Vanilla Pear Muffins

I find cooking and baking to be extremely therapeutic. If I am having a bad day there is nothing more calming to me than whipping up something in my kitchen. The warm smell of baking cookies and simmering sauces is incredibly centering for me.

This morning I found myself missing California more than usual and was feeling generally down. I went into the kitchen, still in my pajamas, and remembered that I had some pears that my mom had brought over the weekend before that had gone uneaten. What could I do with pears? I went to one of my favorite all-around cookbooks: The Bride and Groom Cookbook by Gayle Pirie and John Clark. I opened the book to the first recipe, which was a simple recipe for vanilla pear muffins. Perfect! The recipe called for warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, perfect for a fall day, and was topped with a sugar-cinnamon-walnut topping for just a little bit of crunch.

I mixed together the dry ingredients – the basics of flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices – and set that aside to prepare the wet ingredients. One of the ingredients listed was buttermilk, which I never have on hand. There is, however, a very easy way to make a buttermilk substitute with stuff you already have in your kitchen. Put one tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice into a liquid measuring cup, then fill it up to the one-cup line with milk and let it stand for five minutes. I added the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients all at once, mixed well, and then gently folded in the diced pears. (Be very careful with this step because the pears pieces need to remain intact.) Then I spooned the mixture into a large 6-cup muffin tin, coating it generously with the walnut topping. Baking took about twice as long as the recipe called for, but it is well worth the wait. After they were done baking, I placed them on a cooling rack and went for a run (another extremely therapeutic activity for me).

Upon returning home, I made a pot of coffee, warmed up one of the muffins, and sat down in my dining room to enjoy the warm morning sun. The muffins were soft and buttery. The cinnamon and nutmeg were a lovely compliment; not at all overpowering, and the pears provided a lovely flavor and moistness. Overall, the therapy session with my mixing bowl and my running shoes was very satisfying.

Vanilla Pear Muffins
Makes 6 large or 12 small muffins

3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp finely chopped walnuts
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
2 c whole wheat flour
½ c sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 large eggs
½ c melted butter
¾ c buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 or 5 pears, peeled cored, and chopped (French Butter, Comice, Warren, or Bartlett work well)
1 c walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large 6-cup muffin pan or regular 12-cup muffin pan with butter.

Combine the first three ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. This will be the topping.

Stir the flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Add the eggs, melted butter, buttermilk, and vanilla and stir until blended (the batter will be slightly lumpy). Gently fold the pears and walnuts (if using) just until evenly distributed.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan, filling up to the rim. Sprinkle the muffins with the walnut topping. Bake until golden and springy to the tough - a wooden skewer should come out clean – about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Turn the muffins onto a wire rack to cool further. Serve warm.

Adapted from The Bride & Groom Cookbook by Gayle Pirie & John Clark, p. 42.


  1. Sounds so very delicious. We love that cookbook, too!

  2. Adriane! Love the new blog. And the new direction with a growing professional commitment to local food and life!

    Yes I'm up at almost midnight unwinding from a first big (3 day) push in the massive website overhaul...the new site is gonna be good, real good.

    I'll keep you posted!