With the crispness in the air, the dense low-lying fog a little too eager to greet me each morning, and the aroma of roasted pear, cinnamon, and clove floating from the kitchen, there is no denying Autumn has settled into our valley. With the cooler temperatures I find myself drawn to curries, steamy lentil soups, and warm, grounding spices, like the Chinese 5 Spice used in this bread.
Chinese 5 Spice is a blend of 5 spices: cinnamon, clove, star anise, black pepper, and fennel. It gives a festive sweetness with a subtle hint of spice in the background that pairs well here with the earthy oats, whole grains, and roasted pears. This is not a dense bread. It has a light and moist crumb thanks to the pears, applesauce, and olive oil. And the spice is a warm undertone, it does not overpower.
Dry roasting the pears is an essential step for flavor and drawing out some moisture so the bread does not become soggy. Please do not skip! And if you'd rather not commit to buying a bottle of the Chinese 5 Spice (though, I'd seriously doubt you'd regret it!), buy only what you need from the bulk aisle instead. Alternatively, spice substitutions are noted below in the headnotes if you cannot find the spice. I made a mini loaf and 12 muffins because I like to freeze some of the muffins. But you could also make 1 large loaf.
5-Spice Roasted Pear Bread
Makes 1 large loaf (or 1 mini loaf + 12 muffins)
Notes: In a pinch, any combination of the following ground spices could be used in place of Chinese 5 spice: cinnamon, allspice, clove, ginger, cardamom, fennel, a grind of black pepper. The chosen combination should still yield 1 1/2 tsp. total.
3 medium, firm pears, peeled
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup oat flour (just grind up 1/2 cup rolled oats)
1/2 cup light spelt flour (whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour work too)
Heaping 1/3 cup muscovado sugar (or brown sugar)
1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. Chinese 5 spice (or see headnotes for a suggested mix of spices)
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup plain, full-fat yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Grease loaf pan and/or muffin tins.
Cut peeled pears into 1-inch chunks and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, until they are dry to the touch. Remove from the oven and set aside while preparing the batter.
Turn oven down to 350 F. In a large bowl, whisk together the whole wheat pastry flour and next 7 ingredients (through salt).
In another bowl, whisk the remaining liquid ingredients (through vanilla extract) until well combined. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture, and whisk until almost combined. Then with a spatula, gently fold pears into the batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s). Bake in the middle of the oven until just golden brown and a skewer/toothpick comes out clean from the center.
For muffins, bake 22-25 minutes
For mini loaf, bake 25-28 minutes
For large loaf, bake 45-50 minutes
Let bread cool slightly, then remove from pan(s) to cool completely on a wire rack.