The first recipe in the Modern Baker challenge is Fennel Fig and Almond Bread. While apparently the idea of this doesn’t appeal to everyone, being a big fan of figs, as well as fennel, I was pretty excited. (Dried figs are a big drain on my grocery budget, in fact). I usually just eat my figs straight and haven’t really cooked much with them. (I’ve seen tons of recipes that call for dried figs, but given that 10oz goes for at least 4$, I never found one that sounded better than eating them out of hand).
Step one is to crush the fennel. I got out my mortar and pestle, which made fairly easy work of that.
Then the figs are chopped.
Things then proceed rather typically for a quick bread. Being so accustomed to yeast-risen breads (not just the time required for rising but also the time spent kneading), for me, the rest of the process went really fast.
I have to say the batter (“bread” or not, it was more batter than dough) was not all that attractive right before it went in the oven.
But it took on a lovely brown hue in the oven.
Verdict: worth the figs! I don’t like all quick breads–oftentimes to me, they are overstuffed with too many pieces of fruit or nuts (or both), with a sort of cloyingly sweet, slightly damp and syrupy veneer in lieu of a crust.* (I know this might be strange, considering I wouldn’t say the same of coffee cakes or sweet rolls, and quick breads which essentially serve the same purpose). Maybe I’m just a “yeast” snob. This bread was only mildly sweet, and with much of it provided by the bursts of fig flavor, which I obviously liked. I think the fennel ensured the bread had some depth of flavor, rather than just a bland sweetness.
One question that arose as I made this–I noticed Nick Malgieri does not call for the eggs to be at room temperature (there’s nothing specified, in fact, regarding their temperature), which I am so accustomed to seeing. Is this part of being a “modern” baker? I have always understood that you can’t successfully cream butter and eggs when they are straight out of the fridge, but has NM figured out this is one of those steps that is not really necessary? Are we upending years of baking canon here?
*Actually the worst example of this to me is store-bought, processed muffins. What IS that?