I first baked this bread in 2007, according to a note I left in my copy of The Bread Bible, attracted by the photo--The Bread Bible is of the era where there are fewer (costly) photos, bound in groups between the signatures of non-glossy recipe pages. The bread didn't make a strong impression besides the caution (also in that note) that the apricot jam glaze softened the covering of sliced almonds into slightly soggy flakes.
However, it's this month's choice for the Bread Bible Alpha Bakers and I had almonds and figs on hand, so I gave it another try. The base technique is familiar: make a sponge of bread flour, water and yeast, mix all the remaining ingredients (more bread flour, more yeast, whole-wheat flour), and sprinkle on the sponge. Let that sit at room temperature for an hour, then move it to the fridge for up to 24 hours. A bit of oil goes in, then I used the KitchenAid to bash it into a dough. The resulting mass was quite dry, perhaps as the temperature has gotten chilly again so the heat is on to dehydrate the house. The rough dough gets to rest and relax for 20 minutes (and hydrate), then the salt goes in before the real kneading. While waiting, I lightly toasted some slivered almonds (blanched, and from my freezer stash which accounts for the pre-toasting) and roughly chopped them, then sliced and diced the Mission figs into fairly small bits. I also added my chopped almonds with the salt, to let the mixer help get those integrated. Not the figs, though, as I think they would have been bashed into a paste to make a fig-dough. The dough was still quite dry even after the hydration rest, so I also began spritzing on water as it kneaded. In the end I had a somewhat tacky (as called for), very stiff dough. This I rolled out on a floured silicon mat to a rough rectangle, sprinkled on my fig bits, rolled it up, coiled it, and sort of smoothed that into a ball without kneading it.
This recipe was not a good choice for the weeknight when I baked it, as now it needed 3 rises. I sped these up a bit by using my warming drawer with the heat a bit above the usual proof setting, but still...three rises. After the first the dough got 2 letter-folds, then after the second it was shaped into a ball (the stiff dough still fighting this), spritzed with water, and rolled in sliced almonds. The round loaf then went onto a SilPain mat for its last rise before baking. After the last rise I spritzed a bit more water on the barest spots where the initial almond coating had been spread by the rising dough, and stuck on more sliced almonds. Then, remembering that I didn't like the jam glaze on my previous attempt at this bread, I made an egg wash and carefully brushed that on the bread and almonds before sliding it into the oven. That egg wash was probably was the major factor in needing to cover it with foil only 10 minutes into the bake, but in the end the almonds were well browned but not burned.
The result is a beautiful load with the almond coating and a whole fig stuck in the middle. It's a nice chewy white loaf (I don't detect much from the whole-wheat flour), with a bit of crunch from the interior and exterior almonds and a bit of sweetness from the fig bits. I've had it plain and toasted, and may try making a grilled cheese sandwich with it too. Not a stellar bread in terms of taste for me, but a very pretty effect.