Pears come in an array of shapes and varieties: from the tall and slender Conference to the more bulbous, round Comice but they all have the characteristic sweetly floral and juicy flesh, though some have a noticeably more grainy texture. Here, I've used the rocha variety, though I admit that they were chosen more for the merits of their small round size rather than anything else.
If I'm prepared, I'll leave them out to ripen in a fruit bowl on a sunny window sill for a few days until they're ripened to my liking (putting them in a bag with bananas apparently also speeds this up). If I'm not prepared though (or too impatient to wait) baking or poaching them brings out their juicy sweetness too. Just sprinkle halved pears with a little brown sugar or honey and bake in a moderate oven or poach in a light syrup until soft and tender. I poached the pears in the muffin recipe for this reason, but if your pears are softer then simply omit this step.
I first had pears tinned with (instant) chocolate custard as a treat for dessert as a child, and although I like to think I've grown up a bit now (though I'm still partial to custard powder on occasion) the combination of rich, slightly bitter chocolate and sweet, buttery pear still holds. These muffins carry on the pairing of chocolate and pear, with the addition of warming ginger and topped with a spicy streusel and are wonderful, warm for breakfast.
Ginger, chocolate and pear streusel muffins
Makes 12 muffins
50g plain flour
25g brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
25g crystalised ginger, chopped
1. Rub all the ingredients together except the crystalised ginger until they form a rough crumble, the consistency of 'gravel'. Mix in the crystalised ginger
Poached pears - only if pears are hard (there will be many more than you need):
150g brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
2 strips of orange and lemon zest
a small knob of ginger
1. Peel the pears and place in a pan with the other ingredients. Top up with 750 ml water (or enough to go 3/4 the way up the pears).
2. Simmer the pears for 30 minutes or until tender. Leave to cool in the syrup.
125 ml milk
75 ml vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
225g self-raising flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
100g brown sugar
50g roughly chopped chocolate
150g poached pear (about 2 pears), chopped into smallish cubes
1. Combine all the ingredients until all the flour is just moistened, being careful not to over mix. Fill 3/4 into muffin cases and top with streusel.
2. Bake for 25 minutes in an oven preheated to 180C.