Fig and Hazelnut Levain Bread and a Fig Salad

Fresh figs are one of my favorite fruits to eat. I so look forward to finding them in the markets. When you happen to have fresh black Mission figs and some moist dried figs on hand, you’ll have a party with them. Meanwhile, make a fig and hazelnut levain bread and serve up a fresh fig salad. It’s all about the sweet, cool and versatile figs.

The fig and hazelnut levain bread dough is 20% (of total flour weight) whole wheat made with a stiff mature culture. By its name, you can almost taste the deliciousness of the components. The recipe is adapted from Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman. This time, Hamelman goes further. He injects a small amount of anise seed to enliven the sweetness of the dried figs (18%) and the nutty notes of the roasted hazelnuts (18%). The smell of the freshly ground star anise is bright and appetizing. (I left it hang out on counter and infuse the kitchen with its warm aroma.) Furthermore, he concentrates the sweetness of the bread by suggesting adding a small percentage of yeast to remove the acidity.

A fig salad goes perfectly with the bread.

As much as you think dough hydration is relatively low at 70%, the stiff levain makes it sticky and tight as you stretch it out. Bulk fermentation takes about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Fold only halfway through. After dividing and shaping, the final rest takes 1 1/2 to 2 hours. I made two loaves, one round and one oval, weighing about 2 lb. each. They fit perfectly in the round and oval Dutch ovens I have. Finally, bake in the preheated 460°F oven.

For the fig salad, the first step is to make the salad dressing. The key ingredients are: Dijon mustard, honey, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. I massaged baby kale leaves with the honey mustard dressing. Lastly, put the salad greens on the plate and layer fresh figs and rolled prosciutto pieces on top. The salad is a delicious accompaniment to the smooth and barely noticeable licorice-flavored fig hazelnut levain bread.

What I’ve also discovered is how much I like the crunchiness of the crust when I reheated the bread (one I froze earlier) in the convection steam oven. (There are inexpensive countertop versions of convection steam oven available.)

This is the bread reheating setting which have worked well for me: steam at 212°F for 7 minutes, then convection roast at 320° with 20% humidity for 35 minutes. The timing may differ depending on the size of the bread. The bread usually goes directly from the freezer into the cold oven. In the end, you get a crusty warm bread that tastes like it is, or better than, freshly baked.

This post is also linked to the Freshloaf.


Crumb shot of the fig hazelnut bread

fif hazelnut bread

Freshly baked slice

Fig hazelnut levain bread

Lovely crunch of a reheated slice


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