I’m so excited to share this recipe with you. Though somewhat due to its absolute deliciousness, most of my excitement comes from the fact that it’s my debut recipe with the The Recipe Redux Community. If you haven’t heard of The Recipe ReDux, it’s a community of food-loving bloggers who resolve to put a healthy spin on favorite recipes.
This month’s theme: “Creative Quick Breads – The holiday baking season is upon us. And this month we’re going way beyond grandma’s banana bread. From sweet to savory and whole-grain to gluten-free, show us your new quick bread creation fresh from the oven. And if you have a tip for wrapping and giving your lovely loaf, please share that too!”
For this month’s challenge I decided to reinvent a muffin recipe I developed a few years back while at America’s Test Kitchen. My original muffin recipe called for all-purpose flour, I wanted to remove this completely and replace it with whole-wheat flour.
As a general rule you can replace 1/3 of all-purpose flour with whole-wheat and not discern a difference in texture and height. But that wasn’t good enough; if I was going to make this healthier I really needed to commit to 100% whole wheat.
After quite a bit of research and preliminary formulation I came up with my first recipe test. I knew I needed to increase the liquid in the recipe due to how heavy and dense whole-wheat flour is. Switching out yogurt for buttermilk, slightly increasing the amount of oil and adding back some pear juice did the trick. A general rule I found to be helpful; if you want to convert a muffin recipe to a quick bread, just decrease the baking temperature by 50° and bake anywhere between 50 and 60 minutes (depending on how wet your batter is).
Lastly, the flavor combinations are what make this bread unique from all others. The combination of toasted fennel seed, pear and orange are unlike anything I have had before.
Turns out I only needed one try to lock this down. Each slice is fluffy and moist, seemingly opposite of what we have come to expect with 100% whole-wheat bread.
I hope you enjoy! Check back for a new recipe challenge each month.
- 2 tablespoons fennel seeds (see note)
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 medium bosc pears, peeled and shredded
- 1 orange, zested and juiced
- ½ cup dried cranberries, chopped
- 1 cup buttermilk
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 2½ cups whole-wheat flour (13¾ ounces)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons turbinado sugar (optional)
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 300°F. Spray loaf pan with cooking spray, making sure to spray all edges. Set aside.
- Spread fennel seeds onto a sheet pan and transfer to oven for 10 minutes until lightly toasted and fragrant.
- Remove fennel seeds from oven and transfer to a small bowl to cool. Once cooled, measure out 1 tablespoon and set aside. Transfer remaining seeds to a spice grinder and process until finely ground. Measure out 2 teaspoons of ground fennel, save remaining for another use.
- In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, sugar and vanilla until pale in color. Set aside.
- Lightly squeeze juice from shredded pear, reserving 2 tablespoons. Measure out one packed cup shredded pear and transfer to a small bowl. Add 2 tablespoons reserved pear juice, ¼ teaspoon orange zest, 2 tablespoons orange juice, and cranberries, mix to combine.
- Add buttermilk, oil, fennel seeds and ground fennel to pear mixture. Mix until combined.
- In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Form a well in the dry ingredients and add wet ingredients. Fold together until just combined and no flour pockets remain.
- Pour batter into loaf pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle top with turbinado sugar and transfer to oven.
- Bake for 55–60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
- Cool bread in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Store in an airtight container or wrapped in foil for 3–4 days.