New Year Baking: Pear, Candied Ginger and Walnut Quick Bread

A loaf of bread, a spot of tea and thou.

A loaf of bread, a spot of tea and thou…the perfect combo for a damp January day. (The cat fetish was made by fellow potter and friend, Ana Vizzuraga.)

Happy 2014! I hope all of you had a joyful holiday season and rang in the new year with great gusto and style.

We enjoyed a lovely and extended holiday time traveling and visiting with family and friends, returning home just in time to say goodbye to 2013 (with a bit of good riddance, in my book.) Alas, 2013 wouldn’t quite let go of me in that immediately upon my return, I contracted a stomach flu-type bug, which was with me all week. Needless to say, being in the kitchen was pretty far from my mind.

As this first weekend of 2014 rolls past, I’m finally feeling much better and I think I’m ready for a little sweet and light in my cooking…something for my breakfast and dessert pleasure. So what’s in the fridge and cupboard? Pears, walnuts and lots of candied ginger left over from making  chai tea mix and chocolate hazelnut and ginger biscotti. Although I love pears, I hardly ever cook with them, usually preferring to eat them raw in salads or with cheese. But of course, they are so transcendent when cooked…the heat enhancing their natural sweetness, releasing their perfume and still retaining a most pleasant texture.

It's quite hard to sit and wait for this to cool off.

It’s quite hard to sit and wait for this to cool off.

This Pear, Candied Ginger and Walnut Quick Bread was an experiment, and it came out even better than I had hoped. It has a very chunky fruit texture, which worried me a bit when I put it in the oven—wasn’t sure if I’d gone overboard on the pears—but the result is a moist, fruity, crunchy and incredibly flavorful loaf. You get a hint of the ginger and an essence of nutmeg in each bite. The tiny bit of lemon zest brings all the flavors together. I could eat the whole thing in a sitting, that’s how good it is…but I won’t. It is a new year after all, and there are all those pesky resolutions to be considered.

It’s been quite cold here this weekend, and even more so in other parts of the country (and world), which was all the more reason to enjoy a slice of this bread with a nice, hot cup of tea, coffee or cocoa.

Cheers, stay warm (or cool, if you’re in the southern hemisphere) and have a happy day!

loafsliced1Pear, Candied Ginger and Walnut Quick Bread
Makes 1-5″ x 9″ Loaf

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus a bit more for greasing the pan
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 (generous) teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup milk
2 medium pears, I used a Bosc and a Bartlett, peeled, cored and diced (about 2 full cups)
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan with butter and set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. In another larger bowl, beat the sugar and butter together with a hand mixer until well blended, then add the egg and zest and beat until well combined. Add the flour mixture and the milk in 3 alternate batches, alternating and beating each ingredient until just combined, do not over mix. Scrape the batter off the beaters, then add the pear, walnuts and ginger, stirring by hand gently until evenly combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan (it will be thick, fairly stiff and lumpy), spread it until it is evenly dispersed in the pan and smooth the top. Bake at 350 degrees F for 50-55 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, the loaf is shrinking from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Transfer the loaf to a wire rack and allow it to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove it from the pan and allow it to cool on the rack until room temperature. Slice with a sharp serrated bread knife and enjoy plain, or with a tiny bit of sweetened whipped cream if you’re still feeling decadent after the holidays.

withtea2

A is for Apples: A Savory Bread Pudding and an Apple Oat Walnut Bar

Fall isn’t Fall without apple bars, breads, cakes, cookies, crisps, bread puddings, salads and soups!

Do you have seasonal favorite dishes that you like to make? As each year rolls around, I look forward with great anticipation to tasting some favorite dishes once more, and it seems like periodically they are due for a wee makeover. Not that there was anything wrong with them the first time around, but just because I think…’Wow, wouldn’t this be good with this or that added to it?’ Or, ‘What if I tried making that into something else?’ Here are two new dishes, not quite the same as the old dishes—and both involve one of my favorite seasonal ingredients, apples! Continue reading

Ma’amool for Easter

These cookies have Easter written all over them. Festive and rather stunning, if I do say so myself!

The Ma’amool mold with the tag.

A dear friend of mine is a treasure hunter. By this I mean she finds the most amazing treasures in any number of places…yard sales, estate sales, thrift stores, etc. She’s so good at it, that some of my most creative and interesting objects in the house are things that she’s found…everything from a hand painted swashbuckling hat holder to a  very cool and Don Quixote-styled metal horse sculpture. Last fall on my birthday, one of her gifts was an odd (to me), but really beautiful hand carved mold. Continue reading

Eat Your (Winter) Greens!

Up until a few short years ago, nothing could have convinced me that greens would ever become something that I loved. I’m not speaking of lettuce or spinach, but winter greens like chard, kale and collards. Then one day I decided to be bold and try some kale that had come in our CSA box and I combined it in a saute with other ingredients I knew I liked. Imagine my surprise when the end result was a savory and satisfying dish that brought out the natural sweetness of the kale. Then I tried it with chard and it worked equally well. “Hmmm, maybe I’m on to something here,” I said to myself. The next time I made some greens this way, I had extra and added them to some pasta with roasted tomatoes and sausage, and hence my Penne with Kale, Sausage and Roasted Tomatoes recipe was born and you can see that post here. Now I’ve come to love them so much I grow two kinds of kale in my garden and it’s one of my favorite side dishes to make while winter greens are in season. Fortunately it’s a nice long season where we live! Continue reading

Feeling Weenie-Hallow-ish

I have to apologize to my fellow bloggers. I’m still trying to catch up with all of your lovely posts from when I was on vacation, but am enjoying reading them and replying as I get to them. Lots of great posts out there!

Halloween is fast upon us and this weekend I was feeling a bit zombie-like, since the moment I returned from vacation I put in about a 50-hour work week between Monday and Thursday to catch up. Whew.

Oh wait, maybe I meant those other kind of zombies…but I like these better! Ah, the life of the self-employed…but I’m truly fortunate to be busy! Continue reading