Quickies Noodle Challenge Update : I am pleased to announce that we've now received  6  very interesting entries! Thank you very much and remember this is open to everyone, worldwide, so keep them coming! As this may be the last Quickies Challenge for a while,  we really hope there will be a fantastic turnout. Of course, if you really want more challenges, let us know and we'll do our best to oblige! Send in as many entries as you like, just remember to get them in by midnight of  December 14 2010 (EST)  - we're looking forward to shouting out the winner and showcasing a fantastic line up of entries on December 15 2010 (EST)  !! What's your motivation? A gorgeous autographed cookbook! (take a detailed peek here) And now on to the day's post....

There's another pear I'd like you to meet. The delectable Rocha from Portugal. Isn't she a beauty? That soft, lustrous, buttery hued skin, the adorable russeting around the stem (industry insiders call it the "peduncle") and such a glorious, rich and sweet perfume she exudes! Put her in a pair of Blahniks and she would work them ;)  But she's no skin deep only beauty. One bite and you will be completely seduced by her luscious, tender and juicy flesh. Oh my.....

I think I have a crumble fetish ..... or would that be a pear fetish?? I may still be reeling from unfulfilled pear cheesecake lust. Each time I stumble on a load of pears, they don't seem to be ripe enough and I haven't the patience to wait for them, so into something else they go.  And crumble! Oh!! Buttery, spicy, rich, sticky crumble!! Could any jury find it in their collective heart, to convict me? But, it does look as if I have found my perfect cheesecake pear. Except, SOMEONE, and I'm not naming names, ate the last two last night, when I wasn't looking.

These muffins are easy enough for novice bakers and even children to do. I hate creaming butter by hand, and I don't like washing up standmixer bowls and attachments much more, so I decided on the easy going rub-in method. I know of no child who would not relish getting little fingers into a bowl of flour and butter and squishing the life out of both. A very brief whisk with buttermilk follows, and before you know it, these are in the oven, with the promise of a delectable brunch or afternoon treat fragrant with nutmeg, succulent with pears and crunchy on top with buttery crumbs.

Maybe it is the crumble, after all?

Prep 15 mins     Cook 20 mins     Makes 12 muffins

300 g (3 cups) plain or all purpose flour
120 g (1 cup) soft brown sugar
1 level tsp baking soda
2 level tsp ground nutmeg (reserve 1/2 tsp for topping)
1/2 level tsp fine salt
100 g (2/3 cup) semi firm butter
300 ml (1 1/2 cups) buttermilk or regular milk plus 2 Tbsp cider vinegar to make up 300 ml sour milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 small to medium, soft but not too ripe pears, peel, core and cut each into 8 segments


Preheat oven at 200 C (400 F) and line a 12 hole muffin tray with 10 paper liners.

Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk thoroughly.  Add butter and coat with the flour. Cut or squeeze the butter into smaller pieces and rub in, until you have a bowlful of very coarse crumbs. Set aside 3 tablespoons of this mixture for topping.

Pour the buttermilk or sour milk and vanilla into the flour mixture and whisk gently and quickly. Stop as soon as mixture is incorporated. Do not overmix. Put 1 slightly heaped tablespoon of batter into each liner. Top with a pear segment. Add another slightly heaped tablespoon of batter and top with a final pear segment. 

Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg to the reserved crumble topping and mix well. Sprinkle some crumble over each muffin and bake for 10 minutes. Turn temperature down to 175 C (340 F) and bake another 10 - 15 minutes or until well risen, golden and slightly springy.

Remove from oven and serve with coffee or tea, for breakfast, morning coffee or afternoon tea.