My internal blog clock is telling me that it’s time to get back to something baked! And I’ve been saving up a choice goodie for you guys – a Pear Cranberry Streusel Muffin that’s as good as anything I’ve baked in my oven for a long time. And it’s a perfect time around here to do it ’cause I just pulled my Comice pears out of the garage to finish their ripening in the kitchen – and if any of you grow your own pears, you know that when they’re ripe, you better have something in mind for them, because that window of opportunity is only open for maybe a week! And these muffins are one super good way to use a few of these babies.
Of all the fruits in my yard, I think the pears have done the best, production wise – and even though I didn’t plan this, their ripening schedules are all spaced so well that none of them overlap, and we don’t have an overload of pears at any given time. The first to appear are the Asian pears, mine is a Shinseki – and they are very different than a “European pear” – an Asian pear seems very much like a cross between a pear and an apple, which is why they are sometimes called, “apple pears”. They don’t get soft like other pears, and actually have a longer season – they can be picked as early as early August, and if left on the tree, can still be picked and eaten well into October. They are a great salad pear, crisp and juicy.
Then in late September/early October comes the little beautiful Seckel pear – the one the hornets love so much – I’ve recently posted on them here. But the Comice pear is only ready just about in time for Thanksgiving, and that’s because of its unusual ripening process – it’s picked, rock hard, about October 1st, and placed in a dark, cool, place to sit for 6 weeks – then it’s brought out to finish ripening in the ambient temperature of your kitchen. This is why you see Comice pears in your grocery at Thanksgiving time – And did you know that the Comice is the famous Christmas pear of Harry and David?
I would encourage you, especially if you’ve never tasted a Comice pear, to seek them out this year and allow them to be a part of your Thanksgiving feast in their best role; as a partner to your best cheeses – Stilton or Gorgonzola would be heavenly.
OK, let’s get back to these muffins – I’ve done something a bit special with these – as you can easily see – I’ve been eagerly waiting for an opportunity to use some little squares of baker’s parchment in place of those mundane paper liners. I wish to hell I could tell you that using these was my idea, but actually I saw them on some Starbucks’ muffins this summer, and immediately I thought, “What a great idea – and so sexy too”.
Do you use baker’s parchment? It’s really pretty handy stuff to have around for lots of things. I remember when I first got my box – we have a restaurant supply store that allows anyone to buy there, and I’d been eying the huge boxes of baker’s parchment for some time – but it seemed like a dumb buy because it had 1000 sheets in each box, and each sheet fits a full size baker’s pan, not the usual half size that fits in a home oven – so that means that each sheet gets cut in half, so it’s actually 2000 sheets! I bought a box some ten years ago now, and I’m nowhere near the halfway point of using it up – and I use it for everything – the best use? under overloaded pizzas that won’t slide off the peel. Compared to the cost of the stuff in smaller amounts, that was the best buy I’ve ever made! I now have a lifetime supply.
It cuts perfectly into 4×6 inch pieces, which I like better than 4×4″ because it makes for little “ears” that stick up and look cute – besides, it isn’t as easy to divide the sheet in 4×4″ as it is to do 4×6″ – just trust me and keep cutting into half! But use it for your next office affair or for that school bake sale coming up – Utterly irresistible.
I pulled this recipe out of my all-time favorite quick bread recipe book, Pillsbury’s Best Muffins and Quick Breads . Great book – and of course I made a few adaptions, but only a few – actually, the streusel topping is from one recipe and the muffin itself from another – but they go together magnificently. Trust me, if you’ve got a few pears around that need to be used up, or you need a special breakfast treat during Thanksgiving, you could do a lot worse than making there – hope you get a chance to see just how luscious they are.
Pear/Cranberry Muffins w. Streusel Tops
(adapted from Pillsbury Best Muffins and Quick Breads)
- ¼ cup rolled oats
- 1 Tbs chopped pecans
- 1 Tbs of shreds of whole bran cereal (like All Bran), chopped up
- 2 Tbs brown sugar
- 2 tsp melted butter
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp cardamom
Combine all streusel ingredients and set aside.
- 1 ¾ cups AP flour (or cake flour)
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 Tbs baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 1 ½ cups cubed pears
- ½ cup dried cranberries
Mix above and set aside. Then mix together in a 2nd bowl,
- ½ cup milk
- 1 egg
- 3 Tbs melted butter
And then combine with dry ingredients but only until just combined – put in muffin tin, divide streusel over all muffins, and bake at 400F for 15 -20 minutes. Test doneness with toothpick or thin knife blade.
Makes 12 muffins.