by Caroline

The other day I saw a bus ad quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson’s line, “There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.” I was so surprised to see Emerson’s words on the side of a bus that it took a while before I stopped to think how rarely, now, I hit on those ten minutes for myself. Eli is the pear guy in our house, and I watch our pears carefully to spot when they are just the right balance of crisp-ripe for him (a perfect Eli pear is ripe half a day or more before it is perfect for me). Inevitably, he can’t keep up with the ripe pears, I miss my moment, and the overripe pears go into bread that everybody can enjoy for days. This easy Joy of Cooking recipe is the best way I’ve found to extend the brief life of pears.

preheat the oven to 350
butter & flour an 8-cup loaf pan (9×5″)

Whisk together in a large bowl:
1 1/2 c flour
1 c sugar
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
3-6 T ground flax (optional; reduce the oil by 1 T for every 3 T of flax you use)

In another bowl, whisk together
1 egg
1/2 c vegetable oil (remember to reduce this if you’re using ground flax),
1 t vanilla
the zest and juice of one lemon
1 1/2 c peeled, grated ripe (or overripe) pears, with juice

1 c toasted chopped pecans or walnuts, optional

Add the flour mixture to the pear mixture and fold until dry ingredients are moistened. Add nuts, if using. Scrape into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let cool on a rack before removing from pan.