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Monday, August 17, 2009

Fee Fi Fo FIG

I don't know about you, but every time I go to Berkeley Bowl to buy some figs, they are just so expensive! I mean four dollars for a basket of Black Missions? No, thanks; that's nearly three loads of laundry!

Thank goodness for friends who have mass amounts of random fruit trees growing in their front yard. True story. Now it's just a five-minute walk to fill my bag full of figs, and they are free! I mean, as long as he gets to eat some of whatever I decide to bake with them, which is reasonable enough.

These figs are not Black Mission though, sadly. Black Mission figs are really moist and must be eaten as soon as possible, as they go bad quickly. They are also very common dried, but I prefer the full fruit. The figs that I used here were Calimyrna. They are green and not as moist or as sweet as Mission. They also have very tough outer skins, so many people like to peel them before use.
I decided to utilise the figs to make a strudel. I had been reading up on some blogs about strudel dough, and it didn't look too hard to make so I thought I'd try my hand at it. The finished dough is super stretchy, but it's actually quite fun to maneuver! Make sure you have a large surface so that you can work with the dough and not have any uneven thicknesses. I actually used the recipe from Daring Bakers. Check out my BlogRoll for some other great strudels that bloggers cooked up!

Being the lazy college student that I am, I decided not to peel the figs. Instead, I just boiled them down with some maple syrup and a dash of lemon juice to create a pulpy filling. The syrup makes the entire mixture sweeter and holds the filling together. Plain sugar would work fine, but the final product might be more liquidy and harder to put into the strudel.

Before baking, the strudel may not seem like much, but don't trip chocolate chip; it will rise! And you will have fat fig strudels before you know it!

Ideas for next time: Flavour the dough with something; Black Mission fig filling

Maple-Fig Strudel

2 cups Calimyrna figs, washed and quartered
1/2 cup maple syrup
A dash of lemon juice

Strudel Dough:
1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

For the filling: Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook until figs are soft and mixture has reduced nearly by half. Mash the figs as you go along as to create a jam. Turn off heat and set aside to cool.

For the dough:
Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.

Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.

Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.

Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).
It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.

Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.

The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

To assemble:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out the dough into a large rectangle and spoon fig mixture onto half of it, leaving a half-inch border all along the sides. Fold the other half over and pinch to seal the edges.

With a knife, cut vents all along the strudel. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until the strudel has puffed up nicely and is a golden-brown. Sprinkle with brown sugar just before serving, if desired.

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