Even though I wasn’t exactly sure of what this recipe would produce, I completely trusted that it would be good. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be like a pound cake or more like a loaf of chewy raisin bread, but since Maida Heatter said it is “old-fashioned and kind-of-healthy-tasting… this is wonderful as a coffee cake” I wanted to try it. It’s from Maida Heatter's Cakes, and if Maida has included a recipe in one of her books, you know it’s well-tested and worth making. This fig bread is made with dried figs, of course, white and whole wheat flour, honey, buttermilk, just a half a stick of butter, and some walnuts. There’s no refined sugar or eggs, and that’s what caused my uncertainty about it. When I cut a slice of the bread, I discovered it was sweet from the honey and figs, but not too sweet, and tasted more decadent than expected for a whole wheat loaf. Maida suggests serving the fig bread plain or toasted, which she notes is “super,” or with butter, cheese, honey, or marmalade. I agree that it is super toasted and enjoyed it on its own with either no other adornment or just a thin coating of butter.
There’s always something interesting in Maida’s instructions. Here, to prepare the loaf pan, she recommends buttering the pan and then dusting it with wheat germ for a brown crust, oatmeal for a chewy crust, or dry bread crumbs. I went with wheat germ, and the crust was nicely browned. To start the bread, white flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda were combined, and whole wheat flour was added and mixed to combine. Dried figs that had been stemmed and chopped were tossed in the dry ingredients to coat. In a separate bowl, honey, buttermilk, and melted butter were mixed, and toasted, chopped walnuts were added. The wet ingredients were folded into the dry ingredients, the batter was poured into the wheat germ-dusted pan, and it baked for about an hour.
As a reward for trusting the recipe, I got a fruit- and nut-filled bread that was perfect for breakfast. It wasn’t too rich or heavy, and it packed enough flavor of its own that toppings weren’t even necessary. It’s rare that I dive into a recipe without a pretty good idea of the outcome, but in this case, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed.