Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pear spice muffins

I know that most people think I'm crazy for what I'm about to say, but I love getting up early on a weekend to make a nice breakfast.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy sleeping in as much as the next person.  But there is something about starting the day being productive and using your hands to create from scratch.  And when you finally get to sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labor, it's that much better and hey, look at that!  It's only 9 o'clock and you have the whole day ahead of you!  (Note: Worry not, ye late sleepers, these can be made at any time of the day.)

This was yet another recipe saved and stashed in the abyss known as my recipe folder.  It comes from Nigella Lawson's book Nigella Express.  If you aren't familiar with Nigella Lawson, she's an English food writer turned home cook/domestic goddess (her words) with an uber relaxed approach to cooking and entertaining.  No pretentious ingredients and a focus on delicious food that appeals to the general public rather than food snobs.  If you recall, I actually made her version of a breakfast granola bar a while back and was very pleased with the result.  So much so, in fact, that I now have complete faith in her recipes and even made these muffins for the first time with the intention of delivering them to a group of hungry boys.  And my blind faith was only strengthened after making these muffins.  (Nigella is officially my new food personality crush, but don't worry, Ina, you'll always be #1.)

This muffin features pears, which in my mind are sadly underappreciated and underused in this country.  They have a similar taste and texture to apples and make a perfect baking ingredient in breads, muffins, and crisps.  After looking at the recipe, I knew the combination of pears and ground ginger would make my apartment smell like a dream, so I decided to add a little cinnamon and nutmeg to kick up the warm spice element of the muffins.  What resulted was a delicious and light (no butter here) muffin with a slightly sweet and crunchy topping, perfect for breakfast, an afternoon snack with tea, or a dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  So good!

Pear Spice Muffins
(adapted from Nigella Lawson)
-makes 12 muffins

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 3 Tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash of ground nutmeg
2/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon honey
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups (about 2 medium) peeled and chopped pears, about 1/4" dice

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners (festive snowmen were today's pick).

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, granulated sugar, 1/2 of the brown sugar, baking powder, ginger and cinnamon.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, oil, honey and eggs together and then fold this wet mixture into the dry ingredients until evenly incorporated (resist the urge to overmix!).  Fold in the pears and divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.  Don't worry if they're a bit full -- they will bake up to give the muffins beautiful crown tops.

Sprinkle each muffin cup with 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar.  Bake in oven for 20 minutes.  Remove pan to a cooling rack for 15 minutes.  Pop muffins out of pan and let cool in their papers on the rack.

Serve warm alone or with a little butter (because when did butter ever not improve something?).  Nigella even suggests serving these with some sharp cheddar cheese.  Go for it!

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