Modern Baker Challenge: Fig and Almond Bread

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?


9 thoughts on “Modern Baker Challenge: Fig and Almond Bread

  1. Looks good! As for the eggs: I don’t know any German recipe that calls for eggs being at room temperature – this was absolutely new to me when I started using American recipes. And I always wondered what the reason was… My cakes have never failed, so I don’t think that step is really necessary.

  2. Maybe because I have always been modern (read: lazy) I have rarely let the eggs reach room temperature before using them, and I’ve rarely suffered as a result. Of course, I never really thought about it before I read this post, so maybe my baking will improve if I do this in the future.

    Also, I demand postings featuring my new nephew in his samurai suit. (I guess it might still be a little while before he can wear it, but judging by his size at birth, you better get him in there quick.)

  3. Pingback: The Modern Baker Challenge: Quick Breads – Cocoa Banana Muffins « Family & Food

  4. Pingback: The Modern Baker Challenge: Quick Breads – Fennel Fig & Almond Bread « Family & Food

  5. If a recipe does not call for eggs, at room temperature, I use them from the fridge.

    My husband loves quick breads but I make them gluten free for him. It should be interesting to see how this turns out, gluten free.

  6. We liked this…I sliced it thin and spread a little cream cheese, topped it with another slice, grilled it and then sliced it in “finger” shapes and they literally disappeared as fast as I was grilling them. I liked it in small amounts just plain as well. All your photos are so great and your bread looks wonderful!

  7. I made this although I made it gluten free. I baked it as soon as I joined and did not have the figs or fennel but I used raisins and figured it would have to do. It turned out beautifully except the nuts and raisins went to the bottom. That might be due to the use of different flours (rice, potato and tapioca). It was great, regardless.

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