Fig and Walnut Malt Loaf

N: There is something old school about buying a packet of flour and trying the recipe printed on the packet. It feels like a young bird who has just flown the nest and is very eager to try out every new worm that promises increased vim. I bought this packet of Allinson Country Grain flour knowing very well that it is probably just another malted flour but, as any anthropological marketeer would have predicted, the very name country grain transported me to the barley fields of English countryside and I was eager to try out the recipe.

Malting is the process by which cereals are first germinated by soaking in water and then prevented from further germination by drying. It is the starting point of beers and is also found in malt drinks such as Horlicks. This country grain has malted barley and wheat grains mixed with wheat and rye flour.

This is a lovely light summer breakfast bread but you can also have it with a light summer soup.

– Start with  500 gm of the flour, 7 gm of yeast and 7 gm of salt in a mixing bowl.

– This flour mixture will need about 300 ml of water but the exact quantity of water may vary with the flour strength. The general rule of thumb is 50 ml of water for 100 gm of white flour or 60 ml of water per 100 gm of wholemeal flour.

– To enhance the taste of malt the recipe calls for malt yeast extract. Malt extract is the dark syrup that is the end product of a process called mashing of malted grains. The syrup is one step closer to the beer but is often used as a health supplement as it is supposedly very rich in minerals.  Add 1 big tbsp of malt extract.

– The recipe also needs some oil and if you do have walnut oil handy then do use 2 tbsp of walnut oil. I did not have walnut oil, so I used sunflower oil instead. I did not use olive oil as I felt the smell of the olive oil would not be appropriate for this bread.

– Put all the above ingredients together and knead for about 10 to 15 minutes until you have a soft elastic dough.

– Keep the dough in a air tight container and let it prove for at least an hour.

– While the dough is rising get yourself to search your kitchen for dried figs and walnuts. I generally have dried organic figs. I do make a point to buy organic dried fruits because the non organic ones are dried using sulphur and I am always happy to pay that extra pence to someone who has not cut corners. The recipe calls for 150 gm of figs but do start with 100 as incorporating 150 gm does need a lot of skill. If you do not have figs try using dried dates.

– I had some broken pieces of walnut but if you do have walnuts then add 50 gm of roughly chopped walnuts. If you are making this bread for a special occasion then it is worth the extra cost as the pieces of walnut do add an element of surprise to this wonderful bread.

–  Knock back the dough and make it manageable and then incorporate all the figs and walnuts into the bread. Be patient and try to push them in so that they do not get burnt while baking. Shape the dough into a round and allow it to prove for another hour. As always cover it with a cling film to stop the dough from drying.

– Preheat the oven to 200°C.

– As the oven preheats prepare the dough for baking – spray – dust with flour and then score with a sharp scorer.

– Bake for about 15 minutes at 200°C and then at 180°C for another 15 mins.

– As always let the bread rest.

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– Do slice and toast this bread as the malt gets slightly caramelised during the toasting process and greatly enhances the texture and flavour of the bread.

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