Recipe: Pear Chocolate Almond Muffins
Twice a month, Berkshire native Alana Chernila, mother of two, and author of the cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), contributes a thoughtful and heartfelt essay/recipe created exclusively for Rural Intelligence readers. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has a new one in the works, tentatively titled “Meals from the Homemade Pantry,” due out in 2015. This week, she offers us a breakfast treat full of the good stuff, to keep us going through a day full of blustery weather.
You never know what’s happening in the hidden corners of the Berkshires. The rolling hills provide perfect cover for people creating all sorts of wonderful things, and it’s hard to predict when you might drive over the crest of a hill to find yourself in the middle of a film set or improvisational theater piece. I love this, and I love how the arts are so wound up in the history of the Berkshires, too. After decades, it seems that I would have gotten used to it, but I still pause and take an extra deep breath as I drive by Edith Wharton’s house on the way to pick my girls up from school. Even if it adds time to my drive, I’ll take Holmes Road from Lenox to Pittsfield, just for another glimpse of Melville’s north-facing piazza.
Over the last month, a friend of mine has been hard at work on a film, mostly out in Sandisfield. You probably haven’t seen them, but if you caught a glimpse of a camera here or there and looked around for someone famous (nope, mostly locals—but just you wait!), that was probably my friend’s crew. I’ve had the pleasure of cooking for the cast and crew, which means that my kitchen’s output has been at an all-time high this month. They’ve been out in this epic snowy February, day after day, so I’ve been filling them with soup, stews, and a steady supply of roast chicken. And every morning, I’ve gotten up long before the sun to make sure there are warm muffins for that first slow hour of the cold day.
These seemed to be the favorite of the crew, and they were certainly mine. They’re full of chocolate and butter, two essential tools to making it through February in New England. This recipe is based around the basic muffin formula in Joanne Chang’s Flour, and it makes a dozen muffins that have such lofty and expansive tops, they spread across the muffin pan.
Pear Chocolate Almond Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
1 cup milk
1 cup yogurt
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup spelt flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 cup sugar
1¼ sticks (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
2 small Bosc pears, peeled, cored and cut into ½-inch cubes
¾ cup bittersweet chocolate chips
¾ cup sliced almonds
1. Measure the milk and yogurt, and leave them out on the counter to warm a bit while you prepare the other ingredients. Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center and a baking sheet in the bottom of the oven to catch any drips. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin, taking care to grease the space between the cups as well.
2. In a large bowl, sift together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolk. Slowly whisk the sugar into the eggs. Then whisk in the melted butter, milk, yogurt, vanilla, and almond extract. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture, and gently fold with a wooden spoon until most of the dry is incorporated into the wet. Add the pear and chocolate, and again, lightly fold the ingredients in, taking care not to over mix or crush the pear.
3. Using a large spoon or ice cream scoop, fill the muffin cups to the brim. (Note: if your muffin tin has cups that are on the small side, you may have a bit of extra batter. Don’t fill overfill the muffin cups, as these really spread.) Sprinkle each muffin with almonds, and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the tops are golden and a toothpick, when inserted in the center muffin, comes out batter-free. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn the muffin tin upside down to release them from the pan. Let them continue to cool upside down until you’re ready to eat them.