Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Bread with Figs
These savory loaves are equally at home on the breakfast table—serve with fig preserves if you have some—as they are when served with meat dishes.
The sponge sits overnight, so make it the evening before you plan to bake.
¾ cup (6 ounces) warm water
½ teaspoon active dry yeast
¾ cup (3 1/3 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
The final dough:
¾ cup (6 ounces) warm water
½ cup (4 ounces) delicate extra-virgin olive oil
all of the sponge
3 cups (14 ¼ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
3 ½ ounces dried figs, cut into large dice
Make the sponge:
Put the water in a small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top and wait until it dissolves and becomes creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and stir to make a dough.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Mix the final dough:
Put the water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the olive oil. Remove the sponge from the refrigerator and scrape it into the mixing bowl. Mix on medium speed until the sponge breaks apart and starts to mix with the liquids. Add the flour. Sprinkle the salt into the bowl. Mix on low speed until the flour is absorbed and the dough just comes together, about 2 minutes. It will still look rough.
Turn off the mixer and let the dough rest for 20 minutes. Add the figs. Restart the mixer and knead on medium speed until the dough forms a ball and is elastic, about 3 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the mixer, remove the dough hook, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Leave at room temperature until the dough doubles, about 2 ½ hours.
Shape the dough:
Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
Turn the dough onto a floured work surface. Divide it into 2 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a round. Cover the rounds with a kitchen towel and let them rest for 10 minutes. Elongate one end of each round so that the loaves mimic the shape of figs. Put the loaves on the baking pan.
Slide the pan into a plastic bag, shake the top of the bag a few times to introduce air so it doesn’t stick to the dough, and tie the ends closed. Leave at room temperature until the loaves double, about 1 ½ hours.
Bake the loaves:
Position racks on the lowest level and in the middle of the oven. Place an empty baking pan on the lowest rack and a baking stone on the middle rack. Preheat the oven to 450°F for 45 minutes.
When the dough is ready, bring 1 ½ cups of water to a boil.
Remove the baking pan from the plastic bag. Cut away the parchment paper close to the risen dough. Transfer one loaf, still on the parchment sheet, onto a peel or rimless baking sheet. Score the loaf 5 times from the top of the “fig” to the bottom.
Slide the loaf onto the baking stone using a quick into-the-oven-and-out motion. Repeat with the other loaf.
Wearing oven mitts, immediately pour the boiling water into the empty pan in the bottom of the oven and close the door. Be careful—this will cause an immediate burst of steam.
Bake until the loaves are browned and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom, 25 to 30 minutes. Put the tip of the peel under a loaf and use the same quick into-the-oven motion to get the loaf onto the peel, then remove it from the oven. Repeat with the other loaf.
Remove the parchment paper and cool the breads on a rack.