16 Sep Fall Means Hunting Stories…and Cooking with Pears
Years ago my dad planted ornamental pear trees along our driveway to remind us of the trees planted in the parkways of our childhood homes in Ventura, CA.
One morning Matt and I found one of the trees bent over and nearly broken in half. At the time we enjoyed a house filled with teens and it was evident that a teenage driver had accidentally backed over it. Things like that happen when you live at the end of a country road and there are no street lights to illuminate your way. We cut the tree off at the base and wondered what might happen. The following spring a “new” tree began to grow out of the root stock. Imagine our delight when it flowered and bore fruit!
During the years since the great plowing event, the tree has matured and this fall our friend LV Tozer reminded us that pears must be harvested when a slight sweetness and moisture is first detected. Timed just right, pears ripen to perfection off the tree.
Three weeks ago we pulled the pears when a sample bite revealed this sugaring process had begun. From our once broken tree we picked close to 50 lbs. Sometimes out of brokenness the best fruit is produced. There is a lesson in there somewhere!
Besides the life lesson, we wanted to make use of our bountiful crop so we got to work. I canned cinnamon/vanilla bean pear sauce and one night baked a pear tart with goat cheese, rosemary and honey that made my eyes roll back into my head. It was divine.
I also baked a delightful yogurt cake created by Emily Kuross and featured on her blog, Five and Spice (fiveandspice.wordpress.com). Yogurt cake is a traditional French afternoon snack cake that pairs the richness of butter with the slight tartness of yogurt. Kuross has filled hers with juicy bites of pear and bittersweet chocolate and it’s lovely. Moist, with a refined crumb, this cake slices beautifully after cooling for a few minutes. She suggests adding whipped cream, which I’m entirely in favor of because anything with whipped cream is made even more wonderful, right?! But omitting the whipped cream this time, Matt and I sliced this cake and enjoyed it first thing one morning with our coffee. What a way to start the day!
Yogurt Cake with Pear and Dark Chocolate
Yield: 1 Loaf
Recipe Creator: Emily Kuross (Visit fiveandspice.wordpress.com for other delicious recipes)
1 ½ C all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 C plain, whole milk yogurt
1 C granulated sugar
3 large eggs
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
½ C canola oil
1 large pear (ripe but still firm, cored and cut into small pieces with the skin)
½ C bittersweet (dark) chocolate chunks
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8-inch loaf pan with butter. In a small bowl combine all of the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl whisk together the sugar, yogurt, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Next, stir in the dry ingredients, small amounts at a time, until well blended. Finally, using a rubber scraper, fold the oil into the batter until fully incorporated.
Pour about 1/3 of the batter into the greased loaf pan (be sure it is a standard size as this creates a generous amount of batter). Sprinkle 2/3 of the pear pieces and the chocolate chunks all over the batter. Then add the rest of the batter on top and gently spread until smooth. Sprinkle the rest of the pear pieces and chocolate chunks over the top of the load and gently press everything down into the batter to partially submerge them.
Bake in the middle of your oven until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean—about 55 to 60 minutes. Once the cake is out of the oven, let it sit in the pan for about 5 minutes before running a knife around the edges of the pan. Carefully turn the cake out of the pan, then cool upright on a rack until room temperature—if you can wait that long!
The cake will keep for several days (refrigerate if it’s more than 2 days). Slices are delicious toasted or served with sweetened whipped cream.