#25 Fennel Fig & Almond Bread

The last week has been full of God’s grace.  We watched what seemed like the impossible become possible, prayers answered, fears calmed, and hard work paid off.  In the midst of some difficult times, it’s made me more thankful, more peaceful, more joyful, and more hopeful.  So grateful that the process of healing involves lovely surprises like these.

One of my favorite displays of God’s grace in our life was when we made a move to Iowa.  It was the first week in January when we watched a moving truck drive off with all of our belongings.  It was an early morning with the sun not quite up yet when we said goodbye to Aaron’s parents trying to fight off tears.  It was a long several days as we made it half way across the country to a place we knew nothing about.  And it was a crazy cold, -7 degree night when we rolled into the Quad Cities, looked at each other, and wondered what the hell we were doing.  It was a lonely moment, and we were so thankful to at least have each other.

That scary, lonely, and empty feeling passed quickly as we met some of the most wonderful people we have met in our lives so far.  Some of our closest friendships were made there.  Those feelings of uncertainty and doubt turned into feelings of comfort and peace.  We built relationships with Krista, Andrew, Bekah, Nathan, Paige, Jamie, Jenna, and Whitney.  We saw them take strong stands in their high school years.  We watched them start to grow into exactly who Jesus made them to be.  We watched them stand by each other in really tough times.  We walked with them as they struggled through some soul searching.  And we laughed with them more times than I can count.

We met Rich & Kathy, Dwayne & Kathy, Kyle & Susie, Jim & Marisa, Tim, Jenn, Kate, and Jeff.  We stood by each other through times of ministry frustration.  Some of them became mentors to us.  Some of them became our closest friends.  We laughed, shared meals, told stories, and loved each other through good and bad.

And we grew even deeper in friendship with our dear friends Patrick & Chelsea.  They are some of our oldest friends, and also some of our dearest.  We’ve sifted through more turmoil and hurt with them then anyone else, and continue to come out as survivors.  We’ve spent hours laughing, joking, and making light of some pretty poor situations.  We love them so!

God’s grace was shown during those two years we lived in Iowa as we learned to live so far away from everything that we knew as comfort.  He has proven faithful many times before, which continues to give hope that He will again and again.  ♥  Thankful for grace!

This last week is the closing week of this little challenge I’ve been on!  I’m getting quite excited to cross the finish line!  My checkbook, social life, and the joints in my hands will be forever thankful.

The 25th spot in my baking challenge is held by this gorgeous loaf of bread that is both simple, sophisticated, and altogether lovely!

Fennel Fig & Almond Bread (recipe courtesy of The Modern Baker)

Makes one 9x5x3-inch loaf (12-16 slices)

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed

6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup sugar

2 large eggs

3/4 cup milk

1 1/2 cups (8-9 oz.) stemmed and diced white or black dried figs

1 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted

  • Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
  • Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and fennel seeds in a medium bowl and stir well to mix.

  • In a large bowl, beat the butter until smooth, then beat in the sugar.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
  • Beat 1/2 the flour mixture into the butter and egg mixture, then gently beat in the milk, about 1/3 at a time.  Beat in the remaining flour mixture.  Use a large rubber spatula to fold in the figs and almonds.

  • Prepare the pan by buttering it and then lining it with a rectangle piece of parchment paper cut to fit (make sure it overhangs on the long sides).
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake the bread until it is well risen and a toothpick or a narrow-bladed knife inserted into the center of the bread emerges clean, about 1 hour.
  • Cool the bread in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold it and cool it completely on a rack.  Transfer the bread to a platter or cutting board before serving.
  • Cut the bread into thin slices and serve with cutter or cream cheese.
  • For storage, keep the bread under a cake dome or loosely wrapped in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and keep at room temperature for up to 3 or 4 days.  Freeze for longer storage.

What I love about this sophisticated bread: It smells like Christmas and is loaded with good stuff!

What I hate about this sophisticated bread:  Don’t be silly…how can you hate anything that smells like Christmas?!

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