Painting shows pear-ginger muffins and ingredients

Pear Ginger Muffins aka “Brown Study” 12″ x 12″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick

The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles

Neither Lisa nor I had any idea just how challenging the Daring Bakers’ Challenge would be for me on my maiden voyage. The parameters were simple enough: make a quick bread, either in muffin or loaf shape. Post paragraph one above to begin the blog post.

I have cerebral palsy, which may or may not give me altered bone density. I have had all month to think about the baking challenge and to fantasize about what I would make. Should I make a coconut bread with fresh coconut and coconut milk? Should I concoct some kind of Nutella swirl thing in honor of Margit’s birthday month? Should I make something with limes, having scored a bag from the rotting rack at Canned Foods?

I mulled these choices over while I walked along Franciscan Way, going to Margit’s to feed her cats on Thursday morning. My left foot began to hurt insistently. I sat down on the verge to take off my shoe, thinking that my two-day old shoes were not fitting well. I ran my hand inside my shoe and straightened my sock, found nothing and resumed walking in some pain. Franciscan is a lonely stretch of roadway, abutting the Sunset Cemetery where my grandparents are buried. I fed the cats, cleaned their box, walked uphill to the Kensington Library, returned books, looked for job listings and went home for lunch.

My mother and I often have tea together in the afternoon in the upstairs library. She sits on the love seat and I sit on the matching dark red leather armchair with my feet on a black leather ottoman. When I removed my shoes, owing to the warm day, I saw that my little toe was blue and there was a bruise on the heavily calloused outside section of my left foot where the pain was. Uh-oh. The last time I had bruising like that I had broken my hand in two places.

By Friday I had called my foot doctor and requested an appointment and started to minimize any weight-bearing and to sit with my left foot elevated whenever possible. I brought a cutting board into the breakfast room and did all the chopping, slicing and peeling for soup that I could do sitting. By Sunday morning, I felt ready to tackle the muffin challenge. I pushed a light chair into the kitchen to encourage me to stay off my feet, maneuvered myself around as much as possible using the edges of counters and hopping carefully on my shod right foot. When I had to put my left foot down, I did my best to put my weight on the heel and avoid the front part of the foot.

I decided to make a variation on Mollie Katzen’s Spicy Gingerbread from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, incorporating some finely diced pears with the sauteed butter and grated fresh ginger, and making the resulting batter in a standard 12-muffin tin. I began by whisking my dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl:

1 cup unbleached flour

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 and 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp dry mustard

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp kosher salt

generous grating of fresh nutmeg

Then I microwaved about 1 Tbsp of butter in a glass liquid measuring cup, swirling it in the cup to coat the sides to the 1/2 cup mark, before pouring it off into the muffin tin, a few drops in each cup. I then measured

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup molasses into the pre-buttered measuring cup and poured them into a small bowl, to which I added

1/2 cup plain yogurt and

1 large egg.

I preheated my oven to 375 and put the butter-smeared tin into it to heat.

I whisked that together as I began melting 1/4 cup butter on very low heat in a small skillet. While the butter melted I peeled and chopped

2 small Bosc pears into a small dice

I then took a hand of fresh ginger from the freezer where we store it and grated three small knobs into the melted butter (about 3 Tbsp), added the diced pears and cooked it for awhile and turned off the heat while I rescued the tin from the hot oven.

I was all set to combine the ginger-butter-pear mixture with the honey, molasses, yogurt and butter and moved toward it, managing to knock both the bowl of wet ingredients, the whisk, the measuring cup and a rubber scraper onto the flour. I let out a cry, though not a swear-word, and righted the bowl to save what I could. The cry brought Mom from the upstairs to tackle the floor while I measured out another half cup of yogurt and a half cup of honey to replace what had been lost,  and added them to what remained in the bowl. I then moved my chair out of the mess, combined the pears, butter and ginger with the remaining molasses, honey, egg and yogurt, stirred the wet ingredients into the dry, swiped the now-cooled muffin tin with some Crisco that Mom got down from the cupboard for me and hoped for the best as I filled the tin and set it in the oven. I then stalked off  on my heels to make some coffee and set down morosely to let the muffins bake and the coffee water boil.

I needn’t have worried. The muffins came out gingery and delicious with small, soft chunks of pear glistening like jewels. They rose well. They browned well. I can now say that Mollie Katzen’s spicy gingerbread recipe is well-nigh indestructible, even if you drop the wet ingredients on the floor and spill half of them before incorporating your butter and ginger. Thank goodness. Now I will wait to see what the good doctor has to say this afternoon* while I consider the wisdom of taking on any further challenges than the ones I am already equipped with naturally.

* Sad to say my doctor’s visit was aborted by a sudden attack of norovirus. Today I switched to a walker until such time as I am allowed to darken his doorway. Projected visit: Friday morning.

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