Fig and Anise (and kefir) Sourdough

This was for a friend from the south of France. I figured he would like anise (although that was a bit of a gamble, since anise is something you either like or hate). Turns out he was fine with anise but couldn’t take figs on account of his kidney stones (who knew figs are high in oxalic acid?!?) I love anise-flavoured breads, actually anise-flavoured anything, and Farine MC’s fig and anise wholewheat loaf has been on my list for the longest time. But I did not have cracked wheat grains, so I turned to another source: Phil’s recipe on TFL, figuring it must work like a charm, and adapted it to what I had on hand.

Fig and Aniseed Sourdough (adapted from PiP’s blog on TFL)
Levain
25g            Starter
50g            T65 flour
29g            Water
A pinch of salt

I left to ferment at room temp overnight, but made sure that my starter and water were fridge cold, to slow things down a bit. Nonetheless, by early morning, my leaven was raring to go.

Final dough
81.5g           Levain
410g            T65 flour
50g             Whole rye flour
[original recipe calls for 393g bread flour and 70g spelt]
140g            Dried figs [original recipe: 188g]
7g             Aniseed, toasted
356g            Water [hold back 25g to add if necessary]
9g             Salt

Phil does a very long autolyse, then adds the levain etc.
I use my usual method of an hour-long-or-so autolyse with flour, water and levain. I took advantage of the fact that the mixer was out to use it, instead of mixing and kneading by hand.
I folded in the figs and aniseed during the first fold. A couple more folds, then a rather short first proof before shaping.
My second proof was also shorter than usual (running late!!) and that accounted for the massive oven spring.

* I used less figs than called for because I simply couldn’t squeeze them in any more! These very moist dried figs (not the very dried ones you can buy lined up in a flat box) are like dates; they simply disappear into the dough! Next time I’ll chop them up into slightly smaller pieces and add the full amount called for.
* The quantity of aniseed is spot on—present but not overwhelming.

Barely was the bread baked that I had to whisk it out of the house. It rode on a trivet in the car. Which is a good thing otherwise I might have burnt my arms carrying it.

Image

The travelling bread on a trivet enjoying the view.

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Unceremoniously plonked next to the bonsai.

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Last time poor bread was seen intact.

Wish I had a crumb shot of the loaf but I think I would have gotten weird looks from our friend. It was so amazingly tender and cake-like and open. Like a “gateau,” exclaimed the recipient. We made short work of this bread that, embarrassingly, was supposed to last him for a few days. I’m really wondering if it isn’t the effect of the water kefir because the last sweet potato hazelnut loaf also had a beautifully soft and moist crumb. Experiments are in order.

Wonderful bread with just the right amount of aniseed flavor. We also paired it with goat’s cheese, and two days later, I had it dipped in olive oil. The combination of mellowed anise flavor and a very good olive oil was a revelation.

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Small loaf carved out of the big batard, for tasting purposes.

 

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