Fig-Pancetta Sourdough Bread
A little salty, a little sweet, this sourdough loaf with dried figs and pancetta has all the elements of a charcuterie board in one bite.
I’ve not quite mastered the art of effortlessly sliding back into blogging after being absent so please excuse this clumsy plonk in your inbox. My ideas for a graceful re-entry have come at the least convenient times—while driving, or in the dark, after I’ve gone to bed, any hope of capturing inspired thoughts on pen and paper in the morning lost during the night.
So I’ll just jump in with this new sourdough recipe that’s been waiting to be shared since last summer. It’s the same base method for most of the sourdough recipes in this blog but the idea to use figs with pancetta came to mind last year when the pandemic had a lot of us relieving our anxiety (or boredom from being at home) by baking.
Wholly inspired by my favorite elements on a charcuterie platter—sweet fig jam, salty meats on a carby vessel, this sourdough loaf with figs and pancetta is a party in a bite. Remember when we used to go to those pre-Covid? I’ve envisioned serving this loaf as a component of a cheese or charcuterie board but since I haven’t hosted any gatherings in over a year it’s been equally enjoyable as pictured here with a simple olive oil-balsamic vinegar bread dip.
I do wonder if it will garner as many fans among my friends as my Jalapeño-Cheddar Sourdough Bread has. Having been vaccinated we’ve felt comfortable attending a few outdoor gatherings this summer and much to my surprise the jalapeño-cheddar combination has been a steady hit, even receiving offers to purchase the bread! While quite tickled by the compliments I have politely declined any form of compensation but have now happily promised several friends that I would show up with double amount next time.
This flavor combination may not have universal appeal for its meat component and by the way, does everyone like figs? I happen to love them and look forward to fig season each year. For this bread dried figs are a better option than fresh so this recipe can be made any time of the year; the ones from my local market are extra soft and plump out of the bag so they don’t need to be soaked beforehand.
The sweet-salty bite hits all the right notes with me, especially when a soft, creamy cheese and a drizzle of honey are thrown into the mix, chased down with a sip of rosé or my current favorite, a Lillet spritz. With Covid cases rising again it might be awhile before this bread makes it to a proper party but it’s already made a big fan out of me.
Fig-Pancetta Sourdough Bread
Salty and sweet with dried figs and pancetta, this sourdough bread has all the elements of a charcuterie board in one bite.
- 330 Grams Bread flour (or can use 20% rye or whole wheat flour)
- 260 Grams Water
- 70 Grams active sourdough starter (100% hydration)
- 6 Grams Kosher salt
- 85 Grams Dried figs (chopped in smaller chunks)
- 120 Grams Pancetta, diced and browned on the stove and excess oil drained and blotted with a paper towel (the cooked pancetta should weigh roughly 80 grams)
Feed your starter in the morning if it hasn’t been recently refreshed.
Autolyse: Combine the flour and water in a bowl and mix well with your hand or a spatula. (Your dough might look rough and lumpy.) Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let sit between thirty minutes to two hours.
Add starter: After autolyse (the dough will look smoother), add the sourdough starter and make sure it’s evenly incorporated into the dough. It helps to have wet hands to keep the dough from being too sticky so I Iike to keep a bowl of water during this and fermentation stage. Bulk fermentation time starts now. Cover and let sit for thirty minutes. (Shortcut: You can also combine the next step with this one and add the salt along with the starter instead of waiting thirty minutes if you prefer.)
Add salt: Sprinkle the salt over the dough and again, make sure it’s evenly incorporated into the dough. Cover and let rest thirty minutes.
Stretch and Fold: Take one portion of the dough, pull it up to the point of resistance and fold over itself. Repeat this until you've gone around the dough one full rotation. Follow this stretch and fold motion for two or three rotations then cover and let rest for thirty minutes. This is one round of stretch and fold. Perform another round of stretch and fold after thirty minutes if time permits but it’s not absolutely necessary. (The dough will be extensible with the first couple of stretches/pulls but it will begin to pull back/resist with each stretch. This is to be expected.)
Lamination/Add-Ins: Spritz your work surface with a little water then turn the dough out on the counter. What was the surface of the dough in the bowl will now be the bottom. With wet hands gently pull the dough into a large rectangle. Don't force it, it might be elastic and want to pull back but it will eventually stretch without tearing. Sprinkle about 2/3 of the chopped figs and cooked pancetta over the dough. Take one top and bottom corner of the dough and fold 2/3 of the way over. Sprinkle more of the add-ins over this new fold. Take the other top and bottom corner and fold over the first fold and add the remaining figs and pancetta. Now take the bottom of the dough and fold over in thirds or fourths. Transfer to a glass baking dish spritzed with water seam side down. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
Coil Folds: With wet hands pick up the dough from the center on each side and lift until one portion of the dough separates from the casserole dish and tuck it under the rest of dough. Rotate and repeat on the other side. Doing this twice. Repeat this coil fold session every thirty minutes until you see your dough gaining more structure between folds. Three or four coil fold sessions are usually enough for me to see my dough gain strength and more structure during bulk fermentation so you can follow suit until you become more accustomed to how your dough behaves and make adjustments accordingly.
Bulk Fermentation: Bulk fermentation starts the moment you incorporate the sourdough starter into the dough. After the last coil fold allow the dough to finish bulk fermentation until it has grown by at least 50% to nearly double in size. The total time will vary with the temperature of the dough. If the dough is in the mid 70s F, you can expect bulk fermentation to take around 5 1/2 to 6 hours (much shorter with warmer temperatures). But watch your dough and look for signs. Watch for bubbles on top of the dough–it should also look lighter and airier with rounded edges.
Shape and Cold Retard: Dust your banneton (round or oval) with rice flour. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface. The top of the dough now becomes the bottom. Gently pull the dough to flatten it a little, fold in thirds and roll into a ball. Transfer the dough to the banneton seam side up, pinching the seams together. Cover with a plastic bag and refrigerate overnight. (You can also bake this now but an overnight wait allows for more flavor development and scoring a cold dough is much easier.)
Day 2 (Morning or Afternoon)
Put your dutch oven with the lid on in your cold oven and preheat to 475ºF. When your oven has reached temperature take your dough out of the refrigerator and flip it over on the counter lined with parchment paper. I like to use a small cutting board for this step (parchment paper between the banneton and the board) to make it easier to flip the dough out. Brush the excess flour from the top of the dough and score. Put on your oven mitts and take your dutch oven out of the oven. Remove the lid and gently lay the dough in the pot using the parchment paper. (You can lightly spritz the dough with water to help with oven spring but it's not necessary.) Cover, return to oven and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 450ºF, remove the lid and bake for another 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature again to 425ºF and bake for a final 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least three hours before slicing.