Filed under: Babkas
April 7, 2021

Fig & Orange Swirled Bread

The softest challah flavored with orange and olive oil, and swirled with a fig and orange paste.

5 from 2 votes
Yield: 2 loaves
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The softest challah flavored with orange and olive oil, and swirled with a fig and orange paste. This bread is gently sweetened, the paste includes only figs and orange juice so it makes a wonderful addition to breakfast or brunch.


Fig Newtons® were the inspiration behind this lovely bread. One of my favorite (non-chocolate!) cookies. When I started working with these dried figs, I made a paste out of just orange juice and pureed figs, as you would for homemade fig newtons. But as soon as I tasted it I knew it had to be swirled into a bread that was light on the sugar but full of flavor. The freshly squeezed orange juice and dried figs are sweet enough to carry this filling without any added sugar. I foresee leftovers turning into fig french toast!


Orange Fig Bread made from a roux

I use the japanese tangzhong here which is simply cooking some of the flour and liquid together before the dough is made. It gelatinizes some of the gluten so that the bread stays very soft after baking and doesn’t dry up as quick (it is magic and it stays soft for days!). You’ve seen this dough recipe before in my milk bread babka, but I’ve made some modifications to this one in particular: 

  • Orange zest: complements the orange & fig filling and deepens the flavor 
  • Olive oil: I absolutely love pairing anything orange with olive oil, they just go so well together. This is no exception! 
  • All milk in the roux: I realized that this saved me the step of having to warm milk for the yeast. It works beautifully. 

And most importantly the filling is unique and delicious without being overly sweet or heavy. I used  here which have these tiny poppy-like seeds that give a little crunch with every bite. The filling is simple: figs & orange; it really doesn’t need any added sugar as it is wonderfully naturally sweet. This is the kind of bread that lends itself into any meal or tea-time, it’s so versatile and light. 





Getting that pretty swirl top design

Essentially to do this we’ll slice little logs, or tall rolls from the log and have them standing up in the loaf pan. The thinner you roll the dough on the longer side, the more swirls you’ll get on top. The thicker the fig paste inside, the darker the swirls will be. 


Ingredients for Fig & Orange Bread

Bread flour: bread flour lends a chewier texture to baked goods but if you don’t have it you may use an all-purpose flour (just be sure the protein content isn’t less than 10.5%). 

Instant yeast: You may use instant yeast, just reduce the yeast amount to 2 ½ teaspoons. 

Whole Milk: I’ve had many people successfully use 2% milk, soy or even a nut milk in place of the whole milk.

Olive oil: Olive and orange go together so well but if you need to use something else opt for a flavorless oil like canola or grapeseed.

Tips for an easy & successful bread bake 

  • Make sure your yeast is active: when you mix together the yeast, warm water and sugar the yeast will first dissolve and after a few minutes you’ll see a thick layer of foam which will keep growing the longer you leave it. It only needs to prove for 2-4 minutes. If you don’t see that layer, the yeast isn’t active and won’t work. 
  • Dough is easiest to work with when chilled. Do a first rise in the fridge the day before (so make the dough the night before) and you can begin working with it straight out of the fridge. Overnight it will double in size. 
  • Try to spread the fig paste in a thin, even layer, if you have big clumps of it they can create ‘caves’ in the loaf. 
  • If you have it, use a thermometer to check for doneness. It should register 190 when inserted into the center.


FAQ and Troubleshooting for Orange Fig Bread

 My dough didn’t rise 

If it didn’t foam in the proving step, the yeast was not fresh and should not have been used. If it foamed in the proving step it could be that the dough needed warmer temperatures to activate. 

The dough is too sticky 

This is a sticky dough and it’s what leads to a really soft and fluffy interior. Flour your countertops well when working with the dough. 

How do I know the dough is done with its second rise? 

Visual cues are your best bet here, the dough will have risen quite a bit (but not doubled) and will look quite puffy. 

How do I know when the bread is done baking? 

An instant read thermometer is best as it can tell you if the center of the loaf is done baking (should register 190 F). Visually, you’ll want to see the center risen above the ends and when you press it it should spring back. 

Can I bake these in a different shape? 

Absolutely. You can roll them up into a thick log and make a spiral, you could roll them into a thick log, slice it in half and wrap the halves around each other babka style. Also, if you like you can make them cinnamon roll style and all the rolls will fit in a 13×9 cake pan. 


Fig & Orange Bread

Soft orange bread with an orange and fig filling: a fig newton in bread form!
fig orange bread
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Yields: 2 loaves
5 from 2 votes


Orange Milk Bread

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • cup bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • ½ tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 450 grams bread flour
  • cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Zest of 1 orange

Fig & Orange Filling

  • 1 cup Sun-Maid Mission Dried Figs
  • ¾ cups orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch salt


Make the filling:

  • In a blender or food processor, blend the filling ingredients until they form a paste. Set in the fridge until it’s time to shape the breads.

Make the bread:

  • In a small pot, combine the ⅓ cup flour and 1 cup milk. Cook on medium for a few minutes, whisking constantly as it thickens and becomes a paste. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer.
  • Combine the yeast, water and ½ tablespoon sugar in a small bowl or cup and let the yeast prove. It should rise and foam.
  • Add the rest of the dough ingredients to the stand mixer bowl along with the yeast and fit it with the dough hook. Knead the dough on medium for about 7-10 minutes. It should be sticky but a bit firm. Transfer it to an oiled bowl and turn the dough a few times to cover it in oil. Wrap the bowl in plastic wrap and set in the fridge overnight.
  • The next day, prepare two loaf pans with a light layer of oil and some parchment paper.
  • Flour a countertop and turn the dough onto it. Halve it and roll each half out to about 12×20 inches. You want the shorter side to be about as long as your loaf pan. Spread some of the fig paste on the dough, in a thin, even layer. Roll up the dough into a log and use unflavored dental floss to slice the log into 3 inch long logs. Place them, swirl side up into the loaf pan. Repeat with other dough.
  • Set loaves in the microwave or a warm dry place for a second rise. They’ll take about 60-75 minutes, depending on the temperature of your kitchen. The loaves will have risen above the pan line and look puffy.
  • If the loaves were in the oven, remove them and preheat the oven to 375 F. Brush an eggwash on top of the loaves (1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon of water) and cover with foil to form a ‘tent’ to prevent them from overbrowning (but leave enough room at the top for the loaves to grow without touching the foil). When the oven is ready, place the loaves in and bake for 40-50 minutes, checking doneness with a thermometer if possible (should register 190 F).
  • The loaves are best straight out of the oven, when warm. Store in an airtight container. They can be rewarmed in the microwave.

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Recipe Reviews

  1. Yet another imaginative recipe, Sam! How I value your website.
    I will have to do this with fig jam because there are no figs here in the tropics.

  2. 5 stars
    Wonderful recipe but it would’ve been helpful to have it edited so the salt was included for the dough. I’ve just tasted mine and it’s quite bland aside from the parts with the filling. I don’t usually read comments on recipes so would’ve never seen it otherwise.

  3. Hi I just made the dough for this recipe and did not notice an amount for salt in the dough, is this correct? I did add 3/4 teaspoon salt to mine.

  4. 450 grams of bread flour? Recipe says cups – so either 4 1/2 cups or 450 grams but I’m. It sure what is meant.


  5. 5 stars
    Hola la receta me parece genial , tengo una duda en la cantidad de harina dice 450 TAZAS sera 4 tazas y media????? Gracias por su atención!