I have been looking for a good 100% whole-wheat muffin for longer than I can remember. It seems the good “whole-wheat” muffins are generally only 25—50 percent whole-wheat flour and to me that isn’t whole-wheat, it isn’t even worth it. So you can imagine my excitement when I began to feel like I was on to something during my testing of this recipe.
The development of this recipe did not start out with much of a direction. I was working on an assignment for America’s Test Kitchen where we were directed to create a muffin – any kind – no guidelines. So I began with five completely different recipes, using various flours, leavening agents, fats and flavors.
After quite a few rounds of testing I had two working recipes that I was happy with. The first used only all-purpose flour and the other was completely whole-wheat flour.
I decided to focus my testing on the muffin containing all-purpose flour, leaning towards a more classic style for the assignment.
By the time I was done testing and happy with the recipe – so sick of muffins – I was convinced I would never make a muffin again…
A short month later I felt I was up to another round of testing. This time I would focus on a true whole-wheat muffin. My goal was to create a muffin that had powerful, surprising flavors but was mild in sweetness.
Ultimately, I wanted a muffin that I could enjoy for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
I hope you like them!
- Whole-Wheat Fennel Muffins
- Makes 12 standard size muffins
- 4 teaspoons fennel seeds
- ½ cup walnuts or pecans
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 large fennel bulb
- 1½ cups whole-wheat flour
- ½ cup bran
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ cup crystalized ginger, chopped fine (dried cranberries or golden raisins also work)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 egg
- 1 cup apple juice
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400F°.
- Spread fennel seeds in an even layer on sheet pan and toast in oven until fragrant and lightly toasted, 2–5 minutes; transfer to a bowl to cool. When fennel seeds have cooled, measure out 2 teaspoons and set aside. Transfer remaining fennel seeds to a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and grind until no seeds are left whole. Measure out two teaspoons of ground fennel and set aside.
- Spread nuts onto sheet pan and toast in oven until fragrant and lightly browned, 5—8 minutes. Transfer nuts to a small bowl to cool, then chop.
- Remove green stalks from fennel bulb and discard. Using a box grater, shred fennel bulb and measure out one cup. Transfer to small bowl, toss with lemon juice and set aside.
- In a medium sized bowl whisk together flour, bran, baking powder, baking soda, salt fennel seeds and ground fennel. Stir in walnuts and ginger; set aside.
- In a large bowl combine oil, egg and apple juice, whisk until foamy. Add dry ingredients, shredded fennel and any liquid that has accumulated. Stir until just combined, about 15 strokes, make sure not to over mix.
- Spoon batter into greased muffin tins, filling cups full.
- Bake 20–25 minutes or until tops spring back when touched.
- Remove from oven and allow muffins to cool in the pan for 5 minutes.
- Serve warm or transfer to wire rack to completely cool before transferring to an air-tight container and storing in refrigerator.
- Muffins can be stored in refrigerator for up to one week.
For a sweeter muffin, I sprinkle Turbinado sugar on tops of muffins before baking. If I an planning to serve the muffin for dinner I will sprinkle tops with sesame seeds before baking.
Do not be tempted to substitute whole-wheat pastry flour for regular whole-wheat. This will make the muffin dense.