Can you tell how much I love this recipe? Just look at that tattered cookbook page. I will never forget the first time I made this. Thanksgiving 1988. We had been dating for a few months and James (knowing how much I missed my family in California) invited me to spend Thanksgiving with his family on Long Island. I was living in the city in a teeny tiny shared one bedroom on the upper east side. The kitchen was a closet. But I was determined not to arrive at my future in-laws home empty-handed.
Anyway, over 20 years later, and this recipe is still opening doors.
Here's what you need to get started:
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup yogurt or buttermilk (I use vanilla yogurt)
1 coarsely chopped pear (about 1 cup)
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350, and prepare your loaf pan. I like to use parchment paper for this, but you can grease and flour, or use a cooking spray.
Here's a trick I recently learned: Instead of trying to soften butter in the microwave (if you're at all like me, chances are you didn't plan ahead and your butter is hard as a rock...), cut the butter into small cubes. Set it out on a dish while you prepare the pan, gather your ingredients and chop the pear. By the time you're finished, the butter should be just the right texture.
Okay. Ready? Combine the dry ingredients (except for the sugar) in a bowl and set aside. I like to run a whisk through them to make sure there are no lumps and everything is incorporated. Easier than sifting.
Using a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and mix well. Now add the dry ingredients in batches, alternating with the yogurt.
Stir in the pears and vanilla by hand.
Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan and bake for about one hour. I like to sprinkle the top with crystallized sugar about 10 minutes before the loaf is ready to come out of the oven.
I've made this so often and been asked for the recipe so many times, that I think it just may be my signature baking item. Sometimes I add cranberries to the batter, sometimes I substitute apple for the pear, and it's always delicious.
I think this makes a great hostess gift during the holidays because it's the kind of thing that can be added to the desert table or tucked into the pantry to save for the next day. It's wonderful for breakfast, or tea time or whenever you're craving a little something that's not too sweet.
What's your signature baking item? Do you have something you love to bake and share during the holidays?