Small wonder: Pear and ginger(y) muffins

Dish of pears After the psychic disembowelling of the last few posts, it’s time to look at the small things that make it all worthwhile. My last ‘small wonder’ post was way back in March 2006! Much too long ago.

Last weekend, I had two pears which were starting to go soft. Something in the recesses of my memory sparked and I remember reading Farmgirl’s recipe for ‘Ginger Pear Bran Muffin’ a few weeks back, and I thought I’d give it a go.

I like baking muffins. They don’t need exact measuring, especially if you use wholegrain flour and/or bran, as they won’t be expected to rise that much. I like my muffins robust rather than fluffy or cake-y. All you need is a base of flour, oil/butter, sugar/honey, egg, milk/yoghurt (soy is fine), and raising agents (baking powder and/or baking soda). Everything else is optional: fruit, nuts, seeds, vanilla, cinnamon, and so on. It’s fun to make it up as you go along. I’ve one with cranberries and poppy seeds, for when I’ve bought too many packets of cranberries and poppy seeds because they were on sale. Savoury muffins are good too — I like cheese and chive — just leave out the sugar.

Anyway, back to my pear and ginger muffins. I didn’t have all the ingredients Farmgirl listed, especially not the candied ginger, nor fresh ones. Instead I had a little jar of rhubarb and ginger preserve which I’d bought, thinking I wanted a change from strawberry/raspberry/blueberry/black currant jam I usually stuck to. It turned out to be way too sweet for my liking, and I don’t even like rhubarb that much. Sometimes I choose something different for the sake of being different only to realise I should have stuck with what I knew — but I suppose I wouldn’t have come to that realisation if I didn’t try to have something different in the first place!

I figured the gingery rhubarb preserve would work — the preserve was sweet enough, I wouldn’t need the sugar; the rhubarb had disintegrated, so it wouldn’t have made much of a difference to the taste or the texture; and the ginger wasn’t too strong (I later decided I’d prefer it more gingery, but that’s for next time).

So into a mixing bowl went a cup of flour, a cup of baking oats, sifted with a teaspoon of baking powder and a teaspoon of baking soda. Then, a largish knob of melted butter was stirred in (see what I mean about not measuring?) — olive oil would work well, too — enough to coat the flour, followed by the preserve (I left out the honey/sugar for obvious reasons), a beaten egg, and about a cup of milk. It doesn’t matter if the mixture is slightly watery, watery is better than too dry. Let it stand for a while and the bran will absorb the excess moisture.

Muffins In the meantime, the oven should be pre-heating at around 200°C. Peel the mushy pears, chop into small pieces (or mash), and stir into the muffin mixture. Spoon dollops into muffin cups (lining the cups will make it easier to remove them), stick the tray in the oven until the muffins are risen and brown. They are best warm, though they freeze well, because the pear just melts in your mouth, and the ginger prevents it from being too sickly (next time, I shall try it with ‘proper’ ginger).

I have a lot of difficulty describing physical sensations. Something about the warmth of the muffin on my fingers, the aroma of the butter and pear rising from the steam as it clouds my glasses when I bite into it, and the contrasting texture of warm pear and muffin-ness as it hits my palate, converts into sheer rapture. The stock photograph here would just have to convey the sensations synesthesically.

I live in my head a lot of the time, as this blog can attest to. So it is in these small, seemingly inconsequential, moments, when I remember to stop and actually allow my body to experience physical sensation, that I sometimes feel as if emotional liberation is just there within my grasp.

The images of the bowl of pears and the tray of muffins are taken from stock.xchng.


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