Date, fig and walnut focaccia

Last week I created a rather ambitious Christmas recipe for my Regional Italian Food column over at Food52 – a date, fig and walnut panettone. I have to admit, it wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve baked, but definitely a satisfying one to make. It’s much easier to buy a large panettone at the local deli and call it a day, as making it at home requires a lot of patience, plenty of rising time, two days, special baking tins and a bit of precision. Which not everyone has at this time of year.

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Testing it turned out to be a curse and a blessing at the same time. After the failing of an initial test at making a classic panettone (filled with sultanas, candied orange peel and candied citron) in a cake pan rather than the tall, classic panettone mould it should be baked in, and running all over town unsuccessfully looking for panettone moulds, I realised I didn’t want to bring this upon anyone else attempting this recipe. So I went another way – I bought large 800 gram tins of peeled tomatoes. We made an enormous batch of sugo al pomodoro. And I used the empty tins to make beautifully tall, fluffy panettone. Small ones, which are just the right size for giving away to people worthy of a baked good that takes two days to make.

It was a very happy solution that resulted in (if I do say so myself) some rather exquisite little panettoni that I’ll make again for occasions when I need to impress someone.

focaccia with dates, figs, walnuts

Part of what makes these panettoni special I think is the different filling – and this is a good reason too for baking them yourself at home. After hearing one too many “I don’t like candied fruit” complaints (I do, personally),  I tried another filling, an earthy, candied fruit-free combination of dates, figs and walnuts. Only I made too much filling for the amount of panettone dough. Double, actually (these are the things happen while recipe testing at the last minute and time is crunching down on you).

focaccia dates figs walnuts focaccia with dates, figs, walnuts

So, with half a mixing bowl full of chopped dates, figs and walnuts, all perfumed with orange and lemon zest, I folded it through some focaccia dough, which Marco had whipped up for me (he’s usually the one behind any homemade focaccia in our house, even though we have recently found out he has an intolerance to wheat. It’s a bit unfair really, since he seems to have a natural baker’s gene running through him). He added a bit more than a cheeky splash of vin santo (Tuscan dessert wine) through the dough and I’m not quite sure whether it’s that or the decadent dried fruit, but this focaccia — it’s one of the best things to come out of our oven, just for the aroma alone that fills the house while it’s baking.

The dough is soft and fluffy and studded with sweet dates and figs and the earthiness of walnuts. The perfume of the vin santo and citrus zest permeates the dough — it’s wonderful on its own or slathered with a bit of good butter, if you are so inclined.

This is it from me until after Christmas. I wanted to also say a big thank you for the huge support on the recipe testing call out — the response has been overwhelming and I have loved reading everyone’s emails! I truly hope I can fit all of you in as the enthusiasm is just wonderful. Apologies on the late replies but I will be getting back to you all individually (with recipes too!) very soon so you can get cooking. Thanks again. Happy Christmas and happy holidays to you all. xx

focaccia with dates figs and walnuts

Dates figs and walnut focaccia

For the focaccia dough:

  • 7 grams active dry yeast (1 packet)
  • 310 grams (2 ½ cups) bread flour (bakers flour or strong flour – if unavailable, all purpose flour is fine)
  • 375 ml (1 ½ cups) water
  • 50 grams butter, softened
  • 125 ml (½ cup) vin santo
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • pinch salt

For the filling:

  • 125 grams deseeded dried dates, roughly halved
  • 40 grams figs, stems removed and figs chopped
  • 40 grams walnut pieces, roughly chopped
  • zest of 1 orange
  • zest of 1 lemon

Combine yeast with 60 grams (½ cup) flour and 125 ml (½ cup) water in a small bowl and set aside, covered, in a warm place for 10 minutes. It should have bubbles at the surface after this time, which means the yeast is active.

Place the rest of the flour in a large, wide mixing bowl and add the yeast mixture to it along with the rest of the water, mixing to combine. Add the butter, vin santo, honey and salt until well combined. It will be sticky, almost a batter, rather than a dough that holds its shape.

Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge or another cool place to rise overnight (if you’re in a hurry you can place it in a warm place instead to rise until doubled for about an hour but overnight it will develop better flavour).

In a small bowl, combine the dates, figs, walnuts and zest.

Add the fruit filling to the dough, mix until evenly distributed, then lay the dough on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and flatten out with fingers to create little craters over the whole thing. I like it quite free form in terms of its shape but you can make it rectangular to fit into a 20x30cm baking tin if you like. Let rise, covered loosely with a tea towel, for about 30 minutes.

Bake at 180ºC until golden brown. Let cool slightly — but it’s pretty hard to resist ripping off a piece of this and devouring while still warm.

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Comments

8 Responses to “Date, fig and walnut focaccia”
  1. Rosa says:

    A wonderfully festive focaccia! Lovely combination and flavors.

    Happy Holidays!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. janie says:

    I only wish that figs were still in season here in California so I could make this lovely focaccia!

  3. PolaM says:

    That focaccia looks delicious! Have to try it. Panettone is really too much work!

  4. Funnily enough, I woke up this morning dreaming about grape foccaccia! I love the combination of dates, figs and walnuts, Emiko. Just beautiful, as always xo

  5. Eva Knouse says:

    Please try Einkorn Flour (comes from Italy and is an ancient wheat) for your husband if you have not already! Studies show that many gluten sensitive/wheat sensitive people can tolerate it. I’ve been gfree for 6 years, and have been so excited to find a wheat I can handle-and that makes beautiful bread! It’s the only wheat that has not been hybridized. Hope it works!!

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