Aniseed bread with wild figs

Aniseed bread with wild figs

New Middle Eastern Food
1 loaf
Mark Roper

We came across a number of different versions of hard aniseed breads in bakeries around Syria. This is our interpretation, and although quite different, it is utterly delicious, with a hint of sweetness from the aniseed and figs, a lovely crumbly texture and melting crust. The bread is wonderful served warm from the oven with lashings of cold unsalted butter or a dollop of tart jam, and it works equally well with the savoury flavours of creamy blue cheese, brie, a strong cheddar with bite — or, to stay Middle Eastern, a sharp, salty feta.


Quantity Ingredient
3 teaspoons dry yeast
pinch sugar
180ml warm water
260g semolina
225g bakers’ flour
1 tablespoon aniseeds, plus extra to sprinkle
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, plus extra to sprinkle
100g dried wild figs, stalks removed, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
180ml olive oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water


  1. Dissolve the yeast and sugar in 140 ml of the warm water. Set aside for 10 minutes until it begins to froth.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the semolina, flour, aniseeds, sesame seeds, dried figs and salt, then mix in the oil evenly. Stir in the egg then pour in the frothy yeast. Use your hands to bring the mixture together to form a dough. Add the remaining warm water, plus a little more, if necessary. The dough should be firm, not wet or sticky.
  3. Use your hands or the dough hook on an electric mixer to knead the dough vigorously for 10 minutes, until it is smooth and shiny. Lightly oil the ball of dough and put it into a bowl. Cover and leave in a warm place to rise for 2 hours, by which time it should have doubled in size.
  4. Knock the dough back, then shape it into a round measuring roughly 20 cm x 3 cm thick. Put it on a lightly oiled baking tray. Whisk together the egg yolk and water and brush the top of the loaf. Sprinkle on 1/2 teaspoon aniseeds and 1 teaspoon sesame seeds and leave in a warm place for another 45 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200°C and bake the bread for 20–30 minutes, until it is a lovely golden brown. It should sound hollow when you tap the bottom. Transfer to a wire rack and leave until completely cool before eating — if you can resist!
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