Pear Bread from the Quick Breads book is the kind of quick bread that turns out so perfect that you will get inspired to keep on baking more and more. It has to have something to do with the buttermilk in the recipe. Pears are one of THE fruits of fall.
Wandering around looking for a photo, I came across a bread called Pear Bread with Ginger and Vanilla, which rang a bell with me. Its all my favorite flavors. Think of it in terms like if you bought the same blouse over and over you love it so much and forget you have it back in the closet. Off in a round a bout way to a lovely blog called The Barmy Baker (http://thebarmybaker.blogspot.com/) and there was my recipe interpreted and commented on, photos, and analysis dialogue. Food writers always recognize their own work. Lo and behold, she even lives in the same town as I do. I checked the Pear Bread and it had a few minor changes, as any great baker is wont to do putting their own stamp on things–less butter, vanilla paste for the extract (a substitution you can make in any recipe-vanilla paste is the new rage in both vanilla and baked goods flavorings), and a touch more ginger and buttermilk. There is nothing quite like seeing your work as it is interpreted by another baker. I couldn’t be prouder. This is one of the joys of the net blogging for me-this vast family of bakers, food writers, restaurant people, and the bevy of home cooks.
Jenn the Bread Freak is a fabulous baker. She took a course from Peter Reinhardt and obviously absorbed the best he has to offer. Her artisan yeast breads are some of the most perfect looking I have ever seen from a home baker. Once you take a course like that, you get confident. I was thrilled to see she not only made the bread, but made it her own as well. Some bakers don’t like other bakers using their recipes and claiming them as their own, but I love it. Its the way recipes stay alive-by personalizing them and sharing them. The only thing was while Jenn the Bread Freak acknowledged where she got all her recipes, she didn’t mention it in regard to the Pear Bread, just that she had the recipe around for a while. But that’s okay.
Crystallized ginger was just hitting its stride as a baking ingredient when I wrote the book back in the 1990s, but today is an easy ingredient to find outside Asian groceries. Together with ambrosial fresh pears, lemon, and vanilla, this bread has a remarkable perfumed aroma and a variety of textures, with the crystallized ginger melting into pockets of sweetness throughout the loaf. Use red or green Bartletts, Winter Nelis, d’Anjou, Bosc, Seckel, or firm Comice pear varieties. You want them just yielding to the touch, not mushy. You have to be able to chop them.
Here is my original recipe.
Yield: One 9-by-5-inch loaf
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Pinch salt
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized candied ginger
- 1/4 cup cultured buttermilk
- 1 1/2 cups peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped fresh, firm pears (about 2 to 3 whole pears), such as Bartletts, Winter Nelis, d’Anjou, Bosc, Seckel, or Comice
1. Preheat the oven to 350º. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer or by hand ( I use my Danish dough whisk). Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and beat just until combined.
2. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, lemon zest, and crystallized ginger in a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture in three equal portions, alternating with the buttermilk. Beat just until smooth. Fold in the pears just until evenly distributed.
3. Scrape the batter into a greased 9-inch loaf pan and bake in the center of the preheated oven until golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 55 to 65 minutes. Remove the loaf from the pan onto a rack to cool completely before slicing.
Excerpted from The Best Quick Breads, by Beth Hensperger. (c) 2000, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.
Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2014
Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.
TIPS FOR TROUBLE-SHOOTING QUICK LOAVES
SOGGY TEXTURE WITH A SUNKEN MIDDLE:
-Too much liquid in proportion to the dry ingredients in the recipe
-Too little total leavening or leavenings not potent
-Batter left too long before baking
CRACK ALONG THE CENTER OF THE TOP SURFACE:
-Characteristic of a good quick loaf, indicating expansion during baking
-To eliminate the crack, let the batter rise slightly at room temperature for 20 minutes before baking
COARSE, CRUMBLY TEXTURE:
-Too much fat in proportion to the other ingredients in the recipe
-Too much leavening
GREASY WITH CRISP EDGES:
-Too much fat in proportion to the other ingredients
THICK, POROUS, AND OVERLY BROWNED CRUST:
–Too much sugar in proportion to the other ingredients
-Oven temperature too high
-Over handling of the batter during the mixing
-Oven temperature too high
BITTER OR SOAPY AFTERTASTE:
-Too much baking powder or baking soda