In what may be an example of one of my more curious habits, I have recently become convinced that it is unseemly of me to show up at anyone’s house without bringing with me a treat of some sort. Lucky for everyone, I like to make treats, and people like to receive treats, so it’s tough to find a problem with this arrangement. As the holiday season kicks into high gear, so goes the impetus to arrange parties, dinners, and get-togethers of all varieties.
Keeping my current need-to-feed in mind, I have been spending a larger then usual amount of time thinking of the numerous treats I can bring to said get-togethers. Again, as a person who derives great pleasure from spending time curled up with cookbooks and dreaming about future baked goods, this ordinarily poses no problem for me. However, I fear I may be taking a break from discovering new host and hostess gifts for a bit, as lately I have found it nearly impossible to steer my attention away from this pear and pecan bread. At the risk of sounding overly confident, I think this bread just might be the most versatile hostess gift I’ve yet to find.
With just the right amount of sweetness and the most unbelievably tender, moist crumb, this has become my go-to choice for a simple, delicious quick bread. The comfort of spice and the rich, fragrant flavor of baked pears make this a great bread for a light afternoon snack, but the subtle sweetness of the bread also makes it a suitable addition to any breakfast table. Topped with lightly whipped cream or a dab of ice cream, this bread transforms into a modest little cake with the ability to wow any dessert-hungry table.
Conveniently, the flavor of the bread only gets better over time, so if the person to whom you have gifted this bread decides to hold off on eating it for a couple of days, it’s his or her good fortune. The bread also freezes beautifully, retaining its moisture and crumb after being laid to rest in the freezer either sliced or whole. Though it may seem strange to talk about a bread so fine and then immediately discuss ways to prolong the period of time between receiving it and eating it, you have to consider that, during a season so filled with decadence and gifts of goods both sweet and baked, it might behoove us all to save a little of our treats for a later time. When the crush of the holidays has ended and you’d like a little time to sit quietly and relax in solace, you’d find no better company than a slice of this bread, dutifully kept waiting for you until you are ready to grant it your full attention.
Pear and Pecan Bread
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup white sugar
¼ cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 large egg
½ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 ½ cups grated ripe pears, with juice
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange an oven rack to the lower-middle position. Grease a 9” x 5” loaf pan and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, vegetable oil, vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice, and grated pears with their juice.
Add the flour mixture to the pear mixture, and gently fold to combine. When the ingredients are mostly moistened, add the chopped pecans and continue to the fold the ingredients until they are completely moistened. Do not overmix.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake in the lower third of the oven for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the bread comes out clean. Allow the bread to cool in its pan for 15 minutes before unmolding onto a rack to cool completely.
|About the contributor:|
|Elizabeth Miller is a freelance writer who runs Savory Salty Sweet, a food and kitchen appreciation website. She also writes the Melting Pot column here on Indie Fixx, which appears bimonthly on Fridays. Read more about her on the contributors’ page.|