Several weeks ago my husband and I were reading the newspaper together. He pulled out a recipe for a Pear and Cranberry Cake from the food section and handed it to me. "This looks like it might be good," he said.
I looked it over and wasn't impressed. It was basically a dense spice cake, heavy on sugar, studded with chunks of pear and cranberries, baked in a bundt pan, then slathered with a sickeningly thick layer of cream cheese frosting. No thanks. I prefer simple desserts which are only mildly sweet. You know, those which have a depth of flavor far beyond just their sweetness. It seems that in America we've let our sweet tooth take control.
So I stashed the recipe away in my file and haven't looked at it since. This cake, however, had somehow managed to claw its way deep into my mind and I found myself thinking about it at the strangest times - while in the shower, walking through the produce section of the grocery store, or late at night when sleep escapes me. Don't ask why. Maybe I was intrigued by the big chunks of fresh fruit. The textural contrast of the soft, sweet pears and the chewy, tart cranberries. Perhaps it was the shape - I'm inexplicably drawn to anything baked in a bundt pan. Whatever the reason, I found myself buying several organic pears and a large bag a dried cranberries last week -- just in case.
This morning I awoke to the sound of the cold January wind howling off the eves and rattling my window panes. I turned on the oven as I made the morning coffee, though I didn't yet know what I was going to bake. Then I sat down to write a recipe. I knew I wanted something nutritious and toothsome. Something that would pair well with a cup of orange spiced tea. So I decided on muffins made with a bit of cornmeal for that tantalizing crunch. I toyed with the idea of apples and poppy seeds, maybe with a little grated carrot and nutmeg.
Then I remembered that recipe and how unintentionally enthralled I had become with it. I decided I would use the pear and cranberry combination that first drew my husband; however, I'd sweeten them only slightly and lighten them up by omitting all the overpowering spices. Just a touch of cinnamon and vanilla. These would be perfect for our afternoon snack and for breakfast tomorrow morning.
Muffins are one of my very favorite things to prepare. They're simple and easy, and can be made in one large bowl with a simple wooden spoon - no special equipment required. Through them you can combine an infinite number of flavors and textures, and you can't really mess them up. They cook quickly, so in a matter of half an hour you can have a warm, wholesome, homemade treat.
I made these while C was at school, and pulled them out of the oven just as we were leaving to pick him up this afternoon. E filled her little blue bowl with cranberries and snacked on them as she watched me work. When we got home the muffins were still warm and the kids eagerly devoured them with a cup of milk. And I finally got to enjoy mine with a cup of that orange spiced tea.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup dried, sweetened cranberries
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 large eggs (at room temperature)
1 cup organic whole milk, warmed slightly
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
6 Tbsp melted butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 of an organic pear, cored and diced
Preheat your oven to 400 F (205 C). Butter a twelve cup muffin tin and line with paper baking cups (I usually spray the paper cups with non-stick spray as well). Combine the flours, cornmeal, cranberries, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a large bowl combine the eggs, milk, sugar, butter, vanilla, and pears. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined. Fill the muffin tin and bake for 17 minutes.
*Because these contain fresh fruit, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for no more than one or two days.
P.S. I need your help in deciding on a name for this blog! Please tell me what you think.
shared with: hearth and soul, full plate thursday