Although I love dried figs, and often times can use the fresh and dried interchangeably, I love having fresh figs on hand, beautiful to photograph and delicious to use in many recipes, sweet or savory. California figs are available fresh from June through September, but some European varieties can be found through autumn. Sweet as honey, juicy and studded with tiny seeds, fresh figs are also highly perishable and should be used handled gently and used quickly. Figs, both dried and fresh, are a great source of fiber, calcium and potassium, but you might not know that even the fig leaves have healthful properties to those with diabetes and may lower the amount of insulin needed to keep diabetes under control.
Thought to be the first fruit cultivated in Egypt, figs were revered in ancient Greece with strict laws forbidding the export of the prime quality figs. California is the largest producer of figs in the United States having been introduced by the Spanish missionaries in the late 19th century. Source
The rich dough for this sweet fig focaccia is easily made in the bread machine and can be made a few hours ahead and refrigerated until ready to assemble. It begins with a sponge, a pre-ferment, also made in the bread machine , then the remaining ingredients are added. Sliced Brown Turkey figs are scattered across the top, then turbinado sugar is sprinkled on before allowing the bread to rise briefly resulting in a crunchy sweet topping perfect for a mid-morning snack or for an addition to a brunch. This recipe comes from Carol Field's superb book, Italy in Small Bites and is adapted for the bread machine.
Sweet Fig Focaccia
2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup warm water (105°-115°)
2 large eggs, room temperature
1-3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1-3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 pound sliced fresh or dried figs (if using dried figs, cover them with warm water and soak for 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry before using.)
1/3 cup, plus 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
For the Sponge-In a bread machine pan, place ingredients in according to manufacturer's instructions for your machine., Process on the dough cycle. When machine has fully mixed the sponge, turn off the machine, cover and let stand 30 minutes until bubbly. Add remaining ingredients, process on the dough cycle. When cycle is complete, remove the dough from the machine pan and place on a lightly floured surface. Let rest 5-10 minutes.
Lightly oil a 10-1/2 by 15-1/2 -inch baking sheet. Stretch the dough out in the pan. Cover with a towel and let rest 10 minutes.Then stretch out again until it covers the pan. Scatter the sliced fresh or dried figs over the top of the dough. Sprinkle with the turbinado sugar, cover and let rise until nearly doubled.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400° F. Bake the focaccia for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375° and continue to bake for about 15 minutes until browned and bubbly. Remove from oven, cool slightly then remove from pan. Serves 8-10.
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