When I was growing up, our family dinners were sourced by Tyson, Swanson, and Kraft. Dessert, though, was strictly Del Monte: cling-peach halves lacquered in syrup, fruit cocktail in homogenous dice. I dutifully spooned them up and moved on to homework. But Del Monte pears were also in rotation, and those I adored. Decades later, pears are still my eaten-out-of-hand fruit of choice. Pear sorbets, salads, mimosas, Bellinis…I crave them all. And pastries? My mantra: Anything an apple can do, a pear can do better.
Though most pear varieties debut in autumn, Bartletts prefer an early entrance. At farmers’ markets come August, their green skin is easy to spot amidst blushing nectarines and flaming beefsteaks. That green will turn yellow when ripe, but, since all pears are best picked unripe, they’ll need a few days on your kitchen counter. Then bite, poach (actually, you can poach an unripe pear—the liquid will soften it), caramelize, or bake to your heart’s content.
Nannette Conners is in mid-Bartlett swoon right about now. American “country” desserts dominate at her Provisions Bake Shop (209 Wolfs Lane, Pelham 914-738-6622; pelhamprovisionsbakeshop.com), and pears do a star turn in muffins, upside-down cakes, and crostadas. “I love their juiciness and sweet-tart flavor,” she says. “I’m big on putting them in salads, too, with crumbled Gorgonzola or goat cheese, toasted walnuts, and an apple-cider vinaigrette.” At home, she’ll often add them to an arugula and prosciutto salad with balsamic dressing, but, at the bake shop, it’s strictly flour, butter, and sugar. Against that, Del Monte never would have stood a chance.
Courtesy of Nannette Conners, Provisions Bake Shop
(Yield: 12-14 muffins)
2 cups all-purpose flour
â…” cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ cup candied ginger, finely chopped
2 large Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup whole milk, slightly warmed
2 large eggs
Preheat oven to 400°F. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and both gingers. Stir in pear dice. In large bowl, whisk together butter, milk, and eggs. Pour liquid mixture into dry mixture and gently fold until smooth and well blended. Spray standard muffin pans with non-stick cooking spray. Fill each cup ¾ full with batter. Bake until lightly browned and firm to the touch, about 20 minutes.