Everyone has their comfort zone in the kitchen. For me, quick breads, muffins and scones are my jam because they come together quickly and I can experiment with ways to make them healthier by incorporating whole grains and less sugar than is often called for in the original recipe.
Sometimes, in my endless tweaks, I come up with a real winner, a recipe I'll keep coming back to for a long time. Such is the case with this almond-fig breakfast loaf.
A good breakfast bread has a few qualities, in my humble opinion: It’s not too sweet, it has some source of fiber or protein so it'll sustain you for a bit, and it’s seasonal and delicious. I like to slice, toast and serve this bread with butter, but it’s great all on its own with a cup of strong coffee or tea.
I used half whole-wheat flour, a large handful of protein-rich almonds and almond meal, and I got the sugar down to 1/2 cup. I opted for the darker flavor of coconut sugar, which is almost caramel-y. If you can’t find it, use a turbinado or natural cane sugar. If you’re not an almond fan, feel free to use any chopped nut (or seed) you prefer.
The streusel topping may seem a bit heavy at first, but trust me – you want to use it all. It kind of sinks into the loaf as it bakes, and gets all toasty and fragrant. It’s the perfect little cap to each slice, and you'll be happy you had a generous hand with it.
The best part about making this quick bread is slicing into it for the first time; each section is really beautiful with the bits of fig, almonds and crumb topping. While I love baking and giving things away to friends, I find this loaf is always hard to part with even a few slices.
Almond-Fig Breakfast Loaf
2 tablespoons coconut sugar or dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons whole-wheat or all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon chilled butter, cut into bits
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons chopped almonds
1 cup chopped dried figs
1 cup boiling water
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup almond meal (see note)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pan
1/2 cup coconut sugar or natural cane sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup chopped whole almonds
Place the figs and boiling water in a small heatproof bowl. Let sit for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside. Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the sugar, flour, butter and cinnamon in a small bowl and stir with a fork or your fingertips until combined. Fold in almonds. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, almond meal, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice and salt. Set aside.
In another medium mixing bowl, combine 1/2 cup butter with the sugar and whisk well. Add the eggs, and whisk until smooth. Add the yogurt and vanilla extract and stir until combined.
Slowly add the flour mixture into the liquid mixture and stir until smooth. Fold in the almonds and drained chopped figs.
Spread batter in the prepared pan and sprinkle evenly with the streusel. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool completely before slicing and serving.
Cover loaf and store at room temperature for up to three days.
Note: Look for almond meal with the specialty flours in supermarkets. To make your own, blanch almonds, dry them well and ground coarsely in a food processor.
Yield: 8 servings.