13 April 2014

Pear Ginger Almond Muffins

A visitation from my mother nowadays nearly always includes a little plastic shopping bag of at least one or two pantry or sundry items that aren't necessary--I live across from a market, but nevertheless, items I probably don't have. Extra sponges! A ripening banana! Half a bag of a whole grain! A coconut water! Often, a torn out magazine or newspaper article of some relevance to my life is thrown in, too. Oh and she once gave me that notebook in the above photo which I at first scoffed at. I know, it's pretty, what was I thinking. I'm just usually more of a minimal Moleskin girl. But I've actually come to love the widened of pages of this particular journal. They make you write bigger.

I saw her briefly last week and in addition to the usual banana in the bag, there were 2 pears, which I almost didn't take. They were ripe, very. If eaten raw they would have had to be eaten immediately or become a wet mess. But I delayed, thinking to bake. Ironically though a few whole grain muffin recipes I've tagged with pears called for a firmer pear for grating. So I chopped and semi dehydrated one of the pears like in this recipe and then threw them into this recent batter in place of the raspberries. They were very nice. And the other pear? It met its fate with fresh ginger, a saucepan and a little gem of a recipe from the Food52 community, and that's what I'm here to talk about today.

The recipe comes from a woman named Mrs. T, and she adapted it from a recipe for applesauce muffins, replacing the applesauce with a quick homemade stovetop pear sauce infused with some fresh ginger. That gets stirred into a melted butter based batter, replacing the need for any yogurt or milk which is a nice change. The flour mix is infused with ground ginger and a crunchy nut and sugar mix sprinkled with a little more ground ginger gets dropped across the tops. Into the oven they go. And they are delicious. Light and tender, warmed by ginger, with smooth little pear pockets throughout, and crunchy nuts on top. Mrs. T suggests enjoying the muffins cooled down a bit with coffee preferably on your porch, maybe with a lake view or in a sunny spot in your kitchen. And that's just what we did. I think even heard a seagull outside the cracked kitchen window.

Pear ginger almond muffins

Makes 5 standard

Notes: you can find the original recipe here. I made a few changes. I halved the whole thing, I used toasted slivered almonds instead of walnuts, and used only a few tablespoons of the nuts instead of the larger amount she called for, and I swapped in a bit of whole wheat pastry flour for some of the all purpose. I also threw in a teensy dash of vanilla but that's optional. The ginger is the star here. And another thing! Do this: Make the pear ginger sauce a day or even two days before so it's all ready when you want to make the muffins and the overripe pear is off your mind. It can be kept in the fridge. To save time I also mixed my dry ingredients the night before and left them in a covered bowl. It was a cinch to thus mix the batter while the oven heated. 

1/2 c /120 grams pear ginger sauce**
1/4 tsp vanilla
75 grams butter ~ 1/3 cup
1 egg
2.5 Tbsp/ 32 grams natural cane sugar + 1 scant Tbsp for topping

1/2 c unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 c whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger + 1/4 tsp for topping
3 Tbs slivered almonds, lightly toasted

Method: turn the oven to 400 rack in center. Melt the butter in a large saucepan swirling until just melted. Remove from heat and pour into a little bowl to cool. Take a pastry brush and dip lightly into the already melted butter to grease 5 muffin wells. Set aside. 

In a small bowl mix 1/4 tsp ground ginger, half the nuts and the scant 1 T sugar (I used Sugar in the Raw for that)

Mix up your flours, baking powder and soda, 1/2 tsp ginger, salt if your haven't done so, in a medium bowl. Whisk to fluff and combine. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk csugar and egg. Add vanilla. Add melted butter and whisk well to volumize and smooth. Stir in pear sauce. In 2 or 3 additions, fold flour mix into wet mix gently, then stir in half the almonds. Evenly divide batter in muffin cups, top evenly with nut-sugar topping.

Bake about 20 minutes. The tops will be golden and a skewer come out clean.

Cool in the pan 5 mins, then remove and continue to cool on rack. Serve with a little honey and Irish butter stirred together. Enjoy!

**Pear Sauce
1 large ripe pear (Bartlett or similar), peeled, cored and diced. Should yield about 1 cup
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp grated ginger (I keep my peeled ginger root in the freezer and grate it with a microplane when I need it, which tends to make the gratings a little fluffy. So if you’re using fresh, unfrozen ginger, you might want a little less)
  1. Heat butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When butter is melted and frothy add pears, tossing with a wooden spoon to coat.
  2. Add sugar, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.
  3. Add grated ginger and cook over low heat for about 15 or minutes, until pears are soft and most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and allow to cool for at least 15-20 minutes. Store in fridge a day or two before using if desired. 

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