Fig Stuffed Anise Sweet Bread is not only beautiful, it has an “how did you do that” look to it. Swirled into an easily made S shape it is a picture of old-world elegance. Not overly sweet, this large loaf of sweet bread is perfect with a cup of tea or coffee.
The shape of this bread is based on the Pane Bianco which is a savory stuffed Italian bread.
What I particularly like about this lightly sweetened dough is how luxuriously soft and velvety the dough feels. While slightly sticky when made, an overnight rest in the refrigerator makes it ideal to work. This is really important when it comes to the length to which the dough needs to be rolled. There is none of the dreaded spring-back so prevalent while rolling yeasted doughs. However, it is important to roll it the dimensions called for and pick the dough up from time to time as it will always shrink back slightly.
The anise flavoring is subtle even with the fig filling. If anise is not your cup of tea, it can be flavored with vanilla or orange or lemon rind.
The Fig Filling
I used Mission Figs for this Fig Stuffed Anise Sweet Bread for their depth of flavor in this easy to make filling. Below is just one of the brands available.
The dark figs come with their stems attached. Just cut them off at the top and they are ready to go into the processor. After quickly processing to chop them, the remaining ingredients are added and processed.
I remember when dried fruit was truly dry, always needing to be soaked. But nowadays, much of the dried fruit is moist and so much better and easier to work with. These Mission figs fall into that category. They don’t need to be soaked or otherwise prepared to use.
Shaping and Baking the Fig Stuffed Anise Sweet Bread
Although the shape looks complicated, it's really very easy to do. One long roll, sliced deeply with one side turned down and the up to make the S. That’s it.
I chose to finish the Fig Stuffed Anise Sweet Bread with Swedish Pearl Sugar to give it a bit of crunch. Sanding sugar can be used or it can simply be egg washed.
The Fig Stuffed Anise Sweet Bread is doubled panned when baked. Rich doughs that have egg and sugar can become overly browned on the bottom easily. By placing the pan with the sweet bread on a second pan, it will slow down the heat to the bottom preventing over browning or burning. It will increase the time slightly but the outcome will be much better.
While I have never gotten the hang of decoratively slashing loaves of bread, I do love to shape them and this loaf is appealing in more ways than one.
Fig Stuffed Anise Sweet Bread
- 3 ½ cups bread flour (490 grams or 17 ¼ ounces)
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted (60 grams, 2 ounces or 4 tablespoons)
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons anise extract
- ⅓ cup dark brown sugar (65 grams or 2 ¼ ounces)
- 7 ounces dried mission figs (200 grams)
- ⅓ cup +1 tablespoon dark brown sugar (75 grams or 2 ⅔ ounces)
- ¼ cup unsalted butter (60 grams, 2 ounces or 4 tablespoons)
- 2 teaspoon vanilla
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 egg, beaten
- Swedish pearl sugar or sanding sugar, optional
- Place the flour in a medium size bowl. Put the yeast on one side of the flour and the salt on the other. Set aside.
- In a mixing bowl fitted with a dough hook if possible, whisk the water, melted butter, eggs, anise extract, and brown sugar together.
- Add the flour to the bowl and mix on low until it comes together.
- Raise the speed to medium and mix for 3 to 4 minutes until smooth.
- Spray a bowl or container at least twice the size of the dough with a non-stick baking release. Put the dough in the container. covered with plastic wrap. I mark the time on the top of the lid.
- Let it rise until doubled, about 2 hours.
- Deflate the dough and place it in the refrigerator overnight where it will most likely rise again.
- Makes about 920 grams or 2 ¼ pounds.
- Fig Filling
- Remove the stems from the figs.
- Place in a processor bowl and process until finely chopped.
- Add the remaining ingredients except the water and process until smooth.
- Add the water to make a spreadable paste. It may need more depending upon how dry the figs were.
- Shaping and Finishing
- Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and deflate it if it has risen again.
- Place it on a lightly floured surface, shaping it into a rectangle.
- Roll into an 8 x 22 inch rectangle.
- Spread the fig filling to within 1” of the borders.
- Starting on the long side, roll tightly, jelly roll style.
- Brush the edge with water.
- Pinch the edge to seal it.
- Turn the roll over so it is smooth on top.
- With a pair of scissors, cut into the dough about 1” deep to within ½” of each end.
- Keeping the exposed cut on top, make an S shape by bending the top down to the middle of the roll.
- Tuck the end underneath.
- Bring the bottom of the dough up along the left side, tucking it underneath.
- Place the sweet bread in the pan on the parchment paper.
- Let rise until double.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- While the oven is preheating, brush the bread with egg wash.
- Sprinkle with Swedish pearl or sanding sugar.
- Double pan. Place the sheet pan on a second sheet pan.
- Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until deeply golden brown. A thermometer will read 190°F when placed in the thickest part of the bread.
- Cool completely on a rack.