Let’s get a few things out into the open.
Vacations are fun, but a lot of work. We returned from a week-long getaway to Hawaii over a week ago and I’m still recovering. I’m also in denial that it’s over.
In addition, I am currently in the middle of a massive overhaul of the blog which has proven difficult because, as it turns out, I am a perfectionist and a needy client. I think we’re about there and (crossing my fingers) I hope that I can unveil it all to you later this week.
And finally, I have saved the best for last, I’m pregnant. My husband and I are absolutely over-the-moon-excited for the upcoming birth of our first child this spring, but I’m afraid it has had an adverse affect on my baking. All I want to do is lay around in my sweat pants. I’ve never felt so lazy in all my life.
All of this is to try to excuse myself for taking so long to share this post with you and to apologize in advance for inevitable future delays. I’m hoping my energy will return soon because I have such a long list of fall and holiday recipes that I am dying to get to and share with you.
So thank you for your patience, big changes are happening ’round these parts!
Right before we left for Hawaii I was given a big box of over-ripe pears. They were bruised and browning, and past their prime for snacking or showcasing in a dessert, but I knew if I acted fast I could salvage some use for them. I sent a query off through Twitter and the overwhelming suggestion was to make pear butter.
Not only had I never made a fruit butter before, but I wasn’t really even sure what it was. So what is it? According to some internet research, a fruit butter falls somewhere between a jam and a sauce. It’s a fruit paste that’s lightly sweetened and spreadable like butter.
I decided to jazz up the pear butter with some brown sugar to help add a caramel flavor and color as the pears simmer and thicken. And just because, I threw in a vanilla bean too. The resulting flavor is incredible, I even thought longingly of it sitting in my fridge while we were in Hawaii. My first task when I got home was to find a vehicle worthy of it.
This almond bread more than fills that role. It could easily stand alone (as could the pear butter) with its heartiness and subtle sweetness. The almond flavor is present and delightful without being overwhelming. Lathered with some pear butter, it’s a small treat that is enjoyable at any time of day.
Adapted from Taste of Home Cookbook
Makes one loaf
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.
Spread 1/2 cup of the sliced almonds on a sheet pan and toast in the oven until just starting to turn golden brown, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, sugar, and baking powder. In a separate bowl, combing the milk, melted butter, egg, and almond extract. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined (batter will be thick). Fold in the toasted almonds.
Spread into the prepared loaf pan and sprinkle with remaining sliced almonds. Bake until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
Caramel Pear Butter
Adapted from Epicurious
Makes approximately 1 quart
7 pounds pears, cored and sliced
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 vanilla bean
1/2 teaspoon salt
Put the sliced pears and lemon juice in a large saucepan or stock pot over medium high heat. Allow the pears to release their juices and come to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until pears are soft, about 20 minutes.
Pass through a food mill, or blend in a food processor and pass through a fine mess strainer to remove the skins. Return pureed pears to the pot and add sugar, vanilla bean, and salt. Return to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat to low and let simmer until thickened and reduced, and mixture is a golden brown color, stirring every few minutes to prevent bottom from burning. Remove vanilla bean pod.
Pour into prepared jars for canning, or into a plastic container. Pear butter will keep in the fridge for a few weeks, in the freezer for a few months, or preserved in jars for up to a year.