Fig and Pepper Bread (Recipe from FIRST FROST) (2024)

Ever since I read First Frost, I’ve wanted to make the Fig and Pepper Bread that Claire Waverley bakes for her town’s First Frost festival. The bread is eagerly anticipated by her family and friends as one of autumn’s first pleasures, and while I was skeptical about the unusual combo of flavors, I was more intrigued than anything else.

I got to the end of the novel, and I was delighted to find…the recipe for the much-discussed Fig and Pepper Bread! I love it when books do that. I mentally made a note to give the recipe a try one day.

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Ummm. After that…about two years passed? *ducks head in shame* I’ve thought about the recipe often, but I’ve never actually tried it because, confession, you guys: I’ve never made a yeast bread before.

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For some reason, working with yeast scares me. I’ve managed to make a simple homemade pizza dough, but that was only after watching my sister-in-law make it first. I observed her meticulously and asked many (probably annoying) questions, then made it on my own soon after watching her so I wouldn’t forget anything she did or told me.

However, that tried-and-true pizza dough has been my only yeast-y baking accomplishment.


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I don’t know why I was so scared of making bread! This recipe was easy. So easy, I was pretty floored by how easy it was. Admittedly, a large part of that has to do with the fact that I used my stand mixer’s dough hook (for the first time!) to knead the dough. But, hey, I’m a modern girl, and there’s nothing wrong with doing things the modern way.

Plus, the recipe told me I could.

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So, if any of you are fellow bread-making newbies, never fear. This is probably the best recipe to start with.

The recipe for Fig and Pepper Bread is available online, but I’ve rewritten it below with my own notes and some slight alterations to the ingredients…and some clarifications. The recipe calls for “figs,” but it doesn’t say if they should be fresh figs or dried figs.

Husband and I had a Great Debate in the middle of the grocery store about which should be used. Said debate may or may not have involved putting a package of fresh figs in the cart, walking away, walking back, replacing the figs, and then later picking them back up again.

There was a lot of indecision. Baking is hard.

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In the end, I went with fresh figs based on Husband’s assumption that “the recipe would have said dried figs if it wanted you to use dried”…as well as the fact that there are little drawings of fresh figs on the online recipe card. (I did, however, buy a package of dried figs, juuuuuust in case I changed my mind last minute. I didn’t.)

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Turns out, fresh figs were DEFINITELY the way to go. They made the dough extremely watery when it was raw, but they caramelized beautifully in the oven once the bread baked. I don’t think the bread would be the same if I had used dried figs.

So, definitely use fresh ones if you can. And, make sure they are really ripe. A few of mine had some juice leaking out the bottom – not a lot, just a little – so I knew they were full of flavor.

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While making this bread was easy, it was definitely…an experience. All was going well until I had to “softly knead the chopped figs into the dough.”

Let me tell you, fresh figs do not want to go so easily into that good night. I had floured my hands, as the recipe suggested, to make working the dough easier, but the juicy figs soon made everything slippery, and it was difficult to get the dough folded back on itself after I had tried to knead the figs into it.

Eventually, I gave up, going Que sera sera, and plopped my amoeba of fig-studded raw dough on the baking sheet. It did not look appetizing, and neither will yours. My earlier skepticism about this recipe was back, and for a second I wondered if I should just throw in the towel on this particular adventure.

But, I persevered, dusting the dough blob with flour and pushing the baking sheet into the oven to see what would happen.

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Dude. What emerged was AMAZING. My amoeba had magically transformed into a gorgeously brown, crusty, rustic loaf of artisan bread. I actually gasped when I opened the oven to check on its progress.

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I was unable to let the bread cool completely before cutting into it because I was so excited to taste it. It made a delightful, crusty sound as I sawed into it with the bread knife – like I was cutting real bread that came fresh from a bakery – and that just got me more excited.

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The bread itself is dense and mealy, thanks to the whole wheat flour in the recipe. The crust is crispy and crunchy, cracked in all the right places, but the interior crumb is soft and slightly chewy. Each bite contains a subtle hint of pepper, which is a welcome, savory change to so many breads containing added sugar (this one does not).

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However, the crown jewel is when you reach a fig. Gone is the pale, green taste of the raw fruit, replaced by the robust, earthy flavor of a sweetly caramelized fig. It’s a complete contrast to the peppery base, and I loved it.

