Pear Pecan Bread made from Ugly Pears

I bought a bag of sad, truly ugly looking pears for only 20 cents, but I didn’t despair, but created a new paradigm since the only thing was was to prepare some pear bread by peeling it and removing the bad spots with a paring knife. And I still had more pears, which called for a second loaf. Therefore I had a pair of pear breads. Which were  beautiful and tasted incomparable – a true paradox. I used a recipe from Joy of Cooking, but swapped finely ground whole wheat flour for half the flour, and pared down the sugar, which apparently repaired the recipe with healthier ingredients, quite a parable. (There are 11 pear puns in the above paragraph, oops one more there! Did you catch them all?)

ugly pearsWet Ingredients:

3 – 4 ripe pears, grated to make 1 1/2 cups with the juice

1 large egg

1/2 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest from one medium lemon

1 Tb fresh lemon juice, squeezed from the same lemon

Dry Ingredients:

3/4 cup finely ground whole wheat flour (also known as white whole wheat flour)

3/4 cup white all purpose flour

1 Tb ground flax seeds

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 cup chopped pecans

Topping:

1 Tb Demura sugar (coarsely ground sugar)

1 tsp cinnamon

pear bread loaf

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350*

Break pecans into small pieces. I used the blade of the food processor and pulsed a few times. Fill up 1 cup of broken pecans and set aside.

Peel pears and cut away the core and any bad parts. Grate to make 1 1/2 cups. I used the grater attachment for my food processor to grate the pears. measure grated pears and set aside.

Mix egg, olive oil, vanilla, lemon zest and juice with the food processor blade, Add grated pear and mix again. Sift together dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Fold in dry ingredients until somewhat mixed in. Add pecans and fold until just mixed.

Spray a loaf pan with nonstick spray. Pour in batter. Mix the Demura sugar with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl, then sprinkle evenly over the top.

Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and let cool on the rack until you can’t wait any longer.

 

 

Chili-Cheese-Bacon Cornbread

piece of cornbread

This rich, moist cornbread is flavorful with charred poblano chili, sharp cheddar cheese and bacon grease. The guilty pleasure of bacon grease is balanced by the healthy addition of olive oil! Sweetened with applesauce. Bake in the cast iron skillet used for frying the bacon.

baked pan of cornbread

Ingredients:

chili cheese
1 cup 1% milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 large poblano chili
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup flour
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp paprika
1 cup cornmeal
½ cup unsweetened applesauce (I buy the little plastic containers.)
2 Tb bacon grease, melted but not hot, made from 3 slices bacon.
2 Tb olive oil
2 eggs

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425◦ and place rack in middle position.
Add vinegar to milk and let it curdle while you mix the other ingredients.

sweating poblano chili

Place poblano chili on comal or heavy frying pan over high heat, turning so that it burns in places. Place in a small covered pot to sweat.

While chili is sweating, grate 1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese and set aside.

bacon frying

Fry 3 pieces of bacon in a cast-iron skillet. Eat the bacon or add it to frijoles pintos, but save the grease. It should yield 2 Tb of bacon grease. Add the olive oil to the pan, and then scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the skillet. Cool while preparing the other ingredients.

Sift white flour with baking powder, salt, paprika, and baking soda into a medium bowl. Stir in cornmeal until well combined.

miniced poblano chili

Remove poblano chili from pot and scrape off the blackened skin. (Don’t rinse it, since you’ll be rinsing away some of charred flavor.) Mince the chili. Include the seeds if you like more heat.

Whisk eggs with milk in a separate bowl, then whisk in applesauce and bacon-oil mixture, including the browned bits of bacon.
Stir in minced poblano chili and ¾ cup cheese.
Pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Slowly mix and fold with a large spoon, only until batter is combined.

sprinkle cheese on top

Pour batter into the skillet that you fried the bacon in. Sprinkle remaining ¼ cup cheese on top.
Bake for 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

cornbread and frijoles

Excellent served with frijoles pintos.

Eggnog Popovers

popovers in basketPerfect for Christmas or New Year’s morning. These popovers are crispy on the outside and custard-like on the inside, with the rich taste of eggnog.

Mix the batter the eve before, then pop them in the oven for a breakfast treat. I use  good quality eggnog for best results.

