Pan de Higos & Wild Strawberry Sours

Jesus Machim, Horno San Bartolome in Valencia (Spain), contributed a formula for Pan de Higos (Fig bread) to “Masa Madre Elaboracion y Utilizacion” [Montagudeditores: ISBN: 978-84-7212-158-4].  His method uses a mixer at low speed for 4 minutes followed by a rest and then a final mix at high speed for 6 to 8 minutes. The baked results are 600 g barrotes.

I contacted Jesus with a few questions and he was very prompt in responding.  “Hola Stephen, la masa madre después de 16/18h la tengo a un PH de 4,2/4,3 normalmente,utilizó una crema de higos de la marca Bonne maman.  La masa madre normalmente la utilizo del frío a la amasadora.”

Jesus is a master baker and winner of the Best Bake award from the Academy of Valenican Cusine in 2014.  Horno San Bartolome bake about 30 different types of bread very day.  Pan de calabaza, el de Triticum turgidum o un Pan de te con pasas o el de Centeno o de Centeno que macera con cardamomo, naranja e hinojo, su Hogaza de Masa Madre, Pan de Cristal, Pan de larga fermentación. He is passionate about explaining the difference between a real bread and bad bread.

Having absorbed the book I felt it was time to test one of the formulas (recetas).  The thought of mixing crema de higos into sourdough took hold.   Jesus confirmed that “fig paste” was not an accurate translation and instead all I needed was some fig conserve or jam.

The original formula calls for 300 g pre-ferment (masa madre), 150 g fig conserve, 20 g salt, 600 g water and 1000 g white flour.  The flour used is a type 180/200w or, in British terms a bread flour with a protein content of between 11 and 12%.   To approximate 180/220w I use a 50/50 mix of Shipton Mills #4 and #112 white flours.

This produces a hydration of either a 65% or, if you calculate with the fig conserve adding 75 g of water, 72 % hydration.   It certainly ends up feeling more like 70 than a 65 % hydration dough.   My first batch using a mixer and bulk fermentation at 21 C produced beautiful barrotes.


Taste and crumb results were very favourable.  Perhaps more bien cuit with a darker caramelization?  Would the fig essence be swamped or complimented by the adding small quantities of other flours.  The Spanish version is just superb.

But, when the sun is lest often perhaps we need deeper textual rhythms for the North.

So here is my formula variation for a jam, jammy fig sour.


40 g white flour mother starter 100% hydration 12 – 16 hours old
100 g organic white flour (Shipton Mills #112)
15 g khorasan flour (Shipton Mills #413)
15 g buckwheat flour
130 g water


300 g pre-ferment
105 g fig conserve
600 g water @ 27 C [this assumes a room temp of 21 C and flours at room temp]
800 g white flour (50/50 mix of Shipton Mill #4 and #112)
30 g khorasan (Shipton Mill #413)
30 g buckwheat flour
20 g light rye flour (Shipton Mill #997)
20 g wholemeal spelt flour
20 g sea salt (Trapani Sale Siciliano di Gucciardo Vincennzo)


Mix the water, pre-ferment and fig conserve in an extra large bowl and then add most of the flour and the salt.  Roll and tuck until fully incorporated and then add the remaining flour in stages rolling and tucking with a dough scraper.  Leave to rest for 45 minutes and then perform (in your own style) the first of 2 or 3 stretch and folds.  If you only do 2 stretch and folds add 45 minutes to the bulk fermentation.  Complete and then rest for 20 minutes covered with a damp cloth.  Divide into 4 equal pieces (approx 500 g) and shape into either batons or boules using linen couche or cloth lined bannetons.

Ferment again for either 3 – 4 hours at room temperature (21 C) (or for 1 hour at room temperature before chilling at 5 C in a refrigerator for 12 – 16 hours) before baking.

In case you missed it I have altered the hydration by reducing the white flour content by 100 g.   So  71% or 78% hydration.  It is a nice sticky dough.

Lastly bake at 220 C for about 35-40 minutes.  Adjust for your oven and for fan settings.  In the case of a Meile Moisture Plus steam oven 200 C for 40 – 45 minutes with two steam injections (at start and again after 10 minutes).

Pan de Higos test 1

Friends as tasters admired them both.

Then I got to thinking about wild strawberry and jam.  Why not a similar bread packed with a strawberry and some roasted hazelnut British rap?

