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Fancy Fig Bread

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. soda
1 (9-oz.) package dried California figs, stemmed and chopped

1 cup chopped hazelnuts or other nuts
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 cup milk or plain yogurt
1/2 cup light or dark molasses or honey

   This easy bread uses the muffin method, meaning you mix the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients separately, then together. The secret to success is to mix just enough to moisten the dry ingredients—no more than 25 strokes or stirs. Bake the bread a day in advance then wrap the cooled loaf in plastic wrap until ready to enjoy; the flavors blend as it stands. Cut slices with a long, serrated knife and serve with butter or whipped cream cheese. Opt for either dried California Black Mission figs or the lighter colored Calimyrna—the choice is yours. Either variety adds wonderful flavor, texture, and moisture. Select light or dark molasses or honey as the sweetener, depending on your preference. Using molasses results in a rich, dark bread. The honey (historically a longtime a companion of figs) makes a lighter-colored bread. Add nuts, if you wish, but you’ll find the crisp and crunchy fig seeds add plenty of texture.

   Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan or generously butter bottom and sides of pan and then dust with flour. In large mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and soda. Stir in figs and nuts. In medium mixing bowl or 1-quart measure, beat eggs, oil, milk, and molasses or honey until blended. Pour egg/milk mixture into flour mixture and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened, no more than 25 strokes. Turn into prepared loaf pan and spread batter evenly. Bake until thin metal or wood skewer comes out clean, about 55 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool in pan 5 minutes, then loosen edges with tip of sharp knife. Turn out onto wire rack to cool completely. Wrap cooled bread in plastic wrap to retain moisture. Makes 1 (9x5x3-inch) loaf, 12 to 16 slices.

 


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