1 cup eggnog, heated with milk

½ cups hot milk. I use 1%, but you can use non fat or whole milk. (But don’t use lactose-free or other milk substitutes; they won’t work.)

3 large eggs

1 ½ cup white all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp nutmeg

3 Tb melted butter

non-stick pan spray

Heat the milk and eggnog for 2 minutes in the microwave or in a saucepan until hot but not boiling.

Beat eggs well in a blender. Pour in eggnog/milk while beating until foamy. Add the flour and nutmeg, scraping the sides of the blender. Add melted butter and mix again. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour, and preferably overnight.

???????????????????????????????In the morning, preheat the oven to 375’. Place a muffin pan into the oven for 3 minutes. Remove the pan and spray with non-stick pan spray.

Pour in the batter until holders are ¾ full.

baked popoversBake for 30-35 minutes, until tops are puffed up and browned. If popovers are baking unevenly, rotate the pan the last 10 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Rosemary-Parmesan Popovers

DSC03254These Rosemary-scented cheesy popovers are an easy way to start a weekend morning.  I make the batter the night before and just pop them in the oven when I first get up. By the time I shower and make the coffee, they are hot and ready. They also make a tasty accompaniment to soup.

The recipe was inspired by Chronicle writer Marlene Sorosky Gray’s article on popovers on http://www.sfgate.com/recipes/article/Baker-s-quest-What-makes-perfect-popovers-4601293.phpThis is a take-off on her pepper-jack and chive popovers.  I used only Parmesan cheese and added fresh rosemary from my garden.

The lightest popovers use only white flour, but I really like whole wheat flour. I’ve tried varying combinations of whole-wheat pastry flour and white all-purpose flour. Using all whole-wheat yields a bread-like version, so the happy medium is to use 1/3 whole-wheat pastry flour.

Makes 12 popovers

1 ½ cups hot milk. I use 1%, but you can use non fat or whole milk. (But don’t use lactose-free or other milk substitutes; they won’t work.)

3 large eggs

1 cup white all-purpose flour

½ cup whole-wheat pastry flour or finely ground whole-wheat flour

1 ½ tsp kosher salt

1 ½ Tb melted butter

¼ cup plus 1 Tb freshly grated Parmesan cheese

¼ tsp finely minced fresh rosemary

2 Tb minced fresh chives

non-stick pan spray

Heat the milk for 2 minutes in the microwave or in a saucepan until hot but not boiling.

DSC03252adding minced fresh rosemary to batter

Using a mixer, whisk, blender or food processor, beat eggs well. Pour in milk while beating until foamy. Add the flours and salt, scraping the sides of the bowl. Add butter, ¼ cup Parmesan cheese and herbs, and mix again. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour, and preferably overnight.

In the morning, preheat the oven to 375’. Place a non-stick muffin pan into the oven for 3 minutes. Remove the pan and spray with non-stick pan spray.

DSC03253Pour in the batter until holders are ¾ full. Sprinkle 1 Tb freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top of batter.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until tops are puffed up and browned. If popovers are baking unevenly, rotate the pan the last 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

DSC03255

4 Bananas Chocolate Chip Banana Bread or Muffins

banana loaf

I used four soft, speckled bananas to add natural sweetness and rich banana flavor to this delicious bread with minimal oil and sugar. The bananas and just 3 tablespoons of olive oil make this bread moist.  Add strawberries for a taste of strawberry jam or blueberries. Add chocolate chips for a nice gooey sweetness.

strawberry banana bread

muffMakes one loaf or 12 muffins.

speckled bananas

Ingredients

1/3 cup 1% or skim milk

1 tsp lemon juice

1 cup unbleached white flour

¼ teaspoon baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup finely ground whole wheat flour

¼ cup ground flax seed

A dash each of nutmeg and cinnamon.

2 eggs

1/2 cup sugar plus 1 Tb for sprinkling on top. I used turbindo sugar for sprinkling.

4 bananas (1 ½ cups mashed)

1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

3 Tb olive oil

¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chocolate bar pieces

3/4 cup roughly chopped strawberries (optional)

1/2 cup blueberries (optional) If you are using frozen blueberries, defrost them and drain them before adding

½ cup walnut and/or pecan pieces

Directions

Preheat oven to 350º F.

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Add lemon juice to milk. Let it sit while you are mixing the other ingredients. The milk should curdle, resembling buttermilk. (You can skip this step and use buttermilk instead if you prefer).