When first sour-bug bitten I recall a Spanish friend who raved about a baker in Madrid with an amazing dough packed with fresh strawberries.  This formula is part homage to Jose who was one of the first to love my bread.

When the first test loaf went in I wasn’t expecting a baking aura so strongly re-mindful of strawberry cheesecake.  One clue should have been a proved dough traced with tiny red plantlike veins and, the ground and roasted hazelnuts for a final wallop.

It was test 4 with it’s extra za za zoo for me but, none of the tests survived an initial bite! Brutally slammed Texas style would be one way to put it.  Devoured for sure.

Strawbery Sour 4 2.05.2016









Dog Kennel Hill Wild Meadow

White dead-nettle in Dog Kennel Hill meadow 11.05.2014

White dead-nettle in Dog Kennel Hill meadow 11.05.2014

Great walk led by wildlife conservationist Daniel Greenwood yesterday (10.05.2014) starting in Dog Kennel Hill Wood and then onto wild Greendale.  On the way back we took a look at the Dog Kennel Hill Meadow and Daniel named a few plants for me.  Turns out those nettles that do not sting are called dead-nettles.  He pointed out White dead-nettle which we have in abundance in the woodland borders and the meadow.  I immediately recalled a similar oddity with bright yellow rather than white or red flowers.  Daniel informs that that would be Yellow archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon).

All of these are Mints.  Yes, I was surprised when later in the day I looked this all up in the book my mother had given me on wild flowers (Field Guide to The Wild Flowers of Britain, Reader’s Digest 1981).

Nettles, those childhood stingers, are part of the English name for a plant with stinging hairs, particularly those of the genus Urtica.  There are quite a few so named and even Cnidoscolus texanus, the Texas bull nettle.  Not sure what that would sting like. However, the name is also used for dead nettle, blind-nettle or dumb nettle.  They don’t sting thus the names are clear in intent.  The Common nettle (Urtica dioica) causes stings when touched with the top of each hair on the stem breaking off and releasing an acid which causes a painful rash.

Bane and friend this plant has been both an instrument of torture and used for cloth, food and medicine.  Fabric made from nettle stems dates back to the Bronze age and seems to have been used for both table cloths and bed-linen, even until quite recently.

I am looking forward to when we can get some Yellow archangel established as dead or dumb-nettles are a common feature of waste and cultivated land and yellow archangel a much rarer plant of woodlands and hedgerows.

September 29th is the day traditionally dedicated to the Archangel Michael and all of these related plants are still in flower at this time.  White dead-nettle (Lamium album) and Red dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum) for this reason are also known as Red and White archangel.  There is a magic in any close examination of the flower and great wings of an archangel can be imagined with ease.

White dead-nettle

White archangel

Bees love dead-nettle as they find a copious supply of nectar at the bottom of the flower tube.  Indeed, this plant is a most important food plant of bees, particularly early in the year, before most other nectar-producing plants flower.

Early on red and white dead-nettle are very similar in appearance but when the flowers appear there is no mistaking which is which.  Both were used boiled and eaten as pot-herb and had a range of medicinal uses. Two other dead-nettles are to be found in England.  Henbit dead-nettle (Lamius amplexicaule) and Spotted dead-nettle (Lamium maculatum).

Mints have fun names – Gipsywort, Water mint, Corn mint, Marjoram, Wild thyme, Basil thyme, Will basil, Wild clary, Selfheal, Black horehound, Hedge woundwort, Hemp-nettle, Skullcap, Wood sage, Bugle and Ground-ivy.  This last like the true ivy remains green all the year and until the introduction of hops in the 16th century was a vital ingredient in brewing ale.  In Yorkshire and the West Country this use is recalled in the name “alehoof”.  Gill-ale and gill-tea was sold in London by street vendors as a cold and cough cure. In my gifted book pages 210 and 211 show Common nettle and Hop (Humulus lupulus) side by side.

Another noted discovery was of large amounts of Green alkanet.  For years this has always been identified to me as Borage.  Thanks to my new boon companion of a book it was clear this common mistake needed correction.

Green alkanet [11.05.2014] DKH woodland

Borage (Borago officinalis) flowers have narrow pointed petals and conspicuous black stamens.  Green alkanet (Pentaglotiss sempervirens) has five blue rounded petals and the whole flower is funnel-shaped with a center of five white scales.