Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Fig Anise Bread 1.0 notes

After finally producing a decent basic hearth bread, I decided to venture into the forbidden territory of baking improvisation. My goal was to try to recreate fig anise bread from Sel de la Terre in Boston.

Warning: These are just notes to myself so that I remember what to do next time. No story or recipe this time. Sorry.

I used Jason's basic hearth bread 2.1 with the following modifications:
  • Trimmed and halved 9 oz (255 g) California figs. Soaked in 1 cup hot water for 30 minutes, stirring once. Drained and squeezed and used this fig infused liquid as part of the water for the dough. I had to add more water to give me 1 3/4 cup necessary.
  • Added 2 tsp anise seed to dry ingredients before adding liquid and making dough. Proceeded to make the dough and knead as usual. When the dough was thoroughly kneaded, I added the figs (folded them into several business letter turns). This was a little tricky because they were big and kept falling out, but finally I got them all smooshed in.
  • Rises were on the long side.
    • 3 hrs at room temp, plus overnight in fridge for the first rise
    • Fridge overnight, plus 3 hours at room temp for the second rise
    • Proofed for 3 hours because I was worried it was having a hard time rising with all those figs. Jason thought such long rises and proofs were not necessary and next time I'll try something more reasonable.
  • I messed up the baking temp slightly. Preheated the oven to 450F and only after I put in the bread, I realized it should have been 475F, so I turned it up. After 12 minutes, reduced to 400F, opened the door to let out steam, and baked another 22 minutes. Internal temp was 205F.
This is going to sound strange, but we loved this bread on the second day and thought it was just ok on the first day. The amount of figs was very substantial, which was yummy, but next time I could reduce it a bit to make figs easier to incorporate. Anise was subtle and not overpowering. Could try going a little higher next time, but I liked it this time just fine.

The main problem was the crust. It came out too dark and tasted slightly burnt, but was still soft and not crispy. There was also a slightly bitter aftertaste, which we assumed was due to the burnt crust. Surprisingly, this bitter aftertaste was not present in the loaf that we cut on the second day even though it looked just as dark (if not darker than the first). It also got a little more crusty than the first (maybe because it sat longer?). The second loaf was really outstanding, particularly with butter.

Ideas for next time:
Next time I should try starting at 450F for 12 minutes and then reducing to 375F until the bread is at 200F, then let it sit in a turned off oven with door ajar for 5-10 minutes. Rose says it helps it develop a crust. I tried it with Jason's regular recipe and it came out almost too crusty (though it might have been high baking temperature). I didn't do it this time, but it's definitely worth a shot.


Anonymous said...

Very nice!


Anonymous said...

yayy! baking improvisation! did you use dried figs?

Helen said...

yup, those are dry figs

Anonymous said...

I thought so, since you where useing California figs and soaking them.