September 27, 2015
When you live on the Gulf Coast like I do, at some point you just have to call it. Even though the temperature is still in the 90s, even though none of the leaves have turned (and most of them won’t), you decide—it’s fall. You change out your closet, swap your iced coffee for mugs of chai, and try not to resent all of the pictures of friends on social media wearing jackets in apple orchards on crisp, fall afternoons.
The first year I moved to Houston, my freshman year of college, I was so shocked by the seasons (or lack thereof) that my friend Katherine, who was attending seminary in Virginia at the time, mailed me a box of fall leaves. It remains one of the most loving, particular gestures of love that anyone has ever done for me; I remember the smell that emanated from that box when I opened it, which made me at once more and less homesick. I remember deciding that I was going to pretend like it was fall, even if it really wasn’t. It’s a decision I’ve stuck by all of these years.
Thankfully, pears and apples are now plentiful at the grocery store, and we’ve been gobbling them up by the basket-full. I’ve also been hoarding a stash of hazelnuts since August, when our dear friend Courtney visited and brought them to me, so these muffins were a lovely way to make the house at least smell and taste like fall, and—serendipitously enough—the temperatures have cooperated today, too, dropping down into the glorious 70s. Maybe fall is in the air after all!
PEAR HAZELNUT MUFFINS
recipe source: Megan Jordan’s Whole Grain Mornings
Some notes on the recipe: the muffins pictured here are a batch that I made gluten-free using the substitutions below*. I also doubled the recipe, which yielded 2 dozen muffins & enough leftover batter for a good-sized loaf, which cooked up perfectly well, but needed extra time in the oven.
*To make these muffins gluten-free, substitute an all-purpose GF flour mix for the regular all-purpose flour, and use ¼ cup brown rice flour & ¼ cup barley flour (or oat flour) in place of the whole wheat pastry flour. Also, be sure to use certified GF oats.
¾ cup rolled oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. each ground cardamom, ground nutmeg, & ground cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
2-3 firm pears
2/3 cup turbinado or natural cane sugar
6 T unsalted butter
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 heaping cup hazelnuts, toasted & chopped
oven: Preheat to 425°. Line a muffin tin with papers, or butter loaf pan(s) of your choice.
Mix the dry ingredients (oats, flours, baking soda & powder, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, & salt) in a medium-sized bowl and set aside. Melt the butter and allow it to cool while you core two pears and grate them into a separate, larger bowl, using the large holes of a box grater. You want about 1 heaping cup of shredded pear, so if you need to grate the third pear, go ahead.
Add the cooled, melted butter to the pears, then stir in the sugar, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla. Fold the dry ingredients in gently, being careful not to overmix. Add half of the hazelnuts to the batter, reserving the other half to top the muffins.
Fill the muffin cups almost-full and sprinkle them with the remaining hazelnuts. (Next time, I might also add some sprinkles of turbinado sugar to the top.) Move the muffins into the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 375°. Bake until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean from the center of a muffin, ~25 minutes.
Cool the muffins in their tins for 10-15 minutes before removing them to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperate; they will keep for 2-3 days in an airtight container.
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