Pear and Ginger Mini Muffin

There is nothing worse than a tasteless muffin. I’m not quite sure why – perhaps it’s because the smell of the muffins cooking (regardless of how they taste) – induces Pavlovian drooling. With me, this conditioned response is so strong that I can barely wait till they’ve left the oven before I tear a muffin in half and slather it in butter. I think the other reason a tasteless muffin is so ghastly is that it’s actually quite easy to make a flavorful muffin, if only by adding a little spice. This is why I should have known better before trying Nigella Lawson’s Pear and Ginger Muffins from her latest cookbook Nigella Express. There was only one spice listed – the titular ginger – and very little else of flavor.

Peeled pearsFlour and SugarsEggs

The first inkling I had that these would not be glorious muffins came as I was spooning the batter into the mini-muffin tins. I realized I had not added any salt to the recipe. At first, I thought I must have forgotten this step, but as I re-read the recipe I realized that it wasn’t called for. Now the necessity for just a bit of salt in baked goods was just about the first thing I learned about baking. You don’t add salt for a salty flavor – you do so to enhance the other flavors in the baked good – and this muffin definitely could have benefited from more flavor—or as Nigella might say, more flavour.

Unbaked Mini Muffins

But not the flavor of ginger. If it is possible for a muffin to be both tasteless and overwhelmingly gingery, this muffin achieved it. A full teaspoon of ginger was excessive for this muffin – it overwhelmed any hint of pear or honey flavor. Cutting the ginger in half (at least) and adding in some cinnamon or nutmeg would have helped this muffin immeasurably. I suppose you could then argue that the muffin would essentially be the pear equivalent of an apple spice muffin – but apple spice muffins taste good. This muffin did not. And I like pears!

Baked Mini Muffins

I suppose that this recipe failure could all be my fault – if so please prove me wrong. The recipe is copied below – just take my advice and add in the salt. Also, add in the cinnamon, nutmeg, or even allspice and use some restraint with the ginger – and let me know if you have more success with the recipe with these modifications. Because believe me – you don’t want a tasteless muffin.

Pear and Ginger Muffins

From Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson

1¾ cups flour
¾ cup sugar
½ cup (packed) plus 6 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2/3 cup sour cream
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon honey
2 eggs
1½ cups peeled and chopped pears (about ¼-inch).

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees and line a 12-cup muffin pan with muffin papers.

2. Measure into a bowl the flour, granulated sugar, ½ cup brown sugar, baking powder and ground ginger.

3. In a large measuring cup, whisk the sour cream, oil, honey and eggs and then fold this into the dry ingredients.

4. Lastly, mix in the pear dice and then divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

5. Sprinkle each one with ½ teaspoon brown sugar and then bake for 20 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack. Best eaten still a little warm.

Makes 12 (full size) 36 (mini-muffins)