This past summer at the Cambridge School for Culinary Arts‘ Alumni Barbecue, an odd thing happened: Someone put my name in the raffle bowl instead of their own. I have a hunch I know who this person was and I’d like to thank them officially now because the prize I won as a result made this absolutely delicious bread possible.
Cook book author Nick Malgieri is a guest instructor and lecturer at the CSCA (where I studied and now teach) and the prize I won was a signed copy of his book, The Modern Baker. I have to say this is one of those books I would not have bought myself because I would have thought of all the trouble I’d have to go through just to convert his recipes to diary-free and lower sugar to suit my taste, without knowing if the results would be worthwhile. So far my experience with the book has been that it does have some recipes that can be altered with good results, and while I wouldn’t recommend it to a beginner baker wanting to make dairy-free or vegan treats, I do think it has great tips and beautiful pictures and instructions. This bread, filled with flavors and textures, is going to become a staple for us. It is perfect toasted with a little butter or margarine and would be very tasty with some mild cheese as well.
Fennel Fig and Almond Bread adapted from The Modern Baker
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed (I used a wooden cutting board and a heavy knife)
6 Tbs Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks, or any non-hydrogenated margarine
1/2 cup sugar (I use organic dehydrated cane juice)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup soy milk
1 1/2 cups (8-9 oz) stemmed, diced, white or back dried figs
4 oz (1 loosely packed cup) slivered almonds, toasted
one 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan, greased and bottom lined with greased parchment paper, cut to fit
Set rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 F
Combine the flours, baking powder, salt and crushed fennel seeds in a medium bowl and stir well to mix.
In a large bowl (or bowl of a mixer) beat the margarine until smooth then beat in the eggs one at a time.
Beat half the flour mixture into the butter and egg mixture, then gently beat in the milk about 1/2 at a time. Beat in remaining flour mixture, being careful not to overmix. Use a rubber spatula to fold in figs and almonds.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake bread until it is well risen and a toothpick or narrow knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about one hour.
Cool the bread in the pan on rack for 5 minutes, then unmold it and cool on rack completely.