As I was assembling the ingredients for this Whole Wheat Lemon Date Loaf, it struck me that I’m just about the last person who should be drawn to the demands of concentration called for when making one’s own bread. I’m into near-instant gratification, often can’t be bothered to dig up my measuring cups and spoons, and begrudge the 6-10 minutes required for proper kneading. Bread-making calls for precision* – precision more akin to accounting, chemistry, and brain surgery rather than” rounding up,” making a pot of soup, or applying a Band-Aid to a small cut.
And yet, I persist. Few things that come out of my kitchen provide as much satisfaction or gratification than a freshly-baked loaf of bread. I’ve been tweaking this recipe for the last couple of months and I think I finally got it just right – a perfect balance of tart lemon (you should smell this as it bakes!) and plump, sweet dates. To make things just a little easier, I use my Kitchen-Aid mixer to knead the dough. During the cold months, the rise on this bread is long and slow – don’t rush it. Just go with it and try a little patience.
*Although I make them on occasion, no-knead breads are never quite as satisfying to me.
- 1 1/4 cups non-dairy milk
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup or molasses
- 1/4 tsp. lemon oil
- zest of one lemon
- juice of 1 lemon
- 2 1/2+ cups whole wheat flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1/4 cup wheat bran
- 2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1 cup chopped dates
- Lightly spray a large bowl with cooking oil. Lightly spray an 9-inch x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking oil and line with parchment paper, if you like.Set the bowl and pan aside.
- Add all of the liquid ingredients - non-dairy milk through lemon juice - to the bowl of a stand mixer. Run the mixer, using the paddle attachment, a few times to combine.
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine the remaining ingredients (except for the chopped dates) and whisk. With the mixer running on the slowest speed, carefully add the dry ingredients to the liquid ingredients. Once it's all added, increase the speed so that there are no dry bits. Stop the machine and replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook. Turn the mixer back on and if the dough looks too wet, add more flour a little at time until a slightly tacky ball forms.
- Continue to mix for 6-8 minutes. Now you're ready to add the dates. As the mixer runs, sprinkle in the chopped dates. You want to mix just until the pieces are incorporated evenly within the dough.
- Place the dough ball into the prepared bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 90 minutes. Whole wheat dough doesn't rise as much as all-purpose flour so don't expect a huge rise. Punch down the dough and roll it into a roughly 9-inch x 5-inch shape. Place the loaf into the prepared pan and cover with plastic wrap. Let the loaf rise for about 1 hour or until the dough rises about 1-inch above the top of the pan.
- Preheat the oven to 350-degrees F. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 40 minutes. Carefully remove the loaf from the pan and place the loaf back into the oven directly onto the oven rack. Bake for an additional 5-10 minutes or until nicely browned. The bottom of the loaf, when tapped lightly, should sound hollow and feel firm.
- Place the loaf on a cooling rack and let cool completely before slicing.
- Rise times during cool/cold months will be longer. Be patient and let the dough rise sufficiently before baking.