Fig and toasted hazelnut wholemeal bread

Quite the name of today’s bake, eh? It makes it seem really complicated, but a quick read-through doesn’t scare me, so it must be okay.

As I mentioned last week, I purchased hazelnuts for the first time, and I purposefully purchased (say that ten times fast) extra hazelnuts for this bake.

There’s a second ingredient in here, though, that I also have never purchased before: figs.

I’m not sure how I feel about figs, if I’m honest. I think I’ve had them once, and it was such a different texture that I didn’t know what my reaction was. So I wasn’t even sure where to go find “soft-dried figs,” which is why I asked my sister, who was the person who gave me my first aforementioned fig.

Her answer? Costco. So not only do I get a bargain, but I also get them in bulk which means I really better like dried figs.

Before we get to the bread, though, we need to start with the hazelnuts.

I purchased a bag of hazelnuts with skins on. This recipe calls for hazelnuts without skins on them. Another term for that? Blanched. But just like I have never had cause to purchase figs and hazelnuts, I have never had cause to blanche. To blanch? To Blanche Devereaux. (Full disclosure: I had to google her last name because I have never seen Golden Girls. But I really want to! Just never got around to it. They should put it on Netflix.)

Back to the nuts.

Mary and Paul do not inform me how to actually do the blanching of the hazelnuts, so I googled it and found two options. Option 1: You roast them and then rub them with a tea towel but this (a) takes forever and (b) ruins a tea towel. Option 2: You boil them with baking soda for three minutes and run them under cold water one at a time. No ruined towels? Quick and painless? I opt for the latter.

Slightly steamy work. It looks like an ’80s music video.

The google result that told me how to do this (I want to say it was FineCooking.com) said to boil them for three minutes and then check one. It also said to watch that it doesn’t boil over and also that the water will turn black.

Which seems ominous.

And it is:

After three minutes, I scooped one out with a spoon, ran it under cold water and voilà!

So easy!

And it was. But it got a little tedious around the 20th hazelnut. Especially since my colander was full of hazelnut skins and it took a while doing one at a time. But if Mary and Paul want blanched nuts, they’ll get blanched nuts.

After drying them and popping them into a parchment lined dish, I started the actual recipe and popped them in the oven to toast.

*six to eight to 10 minutes later*

Mary and Paul wanted these to turn a light golden brown but as usual I could not tell if they changed colour. Even when I held up the photo beside the dish, I had a hard time believing they had tanned.

But I didn’t want to burn them so I took them out to cool.

With the hazelnuts ready, I could prep the figs.

Mary and Paul tell me to snip the woody stalks before cutting the large ones into eight pieces and the smaller ones into six.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m unfamiliar with figs but I did manage to find the woody stalks. Some were a little hidden since these dried figs were almost folded in on themselves, but I did it!

Figs are odd.

Like really, what are they?

They have a lot of seeds, I noticed as I cut them up.

Not sure how I’ll fold these and the hazelnuts in, but I’ll cross that bridge when the dough is actually made.

Next up, the actual dough.

Mary and Paul require a mix of wholemeal flour and white bread flour.

Three hundred and fifty grams of each.

Which is quite a bit.

Then I was supposed to add only 10 grams of salt, but I may not have kept a close eye on the scale and ended up adding 15 grams. But maybe that’s okay if the figs are sweet. Are they sweet? They must be.

Then I added the yeast, only seven grams of it, which doesn’t seem like a lot for two loaves.

I made sure to put it on the opposite side of the bowl.

Then I mixed it thoroughly with a whisk, since my dough hook is unreliable.

Then, with minimal hope, I put the bowl in my KitchenAid and got a-mixin’ as I slowly poured in lukewarm water.

The recipe says that I may need more or less than 500 ml to make a smooth but not sticky dough, but as I was adding the water, I could still see flour crumbs at the bottom of the bowl, so I ended up adding all of the water and making a slightly sticky dough.

But it wasn’t that sticky and I figured I could knead in some more flour to smooth it out.

But first I had to let it rest for five minutes “so the flours can become fully hydrated.” Whatever that means. Just following your instructions, Mary and Paul.

*five minutes later*

They then tell me to rub a teaspoon of olive oil (or the unfortunately named rapeseed oil) onto my hands before turning it onto a lightly oiled surface and kneading for 10 minutes. However, I didn’t read that and wanted to add some more dough, as I mentioned, so I put it onto a lightly floured surface instead.

And then I kneaded for 10 minutes.

As I’ve mentioned in other bread posts, kneading can be a very therapeutic process. It’s not nearly as comforting as melting chocolate, but it’s a way to work out some stress. However, when you’re tired, 10 minutes also becomes an impossibly long amount of time. I kneaded for 20 minutes and realized it had only been two. I could’ve switched to the bowl and dough hook but I wanted to work out some stuff as I worked out some dough.

Stress needs an outlet.

About halfway through the kneading, I decided to try a new technique: slamming the dough onto the counter.

Speaking of therapeutic.

After 10 minutes of stress reduction, I began to add the fixin’s.

Starting with the hazelnuts that I chopped with a food process to avoid little nut marbles rolling around my kitchen floor.

And then, a little bit at a time, I added the hazelnuts and figs.

It took a while.

The figs were sticky and the nuts were a little sharp, but I did it!

And nothing will ever be as bad as the cherry loaf.

With everything kneaded in, I was to split the dough into two equal chunks.

I got fairly close with the first cut but had to even it out by like 15 grams.

Then Mary and Paul wanted me to “shape each piece into an oval about 22 x 12 cm,” so I did just that.

And yes I did measure it.

With those shaped and measured, even though I’m not supposed to make them perfect because this can be a rustic loaf, I put them on a baking sheet each and slipped them into clean garbage bags.

And let them rise for about an hour.

*about an hour later*

Now, Mary and Paul say nothing about cutting the tops of the loaves, but the photo has slices, so I sliced.

Now to bake it.

*15 minutes later*

After 15 minutes, I’m to reduce the heat and bake for another 20 minutes until the bread sounds hollow when tapped.

But here’s what happened: I forgot to set the timer.

So I had to do a lot of checking and guessing and guessing and checking.

And when I started to smell burning, I took out the loaves, flipped them carefully without burning my fingers and tap-tap-tapped.

And then I decided they were done.

Not bad. They smell great. But they’re a little flat.

I regret making sure they were 22 x 12 cm. I should’ve made them look like loaves, rustic as they are.

But in the end I did not care because I sliced off an end of the freshly baked, warm bread, smeared on some soft butter, and complimented myself out loud.

Several times.

All of my reservations about figs were for naught. Dried figs in bread is like having jam in bread. Amazing. I’ll be making this one again. Maybe with walnuts next time.

Mmm yes indeed.

Success!

*the next day*

I was going to just bring one loaf to work because I don’t know how many people will want to eat bread. I assumed most people would want cakes and biscuits and pastries, but I thought it’d be better to be safe than sorry, so I brought both.

But how do you transport bread loaves?

In a basket? In a container? In a plastic bag?

How about burrito-wrapped in a tea towel? Gloria Pritchett would be proud.

Also that bread was gone. All but two slices made it to the end of the day, and even those disappeared without much effort.

People loved it! One person even said it tasted professional.

Consider this one great, my friends.

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