Pear Almond Streusel Loaf

Pears are one of the many delicious foods that come into season in September in my region of Canada. This was a good year for the pear crop, and I have seen so many branches of pear trees literally bent over under the weight of the fruit!

Madonna of the Pear

Giovanni Bellini, Madonna of the Pear, c.1485. Galleria dell’Accademia Carrara, Bergamo.

In religious art, such as Giovanni Bellini’s Madonna of the Pear, the fruit can symbolise Christ’s love for mankind. However, in more secular works, pears, along with other fruit (peaches, apples and apricots) have sexual connotations about female anatomy.

Regardless of what the fruit might allude to, the sweetness of a perfectly ripe pear is unmatched. I like to pair pears—pardon the pun—with a bit of spice. The sharpness of cloves compliments the taste of the fruit, and brings to mind the spicy perfumes that so many associate with autumn.

This loaf is deliciously moist, and makes an ideal afternoon snack. The crunch of the nuts in the streusel adds a nice contrast to the softness of the fruit.


Pear Almond Streusel Loaf

For the streusel:
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp cold butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup chopped almonds or pecans

For the Loaf:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp cloves
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract (OR 2 tsp amaretto)
1 1/4 cup chopped pears, skin removed

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F degrees. Grease a 9×5 loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
2. First, make the streusel topping. In a small bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and cold butter pieces. Rub the mixture together with your fingers until combined and crumbly. Stir in the almonds. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, baking soda, salt, and spices. Make well in centre.
4. Whisk together in the well egg, buttermilk, oil, vanilla extract, and almond extract.
5. Stir together until there are no lumps. Don’t over-mix. Fold in the chopped pears.
6. Pour batter in prepared pan. Sprinkle the almond streusel topping evenly over the bread.
7. Bake for 60-70 minutes, loosely covering the bread with aluminium foil after 30 minutes to prevent the top from getting too dark. A toothpick inserted in the centre of the loaf will come out clean when the bread is done. Remove from the oven and allow the bread to cool for 15 minutes on a wire cooling rack. Use a knife to loosen the bread around the edges in the pan. Carefully remove the bread from the pan and cool completely.

Sourdough Bread


For the past couple years, I have been cultivating a sourdough bread starter. My locally-sourced wild yeasts, so to speak, have helped created many delicious dough products, including whole wheat loaves, naan bread, pizza dough, and cinnamon buns. The sourdough starter is truly a versatile and delicious yeast to use!

The bowl in the second image below is, in fact, one that we have inherited from my great-grandmother. She was a farmer’s wife, and cooked everything for her family from scratch—pies, bread, preserves, even ketchup! I don’t make nearly as much bread as she did, but I like to think that her years of using this bowl have perfectly “seasoned” it for the task!

The recipe that I use originally came from BBC Good Food. Their suggested starter recipe is pretty simple, though I admit that when I first started cultivating my yeast, I cheated and added a bit of quick-rise bread yeast to help “kick start” the starter.

If you are not intending to make a fresh sourdough loaf (or even feed your starter) every day, keep it in the fridge. Refrigerating the starter allows you the luxury of only needing to feed it once every week or two. It will separate in the fridge, so make sure to stir the starter before each feeding.

In addition, I often add a bit of regular yeast to my loaves—in part because it cuts down the potent flavour of the sourdough, but also because it lessens the amount of time the loaf needs to rise.

The loaf shown is an oatmeal sourdough, so follow the option below for wholewheat flour, substituting oatmeal for the wholewheat flour.


500g all-purpose flour (to make a whole wheat loaf, use about 100g whole wheat flour and 400g A/P flour)
1 tsp fine salt
225ml warm water
1 tsp quick rise yeast
1 tbsp honey
300g sourdough starter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cornmeal

1. Combine warm water, honey, and yeast. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes, until the yeast becomes foamy.

