Fig and Barberry Loaf


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes



Appears in

Bourke Street Bakery

By Paul Allam and David McGuinness

Published 2009

  • About

This loaf does everything a fruit loaf should do. Great for toast in the morning, terrific as a cheese and wine accompaniment and like the hazelnut and raisin loaf it is very yummy as the bread component of a bread and butter pudding. A barberry is a sour berry from Iran similar to a cranberry and packed full of sour-sweet flavours. Barberries are available from Middle Eastern food stores and specialist delicatessens.



To make the fig and barberry loaf, follow the instructions for mixing sourdough until you can create a window. Lightly mix in the combined barberries, fruit soak, figs and rye starter. You can do this by hand by lightly folding the ingredients through the dough or simply add it to the bowl of an electric mixer and mix for 2–3 minutes on slow speed — you will need to give it a helping hand by stopping the mixer a few times to push the dough around the bowl. Lightly grease a container with oil spray and sit the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at ambient room temperature (approximately 20°C/68°F) for 1 hour to bulk prove.

To knock back the dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and press out into a rectangle, about 2.5 cm (1 inch) thick. Use your hands to fold one-third back onto itself, then repeat with the remaining third. Turn the dough 90 degrees and fold it over again into thirds. Place the dough back into the oiled container and continue to bulk prove for a further 1 hour.

Use a blunt knife or divider to divide the dough into two even-sized portions, about 500 g (1 lb 2 oz). Working with one portion of dough at a time, continue to shape the loaves following the instructions for shaping a batard loaf.

Line two small baskets with a tea towel (dish towel) in each, lightly dust both with flour and place a loaf inside each, seam side up. If you are using a cane basket, you don’t need the tea towel and can simply dust the basket with flour. Alternatively, you can place the loaves on a baking tray lined with baking paper, seam side down. Place in the refrigerator loosely covered with a plastic bag for 8–12 hours.

Preheat the oven to its highest temperature. Remove the covered loaves from the refrigerator and let them rest in a humid place (25°C/77°F) — this could take anywhere between 1 and 4 hours — until each loaf has grown in size by two-thirds. If the loaves push back steadily and quickly when you push lightly into them with a finger then they are ready. Score the loaves and place in the oven.

Spray the oven with water and reduce the temperature to 220°C (425°F/Gas 7). Bake the loaves for 20 minutes, then turn the loaves or trays around, and bake for a further 10 minutes, watching carefully to make sure that the loaves do not burn. Check the base of each loaf with a tap of your finger — if it sounds hollow, it is ready. Baking should take no longer than 40 minutes in total.

The fig and barberry loaf is the most popular fruit loaf at Bourke Street Bakery, with figs from Turkey, barberries from Iran, flour from Gunnedah, salt from the Murray River, raisins from California, currants from Victoria and water from Warragamba. This loaf deserves its status — it is a perfectly natural mix of sweet and sour. The crumbling figs melt in your mouth and taste so good that it is tempting to pull them off the loaf and eat them even before the bread knife comes out.