Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pear Bread

My first solid food was a Harry and David pear. It was Christmas, I was 5 months old, and apparently I just went for it. It was another month before my mom officially started me on rice cereal, et al, but it seems I've had a thing for pears since the get go. They always say Holidays to me, since growing up my great-aunt Jennie would send us a box of Harry and Davids. It was a special occasion just to eat one---my dad would watch them like a chicken watches her eggs for the moment they were perfectly ripe. When one was ready, we'd unwrap it from its gold foil or white tissue and there would be a moment of silence when we ate it. I can't eat a pear now without a flash of Thanksgiving and Christmas as a little girl flashing into my head. One could have worse associations.

This week I somehow found myself with several pears almost past the point of ripeness. Don't know how it happened--I guess I overbought. I needed a recipe that wasn't fussy, as I'd be making it on an afternoon it was just Luciana and me. I headed over to Punchfork, typed in Pears, and found this recipe from Smitten Kitchen (whose pumpkin pudding that's up right now is heading to the top of my recipe queue). What I liked about it: I had all the ingredients on hand. It's easy. It gets better after a few days. Very important when one needs a reason not to eat a whole loaf on day 1. She wrote that day 1 was actually not the bread's best day. It was day 2, day 3, day 4 where it really shone. And I have to say she's right. I made it Sunday, it's now Wednesday, and today it's the best it's been. The top is moister, the crumb more dense, the flavors more integrated. If it makes it til tomorrow I can't wait to see what it does. I should also tell you that I made this with Luciana strapped into her carrier, facing out, and she loved it. Her first cake!

If a pear needs to be eaten in any form other than it's raw natural one, this isn't a bad place for it to go. 2 more things working in its favor: kids love it--at least my friends Kate and Kenny's 17-month-old son did, and you can make it gluten-free. I'm not, as I've said, strictly GF, but I go that direction when I can. I went there with this, and I will again. K, enough chatter. Here's what to do

Pear Bread, or Luciana Tries Baking and Likes It
from Smitten Kitchen

3 c all-purpose flour or gluten free flour mix (I use Bob's Red Mill)
1 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 T ground cinnamon (it's very cinnamony--yum)
1 c chopped walnuts (optional--I didn't use them)
3/4 c butter, very soft, or 3/4 c vegetable oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 c sugar
2-4 ripe pears
2 t vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease and flour 2 9x5 loaf pans or a 10-in tube pan.

Combine flour, baking soda and powder, salt and cinnamon in large bowl; mix well with a fork. If using nuts, scoop out 1/4 c flour mixture and combine it in a small bowl with the nuts, coating nuts with flour.

Peel and core pears, and grate them. (if you, like me, end up with a few big bits of pear as you grate, use them too--they make for yummy extra pear-y bites). Should make about 2c grated.
*avoid grating the pears in advance so they don't turn brown!

In medium bowl, combine butter or oil, eggs, sugar, grated pear, nuts if using, and vanilla; stir to mix everything well. (I actually melted the butter a little so it would mix better. You could use an electric mixer too). Scrape the pear mixture into the flour mixture and stir just til flour disappears and batter is evenly moistened.

(Pause while I have a bite of pear bread right now)

Quickly scrape the batter into prepared pan(s) and bake at 350 for 60-70 minutes or til bread is "handsomely browned" (love that), firm on top, and a wooden skewer comes out clean. (Good time to put baby down for a nap and clean up the kitchen)

Cool bread in pan on wire rack or folded kitchen towel for 10 minutes. Then turn out onto plate or wire rack to cool completely, top side up. Serve as is, sprinkled with confectioners sugar, or drizzle with a glaze made from whisking 3T buttermilk, dash of vanilla and 2 c confectioners sugar together (I bet that's good).

Happy start to the Holidays!

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