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Eat this bread with a thick slathering of salty, European butter and a cuppa tea. Or, serve it alongside a bowl of cauliflower potato soup. It’s also delicious slathered with jams or jellies, and it makes a hearty snack with a few slices of sharp cheddar cheese or creamy brie.

Offer it one hearty slice at a time (it’s wonderfully filling), with more on the side in case anyone’s stomach is bottomless.

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My only complaint about this recipe – and, this is completely my fault – is that there were not enough figs in the bread. Because of the kneading difficulty I mentioned earlier, most of my figs remained near the surface of the bread and didn’t make it into the interior. Knowing how amazingly the figs turn out, I’ll try harder next time to incorporate the chopped pieces throughout the dough. I encourage you to do the same.

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And, yes, there will be a “next time” for making this bread.

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Fig and Pepper Bread

Print Recipe Pin Recipe

Prep Time 1 hour hr 30 minutes mins

Cook Time 40 minutes mins

Total Time 2 hours hrs 10 minutes mins

Servings 1 loaf


  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour , plus more for handling
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped fresh figs
  • 2 tsp coarse black pepper**
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus more for oiling a bowl
  • 1 packet of active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water



  • Fit your dough hook into your stand mixer.

  • Whisk the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt, pepper, and yeast in a bowl fitted into your stand mixer.

  • Combine olive oil and warm water in a pitcher, then pour into the flour mixture. Turn on the mixer and let the dough hook knead for 5 minutes, until dough has formed a tight ball around the hook.

  • While the dough is kneading, pour about 1 tbsp olive oil into a large bowl and lightly spread it around the interior with a paper towl. You want the entire interior of the bowl oiled.

  • Lightly wet a kitchen handtowel, wringing out all excess water until the towel is damp.

  • When the five minutes are up, turn off mixer and remove the dough from the hook. The dough will be smooth, not sticky, and slightly warm to the touch.

  • Place the dough into the oiled bowl, then cover with the damp towel. Place bowl in a warm place and let rise for about an hour until dough is doubled in size.

  • While you're waiting for the dough to rise, chop your figs and set aside.

  • Place about 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour in a small bowl and set aside.

  • Once the hour has passed, remove the dough from the bowl and place on your workspace. Lightly flour your hands with the flour you set aside (while keeping some in reserve), then gently knead the chopped figs into the dough. Be sure to incorporate the figs evenly throughout the dough to make sure they don't all end up on the crust. Note: this is a messy process since the fresh figs are juicy. Re-flour your hands as necessary.

  • Once figs are incorporated, place dough on an ungreased baking sheet and shape into an oval. Using a sharp knife, slice three shallow lines along the top of the dough, then spinkle all over with flour.

  • Let the dough rise, uncovered, on the baking sheet for another 10-15 minutes until it's poofed up. It make take a bit longer if your kitchen isn't warm.

  • Preheat your oven to 350F.


  • Place baking sheet in 350F oven and bake dough for 40-45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and crispy. The figs will be slightly browned but should not start to burn.

  • Remove from oven and let loaf cool on baking sheet for 30 minutes, then remove loaf to finish cooling on a wire rack.


**Be sure to use coarse black pepper instead of "regular" ground pepper. You want the larger grains from the coarse ground for texture and appearance. If you're reluctant to buy a whole container of something for one recipe (I getcha), just remember that coarse ground pepper is excellent for sprinkling on roasted veggies or as flavoring for meats and fish.

This recipe is anadapted version of Fig and Pepper Bread fromFirst Frost by Sarah Addison Allen.

Fig and Pepper Bread (Recipe from FIRST FROST) (2024)


Can I leave dough to rise overnight? ›

Cold proofing, or retarding, is where the shaped dough is placed into the refrigerator (or a dough retarder) to let proof for many hours at a cold temperature (usually overnight). Then, the dough is typically baked straight from the refrigerator or after it's brought up to room temperature.

Why do you prove dough twice? ›

The second proving has given the bread more elasticity, and made it harder to deflate the air. Second rises may add significantly to the total time it takes to complete a loaf of bread, but the step can be essential to achieving the taste and texture inherent to a number of popular breads.

