In general I live by the motto, “When life gives you pears, make pear custard pie.” But sometimes pear muffins are a good substitute, especially if you only have one pear that needs using.
I’ve posted this recipe before (ripped off from a Williams-Sonoma catalog many, many years ago), in the form of part-whole-wheat rhubarb muffins. This time I just used all-purpose flour, replaced the rhubarb with one bosc pear, peeled, cored and diced, and added a heaping tablespoon of chopped crystallized ginger. As usual, the muffins baked up perfectly. Pear is a more subtle addition than rhubarb, but it goes nicely with the ginger and makes charming pockets of soft sweetness. We have a bag of these in the freezer now, ready for quick weekday breakfasts.
I was so thrilled when I finally found a copy of Nancy Silverton’s pastry cookbook at Powell’s a few weeks ago. Of course, I still haven’t made the recipe I bought the book for (the incredible homemade buttermilk crackers we had at Duckfest), partly because my eye was immediately drawn to the ricotta-stuffed muffin recipe. Our favorite goat cheese vendor had fresh ricotta last week, we just had to do it. Really, could you have resisted?
The muffin batter itself was a lot like my usual muffin recipe – yogurt and oil, not too sweet. The difference was the addition of ground toasted fennel seed into the batter, a fabulous idea in itself – plus a creamy center of ricotta mixed with a bit of sour cream, that spills out when you bite into the muffin. Mmmm.
I’m cheating a little by posting this recipe today: I actually baked these muffins months ago. However, we just took the leftovers out of the freezer and ate them two days ago, so what was old is new again, right?
This isn’t a particularly avant-garde recipe. The original (written down many years ago) was a Williams Sonoma recipe for white-flour muffins with rhubarb and crystallized ginger, beloved by myself and my mother for its versatility – it can use yogurt, sour cream or buttermilk, depending what you have on hand, and it’s very good with tart apples or cranberries instead of rhubarb. I also like that the batter doesn’t need delicate treatment – often with muffin batter you need to fold the ingredients together until just combined, and no more – but this stuff can be stirred as much as you like and it still bakes up fluffy and tender.
For some reason this time I wasn’t in the mood for ginger (besides, we didn’t have any candied ginger in the house) and I wanted a bit more flavor in the muffin itself, so I added a bit of whole wheat flour and limited the additions to just rhubarb. It just occurred to me, though, this would have been great with a bit of orange zest added in with the fruit. Hmmm…maybe next time. Continue reading