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!
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:
And most importantly the filling is unique and delicious without being overly sweet or heavy. I used Sun-Maid California Mission Dried Figs 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.
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.
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.
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.
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