Hello, folks, and a Happy Saturday to you! It’s been a while since my last baking recipe, and this one is a favourite!
I love to bake (and eat) bread; kneading dough has a therapeutic effect on me, the aroma of bread baking in the oven gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling, and there are few pleasures in life as great as chewing on a slice of warm bread, fresh out of the oven. When I bake something, I usually wait to eat together with my husband, but bread is an exception to this rule. As soon as it is out of the oven, my first order of business is to cut myself a slice; there is almost nothing in the world that tastes better than freshly baked bread!
This bread is a slightly sweet brioche and perfectly complements the tart, yet sweet, filling. The recipe for the dough is not my own; it was adapted from Handimania’s Nutella Star Bread recipe, which is absolutely delicious (not to mention gorgeous!). Check out her recipe here. I have also made this recipe with a savoury chicken filling in the past; you are limited only by your imagination as far as the filling is concerned!
You will need:
For the bread dough:
- Flour – 3 cups
- Sugar – 1/3 cup
- Active dried yeast – 2 tsp
- Salt – pinch
- Oil – 2 tbsp
- Milk, lukewarm – 3/4 cup
- Egg yolks – 2 (reserve whites for egg wash)
For the filling:
- Dried figs – 2 cups (about 15-16)
- Walnuts – 1 cup
1. In a saucepan, warm the milk to 30ºC (around 85F) and add in 1 tbsp of sugar and the yeast. Stir to mix, then take off the heat and let sit for about 15 minutes to activate the yeast.
2. Sift flour through a sieve, then combine flour with sugar and salt in a large bowl.
3. Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Add the egg yolks to a separate bowl, then add in oil and the milk-yeast mixture.
4. Add in wet ingredients to the bowl containing the dry ingredients. Mix with a wooden spoon until it comes together. Knead for about 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and just a little sticky. Cover the bowl with a tea towl or plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place for about an hour or until double in volume.
5. In the meantime, chop the dried figs and walnut pieces (if using whole nuts). Place them together in a food processor and pulse until they are throughly chopped & combined. The figs will form a somewhat sticky mixture with the nuts. I like the slightly tart taste of the figs and do not find it necessary to add sugar.
6. Once the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down. Knead it a couple of times, and then roll it out into a rectangle about ¼-inch thick. Using the back of a knife, mark out the width of the dough into thirds, as pictured on the left below. The stuffing will go in the middle section, and the two sides will be braided.
Next, cut strips about half to three-quarters of an inch thick on either side (pictured on the right above). I made cuts going down, but this is not necessary. At the bottom, cut out a small v-shaped piece on either side. Reserve the pieces.
7. Place the walnut-fig mixture in the middle strip. To begin braiding, place the v-shaped pieces you cut out in Step 6 over the filling at the top, as shown below:
Next, fold the top of the dough over the filling and the v-shaped pieces to round off the top, and begin braiding. To braid, bring a strip from the left over to the right, covering the filling. Repeat on the right side. Alternate sides until all the filling is covered. When you reach the bottom of the loaf, fold the bottom of the middle strip over the filling to round it out. Continue braiding until you are out of strips on the sides, tucking in the last few strips under the loaf. As the dough rises for a second time and bakes, this will all merge into the base of the loaf.
You can choose to leave it as a long braided loaf, or join the two ends of the loaf to make a circular braid as shown below. Cover this with a tea towel or plastic wrap, and let rise for about 30 minutes.
8. Preheat your oven to 180ºC (350F). You can use an egg wash to make the loaf glossy and brown. To do this, mix the reserved egg whites with a little splash of milk or water. Brush this mixture on the suface of the loaf. Bake for 20 minutes. Once out of the oven, brush the top of the loaf lightly with some melted butter or oil to keep it from drying out. Immediately cut out a slice and enjoy the goodness!