2. Measure out flour into large bowl using a kitchen scale. Add salt. Mix together, and make a well in the centre. Re-set scale to zero, and measure out the sourdough starter. Add yeast mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon, or on a slow setting in a machine (using a dough hook), until combined, adding a little extra flour if it’s too sticky or a little extra starter if it is too dry.

3. Tip dough onto a work surface and knead for about 8-10 mins, or until dough soft and elastic, if using a mixer, turn the speed up a little and mix for 5 mins. The dough is ready when it bounces back when gently pressed with a finger.

4. Use the olive oil to grease the inside of another large, clean bowl. Place the dough in well-oiled bowl and cover with an oiled sheet of saran wrap. Leave in a warm place to rise for 3 hrs, or until the dough is doubled in size. Depending on the time of year and the temperature, this could take as little as 2 hours or as long as 6 hours.

5. Tip the dough back onto your work surface and knead briefly to knock out any air bubbles. Shape the dough into a smooth ball and dust it with flour. Place the dough, seam side up, in another bowl that has been floured, cover with a sheet of oiled cling film, and leave for 1-2 hours, until roughly doubled in size. This second rise will be quicker than the first.

6. Preheat oven to 385F. Fill a small roasting tin or loaf pan with some water, and place this in the bottom of the oven to create some steam. Grease a large baking sheet, and sprinkle the cornmeal in the center, roughly the size of your dough ball. Carefully tip the risen dough onto the sheet. You can slash the top a few times with a sharp knife if you like.

7. Bake for 25-35 mins until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped. Leave to cool on a wire rack for 20 mins before serving.

Pieter Aertsen, A Meat Stall with the Holy Family Giving Alms, 1551, oil on panel, 115.6 x 165 cm. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC.

Pieter Aertsen, a late 16th century Dutch painter, shows a butcher’s stall with a variety of cuts of meat, sausages, ham, fowl, and fish. Although the painting seems to be focused on the representation of meat, in the background, there is a biblical scene with the Flight into Egypt of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.

Aertsen is often considered one of the founders of the still life genre of painting, which developed in the late sixteenth century. Many of his paintings show market stalls, kitchens, or feasts. His scenes of abundant produce and fresh meat make me want to cook up the lush ingredients that he renders in meticulous detail!

With the cold weather approached, I am beginning to crave “winter fare.” Out with the summer picnics and BBQs, and in with the stews, casseroles, and crockpots!

I decided to cook some short ribs recently that had been lingering in the freezer, but I didn’t feel like any sort of Asian-style short ribs on the BBQ. Instead, I decided I would get in the autumnal spirit a little early by cooking up the short ribs in the oven.

This recipe is fairly straightforward, and you could leave out the carrots and parsnips, or add other root vegetables as you see fit. I left out the mushrooms, because I don’t really like mushrooms. A lighter beer is probably best for this recipe, because darker beers would be too bitter.


Beer Braised Short Ribs

(The inspiration for this recipe was one at Chef Not Required)

3 1/2 lbs beef short ribs
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 parsnip, peeled and roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups button mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp tomato paste OR 1 large tomato
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 can/bottle beer (I used an IPA)
2 cups beef stock
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 325F.
2. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large flameproof casserole dish/dutch oven over medium high heat. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Brown ribs all over, adding extra oil if required. Remove to a plate.
4. Turn off stove. Add beer to de-glaze pan. Add vegetables to browned short ribs. Add balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, and herbs, then beef stock.
5. Once combined, add ribs.
6. Put lid on casserole. Cover & bake for 2.5 hrs. Meat should fall apart with a fork when ribs are ready. If not, place back in over for a further 1/2 hour.
7. Once cooked to your liking, remove ribs and vegetables from pot and keep warm. Simmer sauce on stove over medium heat for 5 mins to thicken. You can also add a flour slurry (2 tbsp flour mixed with 1/4 cup beef stock) to help thicken the gravy, if you like.
8. Serve ribs topped with sauce and a side of cheddar smashed potatoes.