Dan Leader’s Fig and Cognac Bread

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As I continue baking my way through Dan Leader’s Bread Alone, I’ve noticed a pattern in the breads I’ve flagged to try out.  For the most part, they’re all very dense and have either fruit, cheese or other mix-ins.  In my defense, most of Leader’s breads are like that.  But I also think the middle of winter calls for homey, rich and luxurious breads to match.  I flagged nine recipes and this is number eight.  The first was Pain Normand made with apples and cider, and you can check it out here.img_5996

My reading comprehension is always fairly low the first time I try a recipe from a different author.  The Pain Normand was no exception.  This time I tried to stick to the original instructions as much as possible.dsc03632

There was one important change I made to this recipe: I excluded the hazelnuts because 1) I didn’t have any on hand, and 2) little bread dude is allergic to tree nuts.  Now, sometimes I’ll just tell him not to eat any of whatever it is that has nuts in it.  But because, again, I didn’t have any, I just decided to omit them.  I do love hazelnuts though and I bet they’d be really good here.

For this recipe (makes two loaves) you will need:dsc03638

for the poolish:

1/2 cup water

1/2 teaspoon yeast

1/2 cup AP flour

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

to reconstitute the dried fruit:

1 cup chopped dried figs (I included a mix of figs, dates and prunes)

2 tablespoons cognac or armagnac

for the final dough:

1/2 teaspoon yeast for the final dough

1 tablespoon salt

1 cup cracked wheat (or ground wheat berries, bran or germ, or other coarse grain)

5-6 cups 60/40 mix of AP flour and whole wheat flour.  I alternated cups of each type of flour

  1. mix together the chopped dried figs and cognac in a small bowl.  Let sit for eight hours or overnight.dsc03634
  2. mix together the ingredients for the poolish and let sit until risen and bubbly, between 2 and 10 hours (in our fairly cool kitchen in wintertime it took five hours)
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    how the poolish looked in the morning

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    How the poolish looked in the afternoon

  3. mix together the poolish, 2 1/2 cups of water, and 1/2 teaspoon yeast.  Stir to break up the poolish.  Now add the salt, 1 cup cracked wheat and 1 cup of your 60/40 mix and stir to combine.
  4. Continue adding flour, one cup at a time, until the dough is very stiff.dsc03638
  5. Transfer your dough to a lightly floured counter and knead for 10 minutes, adding just a little flour if the dough starts sticking to the counter.dsc03639
  6. Cut up the dough into chunks and knead in the dried fruit.  The reason I say cut up the dough first is that it breaks up the gluten strands so the fruit is easier to mix in.dsc03640dsc03641
  7. Transfer to a large bowl and let rise 2-3 hours.  dsc03642
  8. deflate the dough and let rise 30 minutes, then divide and shape the dough into two boules. Transfer each boule so it is smooth side down into a floured banneton, willow basken, or napkin in a small bowl.  Let rise an additional 1.5 to 2 hours.img_6013
  9. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F with a cast iron dutch oven inside.  Transfer your dough to the dutch oven so the smooth side is now facing up and the seam is on the bottom.  Score the top of your dough and cover the dutch oven and bake 15 minutes.  Then bump the temperature down to 375 for 15 minutes with the lid on, then remove the lid and bake for fifteen minutes more.  Remove the bread from the oven and let cool completely, several hours or overnight.img_6014IMG_6016.JPGThis bread was the perfect sweetness, and great for toast spread with peanut butter or regular butter.  I’ll definitely make it again.  My family was really impressed with this one.  Next up… dark pumpernickel with raisins!

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