Necessity is the mother of many a new recipe in our house.
Because there are only the two of us (humans) living here (“Don’t forget about us, Mum!“), it’s usually fairly easy to decide what to have for dinner, or what to buy at the grocery store. My HH and I share many a similar taste, except for all that animal flesh he eats, and we even enjoy cooking together whenever we do cook (which seems to be less and less frequently these days, come to think of it).
One thing we have in common is an apathetic response to pears. I crave a fresh pear probably twice a year–no connection to any other event or season; it’s just something that happens, and then I eat a pear. When I do bite into it, I do appreciate all its lush juiciness, smooth, aromatic flesh and the little-known fibre boost it supplies.
Pears wouldn’t be a problem over here, except that we are also the happy recipients of a weekly organic fruit and vegetable box. When I’m not being lazy, or when I have extra time on my hands, I will contact the company ahead of time if there’s something I don’t want (such as cantaloupe, or extra mushrooms) and they will kindly exchange it for something else I do want (such as kale, or sweet potatoes). However, more often than not, I am forgetful this way, and we end up with two to four pears in the box.
If I’m indifferent to fresh pears, my HH is positively aloof. He won’t eat them; doesn’t like them; won’t even so much as glance in their direction. The result of this situation at home is the all-too-frequent overly ripe pears sitting in a bowl in our kitchen, looking ennervated and gloomy and feebly hanging on for dear life. What to do?
In the past, I’ve simply chucked them, with no fanfare and lots of guilt (well, at least I put them in the organic waste bin). Then I realized that I could quarter, core, and freeze them for later use in a morning smoothie, along with my frozen banana and berries. This worked well, and I enjoyed the added flavor imparted by the pears. Eventually, though, the number of ziplocs containing pears just grew too large.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to whip up some of my favorite oatbran banana muffins, and grabbed a bag of frozen overripe bananas to defrost. To my dismay, I realized once it was too late to re-freeze them that the melted, leaky mass in the bowl wasn’t bananas at all, but a batch of my frozen pears. What to do?
The pear slices were too soggy and soft to use as they were (and certainly not suitable to cut into dice, as is so often the requirement for any baked goods made with fresh pears). I had a wonderful recipe for pear and ginger muffins that I’d made about a year ago, but it called for freshly diced pears, and this mass of oozing, juicy, soggy goo was just too amorphous for any such recipe.
Then it hit me that I could do with the pears what I had intended to do with the bananas: grab my trusty hand blender and whip them in to a puree. Then use the puree in a quickbread recipe.
I got to work and concocted what I thought would work. I even threw in some Salba, as I’d just bought my first bag (for the low, low price of $13.70!!!) and wanted to experiment. An hour later, I had four pear and ginger loaves–a little too flat, a little too dry, but on the right track. A few more test runs, and I was pleased enough to give the results to my HH to taste. I told him it was a “spice bread.”
Well, let’s just say, the days of the Pear Prohibition are over. My HH made quick work of 2 loaves in succession that very night, then asked for another for breakfast the next day. I’ve since told him they contain pear, and he’s even okay with it.
Here’s the recipe, so you can see what you think. Another reason I’m excited about it is that this will be my first contribution to the ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday round-up next week, hosted by Cate at Sweetnicks.
[NB. Those eagle-eyed among you (okay, technically "between you," since among is reserved for more than two) will notice that there is, indeed, a photo attached to this post, despite my earlier whining that I'd forgotten my camera up north. Luckily, I shot a few photos of my pear loaves last week, when I baked them. Wow, that free camera can snap nifty photos!]
Mini Pear and Ginger Loaves
1-1/3 cups (approx 325 ml) pear puree (can be fresh or previously frozen; use overripe pears)
2 tsp. (10 ml.) freshly grated ginger root
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) finely ground chia seeds (I’m guessing you can substitute ground flax seeds as well)
2/3 cup (160 ml) agave nectar (dark or light–your choice)
1/2 cup (120 ml) organic sunflower or other light-tasting oil
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) good quality balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. ( 5 ml.) pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) pure lemon extract
2/3 cup (75 g.) walnuts, broken into pieces
1-1/3 cups (175 g.) whole barley flour
2/3 cup (85 g.) whole oat flour
1-1/2 tsp. (7 ml) aluminum-free baking powder
1 tsp. (5 ml) baking soda
1/2 tsp. (2 ml.) sea salt
2 tsp. (10 ml.) ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. (1 ml.), scant, ground cloves
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Lightly spray an 8-loaf mini loaf pan (or 8 individual mini loaf pans) with nonstick spray, or line with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, combine the pear puree, ginger, Salba, agave nectar, oil, vinegar, vanilla, and lemon extract. Mix well, then gently fold in the walnut pieces. Set aside while you measure the dry ingredients, or for at least 2 minutes.
In a large bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves.
Pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture and stir to combine. Do not overmix (it’s okay if a few small dry lumps remain here and there). Using a large ice cream scoop or small measuring cup, pour the mixture into the loaf pans, filling about 3/4 full (these won’t rise a lot more once they’re in the oven).
Bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes, rotating the pan once after 20 minutes to ensure even heating. Loaves are ready when a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean but moist.
Cool 5 minutes in pans, then remove to racks to cool. These freeze well. Makes 8 mini loaves. May also be baked as muffins.
Final note: the last time I whipped these up, I was probably daydreaming while stirring and forgot entirely to add the oil; it didn’t make a huge difference, and they were still delicious. So you can also bake these as fat-free Pear and Ginger Mini Loaves or Muffins, if you wish.
[This recipe will also appear in my upcoming cookbook, Sweet Freedom, along with more than 100 others, most of which are not featured on this blog. For more information, check the "Cookbook" button at right, or visit the cookbook blog.]