Sift both flours, baking soda, salt, and baking powder into a medium bowl. Add nutmeg, cinnamon, and flax seed.  Stir well to combine ingredients.

whipped egg and sugarWhip eggs in mixer until well combined. Add sugar and whip on high speed for 2-3 minutes until creamy.

Mash bananas with a fork or potato masher. You can also whirl them in a food processor. Add them to the egg mixture, along with olive oil and vanilla. Whip for another minute.

With mixer on low, add half the milk and half the flour mixture, and then repeat. Mix only until ingredients are almost combined. Fold in nuts and chocolate chips and/or blueberries (if using) until they are just combined.

Spray a loaf pan or muffin tins with non-stick spray. (because of the low fat content of the ingredients, you should spray paper muffin cups with non-stick spray if you choose to use them.) For extra buttery flavor, wipe a smear of butter at the bottom. Pour in batter. Sprinkle the top with turibindo sugar.

Place on the middle shelf of preheated oven. Bake loaf 1 hour- 65 minutes, muffins for 35-40 minutes,  just until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. Remove bread from pan and let cool on a rack a few minutes before slicing.

banana bread with cream cheeseDelicious spread with cream cheese!

Olive Oil Cornbread

olive oil cornbreadThis light cornbread is super moist from olive oil, applesauce and corn kernels. I added ground flax seed for its Omega-3 benefits.

Ingredients:

1 cup 1% milk

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 cup cornmeal

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

½ tsp salt

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

1 Tb ground flax seed

2 eggs

½ cup applesauce

¼  cup olive oil

½ tsp honey

½ cup frozen or fresh corn kernels

1 Tablespoon butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425’ Add vinegar to milk and let it curdle while you mix the other ingredients. Place corn kernels in a small bowl with a splash of water and microwave for two minutes. Set aside to cool.

Sift white flour with baking powder and baking soda. Stir in the rest of the dry ingredients and mix well.

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs with applesauce, oil, honey and milk. Pour into dry ingredients. Add corn, then mix with a large spoon only until ingredients are combined. Spray bottom and sides of an 8 inch square pan with nonstick spray. Add  1 tablespoon butter and place pan in the hot oven for a couple of minutes while the butter melts. Tip pan to distribute butter evenly on the bottom of the pan. Pour in batter. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Nice with soups or stews.

Rosemary and olive oil cornbread

 

French Toast with Fresh Fruit

This family favorite is a weekend morning treat after a week of eating muesli. Although French toast made with half-and-half is rich and sublime, this lower fat version, made with 1% milk is really good. Spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg and piled high with fresh peaches and strawberries with a hint of maple syrup, it makes a satisfying breakfast.

Serves 3:

3 large eggs
¼ cup 1% milk
1 tsp cinnamon
Several shakes of nutmeg
8 slices of raisin bread
About 1 tsp butter
1 large peach
6 large strawberries
3 Tb maple syrup

 

Whip eggs with milk, cinnamon and nutmeg. Heat a nonstick frying pan and move butter stick across it until it is coated with butter (about 1 tsp). Dip slices of raisin bread into the egg mixture so it begins to saturate the bread but not make it soggy. Place bread in the pan and fry over medium heat a few minutes until it turns light brown, then flip and fry again.

Serve with fresh cut peaches, strawberries or what’s in season. You can heat frozen fruit and serve as well. I like to spread the fruit on a plate and pour about 3 Tb of maple syrup over the fruit, then microwave for a minute. No need to add extra syrup to the French toast.

Buñuelos

My favorite New Year’s Eve memories include one spent with my in-laws in a small country town in South Texas. We went to the Knights of Columbus hall, where we joined couples of all ages dancing in a big circle to Mexican polkas and boleros. The men wore cowboy hats and the women danced in high heels. Most of the songs were about love, but I remember a few about chickens.
When we came back to the house, my mother-in-law, Conchita, fried up delicious buñuelos; orange and cinnamon scented flour tortillas rolled in cinnamon sugar. We’ve made them every New Year’s morning since.

This year I added orange zest to the dough to amp up the flavor and fried them in coconut oil instead of canola oil. They were the best ever!

