Fig and Walnut Bread

Sundays are for long walks with Marco and baking bread.  This morning there’s a distinct autumnal chill in the air.  It’s not quite hat weather but it’s not far off.  We’re heading to our favourite woods to chase pheasants (Marco) and pick mushrooms (me) and when we return, I’ll make my current favourite bread: Spelt, Fig and Walnut.

I’ve taken to kneading my bread by hand again.  For a while there, I was using a mixer to do all the work and a fine job it did of it too.  Missed the therapy of working the dough myself, though.  It feels oddly right now that those 15 minutes have returned to my Sunday routine.

Fig and Walnut Bread (Got the idea for this bread from the back of the Doves’ spelt flour package.  I’m not so keen on bread make entirely with spelt though.  This ratio was more to my liking.)

300ml tepid water

1 tspn dried active yeast

1 tspn brown sugar

150g spelt flour

350g strong white flour

1 tspn salt

6 dried figs

1 teabag

75g walnuts

A little oil

  • Add the yeast and sugar to the water and set aside for 10 mins.
  • Sift the flours and salt into a large bowl. Add the water and use your hand to mix to a rough dough.
  • Turn out on to a clean surface and knead for 10 – 15 minutes until dough is silky and pliable. Place in a lightly oiled plastic bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for an hour or two until doubled in size.
  • While dough is rising, briefly toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan then chop roughly. Soak the figs in hot tea for 30 mins, blot dry then chop roughly.
  • When dough is risen, tip on to a lightly floured surface and knock the air out. Stretch dough out into a flat rectangle and sprinkly across the nuts and figs.  Roll dough up then knead again for a couple of minutes until filling is evenly distributed and dough is holding together again (it’ll be a little tricky at first but it will happen).
  • Shape into a ball and place on lightly floured baking sheet. Cover ( I put a big plastic bowl upside-down over the dough) and leave to rest in a warm place for another hour.
  • Meanwhile, heat the over to 190oC. Make sure there is a baking tray heating on the shelf below the one you’ll put the bread on.
  • When the dough is risen, sprinkle with a little white flour then slash diagonally three times. Place in the oven.  Pour a cup of water into the hot baking tray then shut the door quickly.  This will create lots of steam to give you a good crust.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes. Bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  • Let cool completely before slicing.

Very good with some salty butter and/or sharp cheddar.

A Simple Onion Tart

Let’s ignore the fact that I’ve been gone for three months, shall we?  Yes?  Super.  Accept this cute photo of Marco as an apology and we can just move on.

In fact, let’s just continue where we left off and pretend the following promised recipe isn’t terribly, terribly overdue.  It’s a recipe for an onion tart.  It’s very simple but it’s very, very good.  We’re having it tonight with a lentil and greens salad (will share that soon too) and some rosemary bread.  And I’ll undoubtedly polish off the leftovers for breakfast tomorrow morning – this is not a dish that lasts long in our house!

Onion Tart

330g plain flour

½ tsp salt

75g cold salted butter

75g lard

Cold water

5 medium onions

Knob  of butter

Glug of olive oil

½ tspn dried thyme

50g parmesan cheese

150ml milk

150 ml double cream

2 medium eggs

  • Sift the flour and salt into a bowl.  Cut the butter into cubes and throw in the bowl.  Quickly and vigorously rub the fats into the flour.  Lift your hands high above the bowl to make sure the mixture remains airy.  When the flour and fat are combined and resemble breadcrumbs, begin to add the cold water.  Start with 30ml and mix in with a knife.  Add water tablespoon by tablespoon and mix until the mixture starts to come together.  Use your hands to create a smooth ball of pastry.  Place in a plastic bag and refrigerate for an hour.  (See Delia’s instructions for more detail.)  This makes more pastry than you’ll need.  I freeze the leftovers.
  • Meanwhile, slice the onions to 5mm thickness.  Melt the butter and oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat.  Add the onions and cook slowly.  When the onions begin to go translucent, add the dried thyme and continue cooking.  I like my onions to be soft and just starting to go golden, for a sweeter tasting tart, cook the onions until golden and caramelised.
  • In a jug, briefly whisk together the milk, cream and eggs with a little salt and pepper.
  • Roll the pastry out to the thickness of a pound coin (3mm?) and line a 23cm fluted tart tin with it.  Line with baking paper, add baking beans or dried chickpeas and blind bake for 25 mins in a 180oC oven. Remove the beans and paper and bake for a futher 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven.  Add the onions to the base of the tin and half of the cheese.  Pour over the milky/eggy mixture and top with the remaining cheese.  Bake in the oven for 30 mins.
  • Remove from oven when golden and set and let cool for 20 mins.  This tart is much taster when warm rather than hot.