Monday, October 17, 2011

Pear and Honey Tea Bread

Pears are the Rodney Dangerfield of the fruit world- they just don't get enough respect.  This time of year all everyone can talk about are apples.  They're in everything from pies to cobblers to applesauce.  I like apples, I really do.  I made them into soup.  I made some roasted applesauce that's the best I've ever had (don't worry, I promise I'll share it soon).  Oh, and I made these doughnuts too.  But here's the thing.  And please don't tell the apples.  I personally think pears are so much better.  Shhh, I said don't tell...

I think people shy away from pears because they're always either totally unripe and hard at the grocery store or way too soft.  It's hard to have the patience to wait for that hard pear sitting on the counter to ripen.  You have to have impeccable timing.  A day too soon and the pear is still hard and has that funny texture that people always grumble about.  A day too late and the pear is mush.  But if you get it right, I swear there is nothing in the fruit world that can compare to the aroma of a ripe pear and the flavor- a sort of vanilla flavor that's enhanced by the juices that will inevitably end up running down your chin and hands- well, it's like nothing else.  And I mean that in the best way possible.

My sons love pears.  Given the choice of a pear and an apple, they will always choose to eat the pear.  And I love that about them.  I imagine that in their adult lives that will mean they will have style and sophistication.  Pears are the ultimate in sophistication, aren't they?  Just picture a perfectly poached pear in a beautiful puddle of vanilla scented sauce. It's the best of less is more. And that's what's wonderful about a pear.  You don't have to dress it up.  It can carry the weight of a whole dessert by itself but with one or two well placed accents, it's the height of good taste.

Pear and Honey Tea Bread
Inspired by these muffins found on the pastry affair's blog.

The pears I was working with were probably a day or two from being ripe, so I helped them out by sauteing them in a tiny bit of butter and honey.  I didn't fully cook them, just softened them a bit.  So if you're impatient like me, you can do the same.  If you have ripe pears, however, there's no need to saute them- you'd just end up with mush.

2 medium pears, peeled, cored, quartered and sliced into small pieces ( I used bartletts)
2 eggs
1/4 cup light flavored oil such as canola
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 heaping tbs honey
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbs butter, melted and cooled
1 3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1  1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg or 3/4 tsp pre-ground nutmeg

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9 inch bread pan and sprinkle the sides and bottom with granulated sugar.  I like to use sugar instead of flour on the pan to help keep the bread from sticking because it gives the edges a bit of a crunch and caramel flavor.

In a large bowl mix together the eggs, oil, applesauce, brown sugar, honey, vanilla, and butter.  Stir in the flour, baking powder and nutmeg.  Mix until the dry ingredients are just incorporated.  Add the pears and stir until they are spread throughout the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes.  The top of the bread will be browned and firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread should come out clean.  Let the bread cool completely in the pan set on a baking rack.  Slice and serve with tea or wrap in foil and freeze for up to 3 months.

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