Monday, November 23, 2009

Pear bread

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 eggs
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?


  1. Every time you've talked about making this I tell myself I'm going to try it. Now I have no excuse. Well, except I have to convert it to GFCF and pray it turns out half as gorgeous as yours looks!

    I can't say I have a signature baking item anymore. When I was much, much younger, I made some killer apple pies from scratch with my great-grandmother's crust recipe...and a secret ingredient (lots of dark, high quality rum!).

  2. I just got this recipe out to make today! I bought the pears a few days ago & they are the perfect ripeness. Thanks!

  3. Mmmm. I made this based on your recommendation last fall and loved it. Time to make it again! Great timing, Kristen!

  4. My signature item is my chicken soup with matzoh balls; I have friends who will actually call me up and ask me to make it for them when they're sick!

    Generally, I don't do a huge amount of baking, because I tend to improvise too much; I rarely have all ingredients on hand for a spur of the moment baking session. But this sounds totally doable, and reallllllly yum.

    Still, I do have a signature baking item; it's what most people would call a thumbprint or jelly cookie, but we call Mrs. Goldberg's cookies, because they come from this ancient Jewish cooking cookbook that my grandmother adored. One of my friends once put them out at a theater he was managing during a Christmas party, and Ben Vereen and John Ritter BOTH complimented them! My cookies are famous! I'm putting them on my list right now for posting in the next couple of weeks, so I'm not going to say anything more about them at this time, except that they are pretty much regular butter cookies with a secret ingredient. ;-)

  5. This looks excellent. Just need to figure out a good substitute for the yogurt.

    I don't think I have a signature baking item - I've just never been a huge baker. I have always loved making chocolate chip cookies though. Mmm, I'm about to make some today.

  6. Sounds great, but I have a dairy allergy in the house, so like goodfountain and niksmom, I'd need to do some substituting. Any suggestions for what might work?

  7. goodfountain and *m*, I found this link to a site called Gluten Free Mom. She offers ideas for how to substitute milk-based products in baking/cooking.

    Since the recipe I use allows for a direct exchange between yogurt and buttermilk, I would first try turning rice or soy milk into "buttermilk" by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice.

    If you try it, come back and let us know how it works. One thing I like about this recipe is that the bread is light and fluffy, not dense. It's airier than other quickbreads and I think that adds to its appeal.

    Good luck!!

  8. You can substitute the rice milk w/lemon for the yogurt.

    Another great site to bookmark for all kinds of allergy-friendly substitutions is LIVING WITHOUT (

  9. I am in a baking mood today and my husband is off work and so can manage the kids so I can bake. I'm adding this to my list. All I have to do is stop and pick up a pear.

    I shall make the GFCF version and let you know!

  10. I made a GFCF version of this today: I used 2 cups all-purpose GF flour. I subbed soy-free Earth Balance and instead of the buttermilk/yogurt, I used rice milk (1/4 cup) with 1/4 tsp lemon juice. After the rice milk w/ lemon had set out a bit, it did thicken up. Wild, huh?

    I think the bread tastes GREAT. Light and kinda fluffy, not dense. Really good!