- 130g of the sponge
- 10g of salt
- 320g of water
- 10g of fresh yeast
- 100g dried figs marinated in syrup and cut into small pieces
- 50g chopped walnuts
Ingredients for the marinated figs:
- 100g of dried figs
- 100g of water
- 100g of sugar
- 6g of balsamic vinegar
Ingredients for the sponge:
- 250g of T65 flour or bread flour
- 105g of water
- 5g of salt
- 2g of fresh yeast
Method for preparing the figs
- In a small pot, boil the water and sugar at medium heat until the sugar melts.
- When the sugar has melted, add the balsamic vinegar. Turn off heat. Add the figs and stir to mix. Add a piece of parchment paper on top of the figs. Turn back on the heat and let simmer at low heat for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and let the figs soak in the liquid for 3 hours.
Method for preparing the sponge (need to be prepared a day before you make the bread)
- Mix all the ingredients together in a big bowl (preferably in a glass bowl. Avoid any reactive materials such as metal). Let the mixture sit overnight in the fridge and can be used after 12 hours. Any leftover sponge can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Method for the bread
- Combine the rye flour and T65 flour.
- Pour the flour mixture onto your work station and form a circle with a deep well in the centre. Place the fresh yeast on one side of the well and salt in another. DO NOT let the salt and yeast get in contact as the salt will deactivate the yeast. Pour the water into the well and use your fingers to rub the yeast into the water. Slowly and gently incorporate the water and the flour. When the flour and water starts to come together, use a bench scraper to cut into the dough then bring it together as shown below.
- When the water and flour has formed a sticky dough, start kneading the dough using the fold and slap method by lifting up the dough, slap it against the work station and fold the ends of the dough. Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat. You can get a better visual from the Youtube video at the bottom of this post.
- Keep kneading using this method until the dough forms a relatively smooth dough as shown below. It will not be too smooth as it has rye flour. It took me 10 minutes to get to this stage.
- Weigh 200g of the dough. For the remaining dough, add the walnuts and knead it into the dough. Once the walnuts are incorporated, add the figs and knead into the dough. The figs will make the dough quite wet so will need to apply the fold and slap method to knead it for another 3-5 minutes.
- Roll the dough into a ball. Wrap them with cling wrap and let proof at room temperature (around 24C) for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, divide the 200g dough into four 50g portions and roll them into balls. Place them on a baking sheet. Cover with cling wrap and let it proof again at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- For the big dough (with the figs and walnuts), divide it evenly into 4 portions and roll them into balls. Cover with cling wrap and let it proof again for 30 minutes.
- After second proofing, take out the big dough and for each one, flour your hands and work station. Place the dough on to the work station, flatten the dough with your fingers, fold 1/3 inwards (like folding a letter), then the other 1/3 inwards. Bring the corners to the centre and shape each one as shown below. Each bread roll should be between 21-23cm long. Repeat with the remaining 3 balls of dough. Place them onto a baking sheet and cover with cling wrap. Let it proof for the third time at room temperature for 45 minutes.
- For the 4 small balls, roll them each into oval shape measuring the same length as your bread rolls. The width should be approximately 10cm and 3mm thick. Repeat with the other 3 portions. Place on a baking sheet and put into a freezer. If you don’t have enough space in your freezer, you can stack them up and a piece of parchment paper to separate each one. Leave in freezer until the 4 sheets of dough hardens (approximately 15 minutes).
- Preheat your oven to 250C.
- Once the 4 sheets of dough have hardened, remove from freezer and use a small round cutter to cut around it into a big leaf shape. Repeat for the other 3 sheets of dough. Brush around each leaf with some olive oil. Set aside.
- After the dough from step 9 has proofed for 45 mins, spray it with some water. Place each leaf on top of each of the dough with the side with the olive oil facing downwards. Lightly sift each one with some flour. Use a sharp knife, run it down the middle (but do not cut through the dough) of the leaf and carve some patterns.
- Bake the rolls for 18minutes at 250C. Cool and serve.
p.s. The shaping of the bread is very time consuming but the end product is so worth the effort. If you don’t want to go through the hassle, you can simply shape them into bread rolls at step 9. Proof for 45 minutes and bake. If you don’t want to knead by hand, you can use a standing mixer as Chef said it works just as well.
Here’s a Youtube video showing the slap and fold method: