Mission Fig Bread: Artisan Bread Baking at King Arthur Flour

Ask Bakery director Jeffrey Hamelman what makes the baked goods at King Arthur Flour different, and he’ll tell you it’s the people.

Since the get-go, Hamelman has made a point to hire passionate, enthusiastic bakers, sometimes selecting them over more experienced competitors. His philosophy? Technique can be taught, a driving love for the craft cannot. The bakers at King Arthur Flour are encouraged to be creative and to push the boundaries – and as a result, they’ve been introducing new varieties of breads to customers for years, with new recipes constantly in the works.

Case in point – head bread baker Martin Philip was once a professional opera singer, but has spent the better part of the last decade working in King Arthur Flour’s Bakery, where his creativity and talent for making bread have flourished.

Martin was recently a finalist in the American team trials for the 2016 Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie (the “bread-baking Olympics”), and developed several new recipes for competition. One of the most popular among the staff (who gladly helped him “take care” of the goods created in practice runs) was his Mission fig bread.

We’ve received many requests to share our bakery’s recipes over the years, but this can be a tricky task – large-batch recipes don’t convert exactly, and many recipes cannot be replicated in a home oven.

But we know that many of you are serious about bread, and are comfortable tackling a recipe that includes not only a preferment and a soaker, but also requires metric measurements. Note: While metric measurements are most accurate, both volume and American weight measurements are provided in our Mission Fig Bread recipe.

Are we speaking your language?

How to make mission fig bread via @kingarthurflour

Martin is excited to share his recipe for Mission Fig Bread with those of you who want to try your hand at a next-level recipe, and has modified the scale for home bakers. It requires some time and patience, but trust us when we say that the final result will reward you for your effort.

Pro tip (from someone who has eaten A LOT of this bread) – not only does this make amazing toast, it also makes a killer grilled cheese sandwich, especially when paired with sliced apples and Vermont Creamery Cremont.

Preferment
132g King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
44g King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour, White Wheat or Premium
111g lukewarm water
17g fed sourdough starter

Soaker
83g cracked wheat
83g water

Dough
207g King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour, White Wheat or Premium
119g King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
223g room-temperature water (about 70°F)
all of the preferment (above)
12g salt
all of the soaker (above)
150g Mission figs, stemmed and chopped slightly larger than marble size
1 1/2 teaspoons anise seed, toasted in a skillet until lightly browned

To make the preferment: Mix the flour, water, and sourdough starter until thoroughly combined. Cover and let rest at room temperature for 12 to 16 hours; the dough will be nice and bubbly.

To make the soaker: Toast the cracked wheat in a skillet set over low heat until the grains are lightly browned, and smell toasty. Combine the wheat and water, and let rest overnight.

How to make mission fig bread via @kingarthurflour

To make the dough: In a large bowl, combine the flours and yeast, then stir in the water, mixing until no dry bits remain.

How to make mission fig bread via @kingarthurflour

If you’re using a stand mixer, this may take up to 3 to 4 minutes at low speed.

How to make mission fig bread via @kingarthurflour

Add the preferment, soaker, and salt, mixing until fully incorporated.

How to make mission fig bread via @kingarthurflour

Mix for 6 to 7 minutes at medium-low speed; the dough should be smooth (aside from the cracked wheat) and elastic.

The dough will appear very wet. Above you can see a dough that hasn’t been kneaded enough yet – the gluten is poorly developed and requires more time in the mixer.

How to make mission fig bread via @kingarthurflour

Once fully kneaded, you’ll be able to both see and feel the elasticity of the developing gluten.

How to make mission fig bread via @kingarthurflour

Add the fig and anise seed, mixing on low speed until evenly distributed.

How to make mission fig bread via @kingarthurflour

The dough is wet, but holding together well.

Check the dough temperature; it should be between 75°F and 80°F. This is the optimum temperature for rising dough, so try to find a spot that’s around that temperature.

How to make mission fig bread via @kingarthurflour

Cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for 15 minutes.

How to make mission fig bread via @kingarthurflour

Give the dough its first fold by reaching into the bowl and pulling one corner of the dough up and into the center, pressing it down. Do this four to six times, working your way around the circumference of the dough. This will both de-gas the dough, helping the yeast to work; and strengthen the dough’s structure.

How to make mission fig bread via @kingarthurflour

You can see how much the gluten has developed after its initial 15-minute rise, followed by its first fold!

How to make mission fig bread via @kingarthurflour

Repeat folding the dough after another 15 minutes (at the 30-minute mark since it started rising), and once more at the 45-minute mark. Keep the bowl covered in between.

How to make mission fig bread via @kingarthurflour

Dough that’s sufficiently developed will feel bouncy and elastic, and will spring back when you poke it with your finger.

Cover, and let the dough rise for an additional 45 to 75 minutes without folding, or until it’s noticeably puffy, though perhaps not doubled in bulk.

All together, start to finish, this folding/rising process should take about 90 to 120 minutes.

How to make mission fig bread via @kingarthurflour

Roll the risen dough out onto a lightly floured board.

How to make mission fig bread via @kingarthurflour

A cross-section slice reveals a beautiful dough structure.

How to make mission fig bread via @kingarthurflour

Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into two pieces about 560g each (if your dough weighs more or less, make sure the two pieces are equal.)

How to make mission fig bread via @kingarthurflour

Gently pre-shape the pieces by gathering the corners of the dough and folding them to the center to form a loose ball. Place the balls, seam-side down, on a very lightly floured surface, cover, and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

How to make mission fig bread via @kingarthurflour

Working with one piece of dough at a time, shape as a bȃtard with tapered points. Tuck one end underneath to create a teardrop shape. Place seam-side up on a flour-dusted couche or smooth cotton towel. Repeat with the second piece of dough.

For more assistance, watch our video on how to shape a bȃtard.

How to make mission fig bread via @kingarthurflour

Gently cover the loaves, and let them rise for about 60 minutes, until they’re puffy. Martin uses a couche to both cradle and cover his loaves, but if you don’t have one, place your loaves on a clean towel and fold the towel over the top to cover.

How to make mission fig bread via @kingarthurflour

While the loaves are rising, preheat your oven to 450°F, with a baking stone on the middle rack. Place a cast iron pan on the oven’s lowest rack; you’ll use it to create steam. Above, Martin places loaves on a device that will feed them into the oven.

How to make mission fig bread via @kingarthurflour

How to make mission fig bread via @kingarthurflour

To bake on a stone or steel: Roll the proofed loaves, seam-side down, onto a peel dusted with semolina or whole wheat flour.

If you aren’t using a stone, roll them onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, seam-side down (for best results, use a stone or steel.) For extra flourish, create a stencil using parchment paper, then dust the loaf with flour before baking!

How to make mission fig bread via @kingarthurflourHow to make mission fig bread via @kingarthurflour

Score the dough with a baker’s lame or very sharp knife, cutting an arc from the midpoint of the tip to the midpoint of the base.

Add 1 cup boiling water to the cast iron pan. Quickly use the peel to load the loaves onto the stone (or place the pan in the oven), and close the door.

Bake the loaves for 32 to 37 minutes, or until they’re a rich mahogany color. The top crust will feel firm, and the bottom crust will be robust, but not burned. If you have a digital thermometer, the loaf’s center temperature should be about 200°F.

Remove the loaves from the oven, and transfer them to a rack to cool.

Like this recipe for Mission Fig Bread? Let us know in the comments!

Julia Reed
About

Julia Reed is a New England-based food and lifestyle writer/photographer, and Multimedia Producer at King Arthur Flour. Educated at Emerson College in Boston, she spent 5 years in Los Angeles before returning East, leaving behind food trucks, secret dinners, and year-round farmers’ markets to pursue ...

comments

  1. Ricardo Neves Gonzalez. Petropolis,RJ,Brazil

    Finally we could see King Arthur’s staff doing exactly what we bakers want and love.
    Excelent post.
    You are back to wonderful times.
    Bingo!!!!

    Reply
  2. Windischgirl

    Ended up with too many mission figs over the holidays, so this is the perfect use. It’s going on my ‘to-bake’ list for next weekend! Do the figs benefit from a plumping in liquid as well?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If your dried figs are very dry you could pour boiling water over them and cover for 5 minutes or so and then drain. Allow the figs to cool before adding them to the recipe. If your figs are firm and flexible, this is not necessary. Barb@KAF

  3. Stu

    Very informative post I especially liked the pictures as the old saying goes much better than a thousand words. The figs and anise sound like a great combination. Will have to try it.

    Reply
  4. Amy

    This calls for fresh figs, not dried, correct?
    I am very excited – this looks wonderful! But it will have to wait until fig season again…..

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thomas, this stencil was made by Martin and isn’t available for sale. You could use card stock or a flexible plastic sheet to make a similar stencil. Barb@KAF

  5. Sharon E

    The only place that I ever found fig/anise bread was New England. And I was always looking for a recipe so that I could make it at home.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  6. Jim Puckett

    When available, do you also prepare your FIG LOAF with Fresh Figs? If so, what measurement adjustments do you make? e.g.,

    150gm dehydrated Mission Figs vs ??gms fresh figs
    223gms water vs ???gms water?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Jim, this recipe calls for dried figs, and we haven’t tried it with fresh figs. Barb@KAF

  7. Katy

    As I don’t own a baker’s stone or steel, I’m wondering if I could use my cast iron skillet to bake the bread on? I could set the loaf on parchment, then place that on the pre-heated cast iron skillet. Would need a couple of skillets for the bread, & one for the steam – I guess (& I have those). Thanks for your thoughts on this possible modification.
    This may be the recipe that forces me to make a sourdough starter!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Many people use cast iron pans to bake bread, so your idea has been tested and found successful. The trick is the hot pan as well as the hot water to create steam. This blog post has directions for how to bake it in a cast iron pot with a lid: http://bit.ly/1mHK4SU Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

  8. Dan Friedman

    Can wheat berries be substituted for the cracked wheat? And, if substituting black cured olives for the figs, would the weights be the same? Thank you: this is a terrific explanation and what looks like an equally terrific recipe.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Wheat berries may require a bit more water to soak through, so they are not toothbreakingly hard in the bread. Soak them covered with liquid and drain off the excess. And yes, use the same weights of olives as figs- would be be wonderful with some fresh thyme, too! Laurie@KAF

  9. marianne anderson

    What gorgeous loves!! I guess it’s time to re-hydrate that dried sourdough starter that I made last year.
    I’ll let you know what luck (if any) I have doing THAT! I made it from the starter I purchased from you, but I’ve never tried to re-hydrate. Wish me luck.

    Also, do you sell cracked wheat or can you point me in the correct direction for purchasing it?

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Yes, biga would be an appropriate substitute. Rather than using the sourdough culture, use 1/2 teaspoon of instant dried yeast in the preferment. The flavor will not be as complex as with the sourdough culture but the bread will still work!
      Happy Baking!
      Martin

  10. Justin Sherrill

    For anyone who is iffy on anise flavor – the strength of the seed’s taste is much less intense the day after it’s made. The strong flavors put my family off when first trying it, but the taste melded together a bit better after 24 hours.

    There’s something for a KAF blog post – what happens with bread as it ages, and what tastes can we get out of it? People are usually most excited about fresh bread, but I’ve found different flavors and textures come out as bread ages.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      That is a neat idea, Justin. Just like soup is better the next day, some breads are like that as well. ~ MJ

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      HI Ruth,
      The full recipe has volume, ounces and grams listed, so you can uses cups/spoons if you prefer. ~ MJ

  11. Kate L

    You are speaking my language.
    I baked these loaves last night. The fig and anise combination transported me to some other place and time, and the crunchy crust pairs sublimely with the moister crumb.

    I used soaked barley instead of cracked wheat just to avoid a trip to the store. Will try wheat next time.

    Do you keep the KAF kitchen at 80-85 degrees? That’s tough in my VT kitchen!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      When all of our ovens are running, the test kitchen is definitely in the 80’s. If you have a thermometer, you can test out different areas of the house for warm locations. I know in my small guest bathroom with one floor register, it gets pretty warm after showers if you close the door. ~ MJ

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Bonnie,
      On the recipe itself, you can choose volume, ounces or grams. The toggle button is just above the ingredient list. ~ MJ

  12. Stephanie

    My loaves are on their final proof and I can’t wait to try the finished product! A couple of things I noticed between the recipe and the blog photo directions: Step 6 in the printed recipe has the soaker being added, but above it’s added with the preferment & salt. Also in Step 10 it reads as if an additional 90 to 120 minutes are needed when it’s actually 45-75 minutes. Thanks! – I can’t wait to try this with some manchego cheese!

    Reply
  13. Laura Fischer

    Looks, and sounds wonderful! Quick question, please…is the mixer shown one of the new 8 qt KAs? I’m considering purchasing one, for use at the little bakery I work at, and was hoping to get some feedback, other than online reviews, as to it’s performance. It appears to be the 8 qt, based on the handle/cord color.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It is the 7 qt. bowl. It is so quiet! When we have 16 of them running in our classroom here in our Baking Education Center, you would never know it! Super powerful too at 1.3 hp motor. We are happy to answer any questions you may have. All of our bakers on our hotline (1-855-371-2253) have used this machine so will be able to offer up some personal experience. Here is the mixer. Elisabeth@KAF

  14. Yuri Barreiros

    Thank you so much for this kind of post!… Your teaching videos on you tube had put my standards for artisan bread much higher and now , seen this recipe, I’m hooked!… And what a highly educated and enthusiastic public you have formed: the comments are amazing! Wish we get that shared knowledge one day here in Brasil… at least for the professionals making our bread…

    Reply
  15. henrietta scales

    I have a problem everytime i make bread and leave it in my bread box about a week or so it begins to mole.
    What is the problem.
    What’s the shelf life of homemade bread?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The shelf life is usually 3-4 days for most homemade breads. If there is any moisture in the air, bread will mold more quickly. Be sure it is completely cool before storing in the bread box. It may help to store it in a plastic bag or paper bag in addition to using the bread box. Consider freezing half the loaf until needed. Elisabeth@KAF

  16. ALEJANDRO

    wonderful recipe.
    If the figs are too dry, you can soak them in any kind of liquor like brandy or wine port.
    thank you so much
    btw, I love the stencil… looks so beautiful.

    Reply
  17. Sarah

    I plan on making this tomorrow, but I just noticed that in this post 1 1/2 tablespoons anise seed is listed, while the recipe calls for 1 1/2 teaspoons. Which is correct?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for that catch, Sarah! The correct amount is 1 1/2 tsp, and the post has been updated accordingly. Our apologies for any confusion. Mollie@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      This would take some experimentation. The yeast helps to speed up the process and ensure a better rise for a pretty hearty loaf. Elisabeth@KAF

  18. Barbie Lucas

    I made this bread yesterday and it tasted fabulous. It should be mentioned that mission figs are the same as black figs. I couldn’t find cracked wheat anywhere but I did find bulgar and cracked it by hand with a mortar and pestle, which was time consuming but effective. Finally, please make the lovely stencil available. It’s really not fair to advertise bread that followers cannot duplicate. The intricate zebra design on the surface is what caught my eye. My bread was beautiful without the flour stencil but I was disappointed my final product did not match the picture. 🙁

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Glad you liked this recipe, Barbie! We did sell the stencils but not any longer. We apologize! I have informed our Merchandising Team in hopes we can bring them back! Elisabeth@KAF

  19. Lynda Moseley

    Could you recommend a substitute for anise seed, please? I cannot stomach the smell or taste of licorice, but love figs and would love to try this bread. How about orange or lemon zest? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Figs are wonderful with lemon or orange zest. You could also use toasted chopped almonds or hazelnuts in the bread. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

  20. Bee Barmann

    I drooled over this recipe. Figs in any shape or form are among my favorite fruits. I am not sure that I can plunge into making this recipe, though. Although I made my first loaf of bread at age 9, at 83, my baking skills are rusty, alas. I very much enjoyed the article and the detailed demonstration. Keep up the good work at KAF.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We appreciate you visiting our site, Bee. That is a lot of years of baking! We hope we are able to continue to inspire you! Elisabeth@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re glad to hear that you’ve had such success with this method, Mindy! Any crusty, artisan style loaf can be made using this technique, the trick will be to make sure you have an appropriately sized loaf for your covered baker and that you adjust your timing accordingly. Best of luck and happy baking! Mollie@KAF

  21. Elle Lachman

    Love the detailed photos, but wish there was just one photo of the bread cut so the interior could be seen. Still, an awesome bread and post! Thanks for doing this kind of post.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for your kind words, Elle and also for sharing your request with us. We’ve noted that curious bakers want to see a crumb shot next time! Kye@KAF

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