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Fig and walnut bread is a superb addition to any cheeseboard.
Walnuts, with their slightly bitter notes, and the sweet-sour flavour of dried figs are both good companions to cheese.
Cheddar's nutty, fruity flavor is the perfect foil for this bread and with blue cheese it is heavenly.
Studded with fruits and nuts, flavoured with honey and spices, this is delicious fare.
No fancy frostings or creamy fillings, it is plain but classy.
It cuts well and keeps well, mellowing and darkening to aromatic richness.
I love a slice or two at any time and it does not need buttering.
Quick fruit and nut breads are a cross between cakes and yeast-risen breads but with a texture more like a cake than a bread.
They are often called fruit loaves. Leavened with baking powder and/or baking soda, they are quick because there is no kneading and no waiting for the dough to rise.
The ingredients are mixed briefly then baked.
However, the preparation of the fruit does take a little time.
I prefer to bake this in a ring tin. Cooked in a loaf tin the corners dry out a little and there is a tendency for a slightly soggy middle.
The butter, honey, dried fruit and juice are heated together, either in a microwave or on the stove top.
The fruits plump up beautifully, absorbing some of the fragrant soaking liquid.
It is very important that this mixture is cooled almost completely before continuing with the recipe.
Use kitchen scissors to easily chop the dried fruit into small pieces.
Fig and walnut bread
100g dried figs, chopped
90g pitted dried dates, choppped
40g pitted prunes, chopped
30g butter140g honey - thyme and manuka are both good
grated zest of one orange
150ml orange juice
½ tsp baking soda
190g self-raising flour
1 tsp each ground cinnamon and ground allspice
1 small eating apple (150g), peeled, cored and grated
1 large egg, size 7, lightly beaten
80g shelled walnuts, chopped
Choose a medium-sized heatproof bowl or a similar-sized saucepan, depending on whether you are heating the fruit mixture in the microwave or on the stove top.
Combine the figs, dates, prunes, butter, honey, orange zest and juice in a bowl or saucepan. If microwaving, cover the bowl with cling film. Heat until the butter has melted and the liquid is hot but not boiling. In a microwave this takes about 1 minute 50 seconds on high. Add the baking soda and stir. It will froth up. Set aside to cool until lukewarm.
Heat the oven to 180degC.
Line the base of a 20cm ring tin with baking paper and lightly oil the sides.
Combine the flour, cinnamon and allspice, stir and set aside.
To the cooled fruit mixture add the grated apple, beaten egg and walnuts. Stir to combine.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, pour in the fruit mixture and stir briefly until barely combined. Do not overmix.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the heated oven for 40-50 minutes or until a skewer poked in the middle comes away clean. Do not overcook.Cool in the tin on a wire rack. Turn out when cold. Wrap in tinfoil or cling film and store in a cool place.
If possible, leave for 24 hours before slicing as it is easier to slice when firm. The bread will keep for more than a week if stored in an airtight container in a cool place. Cut into slices about 1.5cm thick. Cuts into approximately 40 slices.