Can you make bread dough in advance? ›

You will likely find you actually get far better results if you start the dough the night before, because the long, slow rise will build great flavors. Go ahead and make it as normal, let it rise a little bit (1/2 hour maybe) and put the covered bowl in the refrigerator.

How long to cook store bought bread dough? ›

Once it has proofed, bake it at around 350 degrees for approximately 25 minutes. Baking time and temperature can vary slightly depending on your oven. If you don't use your frozen dough right away, it can typically be wrapped in an airtight container and be placed back in the freezer.

What happens if you leave dough to rise for too long? ›

The gluten becomes overly relaxed, and the end product will be gummy or crumbly instead of crisp and fluffy. It can also effect the taste, because the sugars in the dough have been consumed by the yeast it can have a sour or off taste. Now you know how long to let pizza dough rise, get cooking with these recipes!

Does letting bread rise longer make it fluffier? ›

Does Rising Bread Affect Its Texture? For a fluffy bread texture, the key is to let the bread rise long enough.

How do you prove dough twice? ›

For deeper flavour (and convenience), most doughs can be put in the fridge for their second rise and left to prove overnight. This sounds wrong, given that doughs rise fastest in warm conditions, but it really does work. Put the dough in the fridge straight after shaping, covered with oiled cling film.

Do you cover bread for second rise? ›

Once you shape the loaf, prevent the dough from drying out during the second rise by covering it with a clean, lint-free towel. Grease is not needed because this proofing time is typically just 30 minutes or so.

What happens if you don't do a second rise for bread? ›

“While you have some wiggle room with the first rise, the second rise needs to be more accurate to get a nice full loaf,” Maggie explains. If baked too soon or too late, loaves can collapse and have a dense, gummy center.

Can I use bread dough straight from the fridge? ›

If it fits better with your day ahead you can leave your dough to ferment at room temperature for an hour or two, then when its risen and full of air, shape it and pop it the fridge to do its second rise as a shaped loaf. You can then preheat the oven and bake the loaf straight from the fridge.

Should I refrigerate my bread dough before baking? ›

You can, and I actually recommend this. Letting the dough sit in the fridge for a while develops flavor and makes for a better texture. I make my bread dough and then through it into the fridge in a glass container and let it sit in there for 4–5 days.

Can you bake bread dough straight from the fridge? ›

So, just give it a few minutes to take the chill off, and you should be good to go! I bake right out of the fridge from an overnight proof, no warming at all. It scores so easily and I get great oven spring. I always bake straight out of an overnight final proof in the fridge.

Can you let bread dough sit too long? ›

1 Answer. If you take a “fast” recipe and let it rest overnight, you will get overproofed dough. After what's effectively eight times or more the expected time, you will have a rather yeasty tasting dough that has lost its inner structure - think of the way foam collapses after a while.

How long should refrigerated dough sit out before baking? ›

Once the dough has chilled, let it warm up at room temperature until it's just pliable (about 5 to 10 minutes). Don't let it get too warm or you'll defeat the purpose of chilling the dough all together.

Can I refrigerate bread dough after the first rise and bake it later? ›

You can refrigerate the dough after almost any step, but after the first rise (or a little before) works best. Store it, covered, in the refrigerator for 1-3* days. Allow room for the dough to expand as it will continue to rise.

How long can you let dough rise in fridge? ›

At which point during the dough making process would it be best to freeze or refrigerate? You can refrigerate the dough after almost any step, but after the first rise (or a little before) works best. Store it, covered, in the refrigerator for 1-3* days. Allow room for the dough to expand as it will continue to rise.

How long do you let dough sit to rise? ›

As a guide, for a kitchen where the temperature is 20C and you added yeast at 1% of the flour weight (eg 5g dried yeast in 500g flour), you should still leave your dough to rise for around an hour and a half to two hours after kneading it.

How long should dough be left to rise? ›

The secret of successful rising

Most recipes call for the bread to double in size – this can take one to three hours, depending on the temperature, moisture in the dough, the development of the gluten, and the ingredients used. Generally speaking, a warm, humid environment is best for rising bread.

How do you cover dough to rise overnight? ›

For best results, use a non-porous, tight fitting cover such as a saucepan lid, bowl cover or even a sheet pan laid on top of the bowl, weighted down with something.


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