These are my absolute favourite things to eat, and I have been known to polish off and entire batch in the space of 48 hours. They make an appearance at every function I ever have (thanks mostly to my lovely sister who bakes them for me and my daughters who also love them). They are versatile enough to eat any time of day and can be served with sweets as part of dessert or savoury with cheese or as part of a breakfast or lunch spread. There is a bit of work involved, but there is also a great satisfaction in making dough, and in making something that tastes this good.
Fig, Date and Fennel Grissini
500g “00” bread flour
1½ tbsp instant dried yeast
2 tsp salt
¾ cup poppy seeds
6 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to brush grissini
300ml warm water
100g fig paste, warmed (I use the Maggie Beer, Fig & Fennel Paste)
8 Medjool dates, finely chopped (just snip them with scissors)
1 pack of pitted dates (about 200g) also cut finely
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1-2 tsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place flour, sugar, yeast, salt and poppy seeds in the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment and mix on low speed. Add olive oil and water and knead for five to seven minutes to form a smooth dough. If working by hand, the process will take longer. Place on an oiled tray and roll out to a rough rectangle shape, approximately five centimetres thick. Brush with oil and cover with cling film. Allow to rise for about one hour.
Once risen, roll the dough out slightly so it covers the board and you get a nice big rectangle. Spread fig paste roughly all over dough. Sprinkle with cinnamon and then scatter the fennel seeds over. Then scatter the dates over – try and cover all of the dough with the dates, and press them slightly into the dough. Fold dough over to enclose. Cut dough into three equal pieces. I find it easier to put two of the sections of dough on the plate that I used for the dates and just work with one section at a time.
Cut each into section of dough into 10 (you will have 30 pieces of dough). Roll out each piece into 20-centimetre finger lengths. You will need to have plain flour handy to dust the board and knife when you need it. The dough, fig and fresh dates can make it all quite sticky and make your life unnecessarily difficult. Place on lined baking tray. Once you have all 10 on the tray, roll with a rolling pin to flatten slightly. Once you have done this you may need to reposition a few of them to make them fit on the tray and make them a bit straighter. Spray them well with olive oil and bake for 15 minutes, until golden. I usually put these in the oven and then just get to work on the next section of dough.