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Pear bread is perfect with tea

| Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012

I enjoy baking bread when it's cold outside. The bread's aroma drifts through the air, creating a warm, welcoming scent throughout my kitchen. Sometimes, I am up for making a time-consuming yeast bread; however, when I am short on time, I prefer to put together time-tested easy, quick bread recipes. I also call them tea breads, because I like to serve them with a hot pot of tea in the lull of the late afternoon.

Tea breads don't rely on yeast to rise; instead, baking powder or baking soda act as the leavening agent. These breads are easy to make for even a novice cook. I like the dense, moist texture of this type of bread. In the summer, I might use peaches, nectarines or cherries. In the winter, I have found that apples or pears offer a welcome moistness and a light, fruity flavor.

Quick breads are usually flavored with fresh or dried fruit or vegetables, and each of these ingredients creates its own distinctive flavor. Some of my favorites are zucchini, banana, chocolate and pumpkin bread. You'll notice that the tops of these breads often crack or split in the middle, giving them a rustic character. Make sure to let the bread totally cool before slicing so that each slice will stay together.

This luscious fruit bread marries toasted pecans with juicy pears. Select pears that are slightly underripe, because the cooking process tends to soften them. Fresh winter pears, unlike most other fruits, develop their sweet flavor and superb juiciness when ripened off the tree. Use the juicy, fine-textured Comice or Bosc pear. The pleasing contrast of the sweet fruit and the nutty pecans, nutmeg and ginger makes this a satisfying, fresh quick bread that can be served at breakfast or with eggs for brunch. I also like to serve this with some soft blue cheese or mascarpone.

Fresh Pear Bread

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for greasing pan
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for preparing pan
  • 2/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large Comice or Bosc pear, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
  • Zest of l lemon, finely chopped

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-by 5-inch loaf pan. Toast the pecans on a baking sheet for 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly browned. Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger and nutmeg.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla. Add the sifted flour mixture and blend well on low speed. Stir in the pear, pecans and lemon zest, and combine well on low speed.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out just clean.

Cool the bread for 10 to 15 minutes in the pan, and then turn it out on a rack. Let it cool completely before slicing.

Makes one 9-by-5-inch loaf.

Advance preparation: This bread tastes best on the day it is baked, but it can be prepared up to 1 day ahead and kept at room temperature, wrapped in aluminum foil to retain its moisture. Serve lukewarm or at room temperature. It is also excellent toasted and spread with soft, unsalted butter.

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