I had the best of intentions last week, yet I still found myself with a half dozen pears sitting on my counter, too far gone for eating out of hand. That, of course, didn’t stop me from buying more pears at the market this past weekend. With an over-abundance of fruit and a decidedly fall chill in the air, it seemed as good an excuse as any for a little baking project.
It would make a better story if this recipe came about after deep contemplation of a perfect bag of golden, freckled pears plucked from a tree with branches positively aching, overloaded with fruit; if I told you how the warming spice of ginger speaks to the new fall season and complements and contrasts the pear’s sweet flower smell. Or if I waxed poetic about the crisp fall leaves flying around me in eddies and waves of yellows, oranges, reds, purples, their sound the autumn equivalent of waves on the beach, while the sun’s angled rays stretches and pulls shadows across the ground.
Truth? I stared at the pears on my counter on Sunday morning and had this conversation with myself: “These poor pears are not going to last a single day longer. You know, it’s been entirely too long since I made muffins. I wonder how pear muffins would be. And pears go so well with ginger and hey, don’t I have a bag of ginger bits somewhere? I bet if I mashed up the soft pears I could just add them to the liquid ingredients. Good enough, let’s try this.”
Like I said, the first version makes the better story, but sometimes the muffin is all you need.
Pear Ginger Muffins
Applesauce is often used to replace fat (oil or eggs) in quick breads like muffins, so why not try it with pear instead? No need to peel or do anything other than give your over-ripe pears a rinse and cut out the seeds and stems. The base recipe is adapted from my favorite chocolate chip muffins from Alton Brown.
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/3 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 cup cold butter, cut into chunks
1/2 cup pear puree (1-2 nearly over-ripe pears, cored and mashed)
3/4 cup whole milk yogurt
1/4 cup canola or other neutral oil
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 3/4 all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chopped candied ginger pieces
1 cup diced pear
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease (preferably with shortening, coconut oil, or another solid-at-room-temperature fat) and flour a muffin tin.
To make the streusel, stir together the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter or fork until the mixture is crumbly and any small chunks of butter are well coated with the sugar/flour/ginger mixture. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the mashed pears, sugar, yogurt, egg, egg yolk, vanilla, and oil until well combined. In a larger bowl, whisk together the flour(s), salt, ginger, baking powder, and baking soda.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir together just until there are no large pockets of flour. Fold in diced pear and ginger bits. Divide batter into muffin tins (if you have a 1/3 measuring cup, a slightly heaping scoop will divide the batter almost perfectly) and top each muffin with a tablespoon or so of streusel.
Bake muffins for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the pan about halfway through. Once muffins are golden brown and puffed up, remove from the oven and immediately (carefully!) remove muffins from the pan to a cooling rack. Allow to cool slightly before eating.