Makes 15 buñuelos

Cinnamon powder, divided. 1 tsp for dough and 1 Tb for coating

Sugar, divided. 1 tsp for dough and ½ cup for coating

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tb baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

2 Tb butter at room temperature

½ cup orange juice from one large orange

Finely grated zest from one large orange – approximately 1/2 tsp

1 cup coconut oil for frying

Mix 1 Tb cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar in a shallow dish for coating the buñuelos and set aside.

Sift flour, baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp sugar in a large bowl and whisk well. Mix in butter and orange zest. Mix in orange juice and knead until it forms a ball. Place on a floured board and knead for 5 minutes.

Form into small balls, cover with a warm damp dish towel. and let rest for 5 minutes.

Roll out each ball into a round tortilla shape, as thin as you can.

Heat oil in heavy skillet until hot. Place several layers of paper towels on a plate.
Carefully fry buñuelos, one at a time. Fry the first side until it puffs up, or about 8-10 seconds. Turn it over and briefly fry the other side until it stops puffing up. Using tongs, hold the buñuelo at an angle above the pan for a few seconds to drain excess oil.  Place on the paper towels to soak up oil for a few minutes,

then roll in cinnamon sugar. Excellent with coffee or Mexican hot chocolate.

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!  Happy New Year!

Squash or Pumpkin Gingerbread

My neighbor Shauna gave me these beautiful acorn squash that she grew. I roasted them and used them to make squash gingerbread.

I made the bread again, this time with pumpkin. It’s a bit more gingerbread than pumpkin bread; the squash taste is overwhelmed  by the gingerbread spices. You can roast and /or purée the squash ahead of time.

I used whole wheat pastry flour for a healthier bread.

Ingredients:

1 cup pureed roasted squash or pumpkin

½ cup mild molasses

1 tsp baking soda

1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ginger

2 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground cloves

¼ tsp salt

2 large eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup canola oil

Roast squash or pumpkin at 450′ for an hour or until soft. Slice in half when cool enough to handle. Remove seeds and fibers, then scoop out flesh and purée in food processor. (You could also used canned pumpkin puree if you’re looking for a shortcut.)

If it has cooled down, heat with molasses in a small saucepan or in the microwave. Stir in baking soda. The soda should cause it to foam. Let cool.

Set oven to 325’ Spray a 8×8 inch pan with nonstick spray, and line the bottom of it with parchment paper, then grease and flour the paper and the pan sides. I’ve also made this in a loaf pan, but it took 15 minutes longer to cook.

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and spices into a bowl.

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs, applesauce and sugar on high speed 3-4 minutes until thick and the color is lighter.

Fold in 1/3 flour mixture, then alternate with ½ the squash mixture, mixing gently by hand. Pour into pan and shake pan to even out the batter to all sides. Bake it until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

It’s especially good spread with cream cheese or lower fat Neufchâtel (nuf-shuh-TEL) cheese and topped with walnuts.


My Grandma Bessie’s Challah

challah braided in circle

“My dear Rozze, I am giving you the Reisepy of the Hollow, first Learn to make a hole from one Pound of flower put the flower in a bowl make a Hole in the Middle of the Bowl with the flower. Buy a Packge of try Yeast youes only helf of the Yeast. Put the Yeast in quarter of glass of look warm watter”

So began the handwritten recipe my Grandma Bessie sent me almost 50 years ago for her Challah (pronounced HAlee, making the H like you are clearing your throat.) I was always enchanted by her invented spelling. Grandma did not have much formal schooling and she did not use measuring cups, only glasses of various sizes. I remember getting a kick out of the addition of “a little glass of schnapps” (Yiddish for strong liquor, whiskey or vodka) and of putting a pillow on the dish towel.  I think the pillow was to insulate the dough from the coldness of the room. Although she doesn’t mention braiding the Challah in the recipe, I remember her teaching me to braid it, which was my favorite part.

My Grandma Bessie was a sweet, warm and nurturing, buxom woman with a heart of gold. She was the motherly center of her large extended family and her home was always open for visitors from the old country. I only saw her sporadically, since she lived across the country in Brooklyn. When I was about eight years old, she came to visit us and taught us how to make her special challah. I imagine she may have learned it from her mother in her native Romania, or perhaps after she immigrated to New York at the tender age of nine. Grandma enjoyed her challah the old country way, not with butter or jam, but smeared with schmaltz (rendered chicken fat).

