Apples are seen as the star of the autumn fruit scene. They come in a variety of bright, shiny colors, have crisp, crunchy flesh and taste pleasingly sweet and tart. Pears aren’t as eye-catchingly glossy and they have a slightly less assertive flavor. However, as I’ve gotten older, pears grab my attention, and shopping dollars, far more than apples. They have a certain culinary humility and lack of flash that makes them good players in baked goods and preserves. Pears also dress up better than apples ever can, achieving easy sophistication simmered in honeyed wine or baked into an elegant tart.
In the following recipe, pears play two roles. After being peeled and chopped, a smaller amount is set aside raw, while the rest head into a saucepan to cook down into a rough sauce. The sauce helps keep the finished muffins moist and the raw bits add texture. The muffins can be eaten warm or frozen to extend their life. Day old muffins are best toasted and buttered.
Pear Almond Muffins
3 large pears, peeled, finely chopped and divided
1/4 cup softened butter
1/2 cup well-packed brown sugar
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with butter and set aside.
- Set aside 3/4 cup of the chopped pears. Place the remaining pears in a saucepan with 1/4 cup water and simmer until soft enough to roughly mash with a fork. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
- Add the butter and brown sugar to a large bowl. Beat on medium-high speed until it becomes light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat to combine. Add 1 cup of the cooked, cooled pears and stir until integrated.
- In a separate bowl, add the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and grated nutmeg; whisk to combine.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in thirds, each time mixing to fully integrate before adding more.
- Once all dry ingredients have been mixed in, add the reserved chopped pears and the toasted almonds. Stir until just combined.
- Evenly spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the tops are browned and a toothpick comes out mostly clean.