Pear Walnut Muffins

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Pear Walnut Muffins

It’s Still Summer

Bosc Pears

“The floor of the Salinas Valley, between the ranges and below the foothills, is level because this valley used to be the bottom of a hundred-mile inlet from the sea. The river mouth at Moss landing was centuries ago the entrance to the long inland water.”

East of Eden, John Steinbeck

Inspiration

The fabulous pears are from Gerlinde’s birthday party, a gift from Judy and Mark. Gerlinde gathered her friends together to celebrate a momentous date, a marker of time past and times to come. Nostalgia, a longing for the past came rushing and blowing. Straightforward, direct, reminiscent of the afternoon wind in the Salinas Valley. The only escape was to go inside, the place where introverts hide. It was a sensory thing, the winding county road, the sweetness of a summer forest in bloom, the gathering of Gerlinde’s long time friends. It arrived, settled in and took me back, I felt summer.

Pear Walnut Muffin Topping

I was overcome with a cascade of summer memories, camping in the heat of Arroyo Seco, s’mores and peach ice cream. Berries so ripe, cobbler was the only option. Freezing in the fog at Moss Landing while hovering around a fire. We wrapped potatoes in foil and buried them in the hot coals. It’s hard to say if potatoes ever tasted better than in my memories. Packing a picnic lunch and trekking all the way to Sand Dollar Beach, often we’d only make it to Point Lobos. Maybe we’d picnic near the tide pools in Pacific Grove. These were the good memories of my childhood summers. I let them in, soaking them up like a parched summer garden. The coastal fog bank hovered, waited, high atop a mountain in Corralitos, just as fall waits for summer to loosen its grip, to let go. For now, it’s still summer.

Essentials

These pears came to me from a garden in Santa Cruz, a memento from a wonderful summer day. I wanted to make something special to remember. Sweet, but not overly so, and easy, just like summer should be. A muffin filled with freshly harvested pears, with just enough spice to nudge flavors toward thoughts of fall. Muffins are a wonderful way to enjoy baking without all the time and fuss in the kitchen. My mom was a muffin maker, her favorite was bran with a heavy dose of molasses and banana-nut for my dad. This recipe is adapted from the Williams Sonoma Baking Book. I found that the recipe makes 20 standard size muffins, not 14!

Pear Walnut Muffins

Pears are often ignored, apples seem to get most the attention. Pears have a floral flavor, lighter than apples, quite worthy of a celebration too. I always thought pears were harvested in fall, but in California they begin ripening in August, September is peak pear season. The pears you find on sale at the grocery store this month are newly harvested, this year’s crop, perfect for snacking and baking.

A few recipe tips: Muffins can become tough, take care not to over-mix. For a tender crumb, make sure and use buttermilk in the recipe. If you have them, toasted walnuts are best. The nutty flavor is much deeper, stronger after toasting. Crisp pears can be either grated or finely chopped in this muffin recipe. With very ripe, juicy pears chopping is the best. I’m fond of this chai spice mix paired with pears and apples, although cinnamon and nutmeg (of the original recipe) would be fabulous. The sugary walnut topping stays crisp and toasty. Adding a touch of orange zest rounds out the flavor of the Pear Walnut Muffins, they’re quite irresistible.

Topping
1/2C very finely chopped walnuts
1/2C sugar
1/2t chai spice mix or cinnamon and nutmeg
Pear Walnut Muffins
2 eggs
1/2C canola oil
3/4C low fat buttermilk
1T vanilla paste or extract
2t orange zest
1/2C/125 gr sugar
2C/315 gr all-purpose flour
2t chai spice mix or cinnamon and nutmeg
2t baking powder
1/2t baking soda
1/2t fine grain sea salt
2C finely chopped or grated pears
1C chopped walnuts
  1. Heat the oven to 350°. Line with cupcake wrappers, or grease 20 muffin cups.
  2. In a small bowl mix the topping ingredients together.
  3. In a large bowl mix together the eggs, canola oil, buttermilk, vanilla and zest until well blended. Over the top of the bowl sift or shake a sieve, the sugar, flour, spice, baking powder, soda and salt. Gently mix the dry and wet ingredients together. When they are almost mixed, fold in the pears and walnuts. Take care not to over mix, as the muffins will be tough.
  4. With an ice cream scoop (or disher scoop), spoon or small measuring cup fill the muffin containers almost full with batter. Fill any unused muffin cups with ¼ -1/3 cup full of water to keep the pans from warping. Scoop the topping evenly on the tops of the muffins, making sure each one has some of the sugar and walnuts.
  5. Bake the muffins for 20-25 minutes. When done a tester inserted into the muffin (not pears) will come out cleanly and the muffins will have pulled away from the sides of the pan. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then remove them to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Pear Walnut Muffins

Bosc Pears

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20 Responses to Pear Walnut Muffins

  1. Carol Sacks says:

    They look marvelous — but the writing, Deb. So evocative, so powerful. Loved this post!

  2. So comforting… an ideal for the upcoming season, the beautiful Autumn.

  3. Cathy says:

    This is a lovely post Deb, and a wonderful recipe too. I may very well try these as I can easily veganise the recipe. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, and enjoy the rest of the late summer season!

  4. Beautiful muffins, what a delicious way to ease into fall baking! I love pears and have quite a few fall recipes planned with them 🙂

  5. Although I love fall apples, pears are the true glory of the season. And really the only time of the year they’re worth eating — out of season pears are too woody and have no flavor (apples suffer the same problem, but to a much less extent). Fun read, and great looking muffins — thanks.

  6. Christina says:

    Oh, this is awesome! I love pears but I’ve never made pear muffins before! Great idea! Wow, I’m really loading up my comment with exclamation points!!! That’s how excited I am to make these 🙂

  7. Mary says:

    Seems we are both reminiscing these days about summers and food memories of our childhood – mine tomatoes and yours potatoes. I love anything and everything pear! I particularly love the chai spice and orange zest addition to these pear muffins. I will definitely give this recipe a try!

  8. This is beautiful Deb, I was touched deeply when I read this. I am so happy you could share my birthday celebration with me . Your are a gifted writer and cook . Thank you my friend.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you for the lovely comment Gerlinde! We were honored to be among your friends a such a fabulous celebration.

  9. 2pots2cook says:

    Love pears and walnuts duet! Thank you so much !

  10. mjskit says:

    I’m not a big muffin fan, but I have learned how to convert muffin recipes to a quick bread. These pear muffins look like a fabulous recipe to try this fall. Haven’t seen any pears yet, but I’m sure they’ll be here soon.

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