On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, it’s traditional to eat a round challah to signify the cycle of the year and the crown of Adonai (G-d).

DSC03101

To symbolize a sweet New Year, we dip the challah in honey as well as dip apples in honey.

I wish you a sweet New Year filled with peace. I am blessed to share this treasured recipe with you.

Here is my adaptation based on measuring cups. I put in a whole package of yeast to make it rise nicely. I think Grandma only used half out of thrift. I proof (activate) the yeast with 1 tsp sugar so that it will foam in the lukewarm water. (Use active dry yeast, not instant.) I used eggs at room temperature (or warmed in a bowlful of warm water) so that the dough will stay warm and added 2 egg yolks to them. I used olive oil and found the bread stayed moist longer. I substituted 1/3 cup of warm milk for the water added to the dough. I also oiled the  bowl instead of flouring it when I set it to rise, for easy removal.  But I do use the pillow over the dishtowel for the first rising!

Put in 3 1/2 cups (1 pound) of bread flour and 1 tsp salt in a large bowl. Mix well and make a hole in the middle of the flour.

Dissolve 1 package of dry yeast in  ¼ cup lukewarm water with 1 teaspoon sugar. Let it proof for a few minutes until foamy.

yeast proof

Pour dissolved yeast into the hole in the flour.

mix it together with some flour, cover with a dishtowel, and let it rise for 15 minutes.

After in rises up a little, put in 2 eggs beaten together with 2 egg yolks, 1/2 cup olive oil, 3 Tb sugar, 2 Tb honey and 2 Tb whiskey or vodka.

Wash your hands, then mix the dough then pour 1/3 cup lukewarm milk into the dough and mix well with your hands.

Oil a large board then put the dough on and knead it with both hands for several minutes until it feels bouncy. It should be a round piece.

After that, oil the bowl and put the dough in.

and cover it with a clean dish towel. Put a pillow on top of the dish towel. Let it rise for 3 hours.

Coat a pan with oil, not too much oil. Make a design of small rolls by putting a roll in the middle and surround it by other rolls that will join the middle one when they rise.

If you wish to braid the challah instead,divide the dough into 3 pieces. .

Then roll them into logs

then braid them together

For Rosh Hashanah,  connect the two ends of the braid to make a circle.

For more challah braiding ideas, see this amazing Israeli video:

Let it rise for 45 minutes. Then it is ready to bake.

You take one egg, put a little sugar in the egg and mix it well. Take a baking brush and brush the egg all over the challah. I like to sprinkle sesame seeds or poppy seeds on top.

Bake at 350’ for 30-40 minutes. (If it’s brown in 30 minutes, take it out.)

Challah with poppy seeds

I hope it will come out good.

Slice it for French toast the next day!

sliced

For a look at her original handwritten recipe click on this link: grandma bessie challah recipe

Here is a transcription of Grandma’s recipe as she wrote it:

My dear Rozze,

I am giving you the Reisepy of the Hollow, first Learn to make a hole from one Pound of flower put the flower in a bowl make a Hole in the Middle of the Bowl with the flower. Bly a Pciekge of try Yeast youes only helf of the Yeast. Put the Yeast in quarter of glass of look warm watter dosolve it good, let it stay for 10 minutes in the glass then Put it in the Hole in the Bowel of Flour mix it together with some flower let it stay in for 15 minutes it should Rize remember in the middle of the Bowel after it Rizes up a little you first put in ¼ glass of suger 2 eggs ¼ glass of oil a Teaspoon salt a little glass of shnps then Prepare ½ glass of Look warm water

Wash your hands good you have to make the dou with your hands. Mix it together by spiling slowly the look warm water. when it be all together put the dou on the Board first put flower on the Board not to make try to work it with bought hands I hope you remember How I made it when I made Hole in your House it should become a round piece after that put some flower in that Bowel put the dough cover it up with a clean dish Towl then put a Piliw on the dish towl let it Rize for 3 hours

It should Rize up then you take a Pen put some oil all over the Pen not to much oil make different dizin of small ralls or make a big one let it rize for ¾ of hour. Then it is Ready to bak. you take one egge pupt a little suger in the egg mix it good take a Baking Brush and put the egge all over the Halla or rolls what you want to make back in a low fire about ¾ of an hour I hope it will come out good write if you made the Hollow.

I hope you will understande what I wrote you

Love Grandma