After my recent homemade vanilla extract project, I've been searching for creative ways to use the abundance of leftover vanilla beans. There are many different uses for fresh vanilla, from popsicles to custard to all sorts of baked goods. You can officially expect to see more vanilla recipes around here.
The other day, I made vanilla pear muffins. They were ah-MA-zing. Steve and I both polished off two muffins each right after they came out of the oven. The combination of pear, vanilla, nutmeg and a touch of lemon zest made the super moist muffins really special. I especially loved the slices of fresh, soft pear folded in, marrying perfectly with the unique flavors. To highlight the vanilla, I used a whole bean and a tablespoon of vanilla extract.
If you are new to vanilla beans, rest assured that it is a simple process. Using a paring knife, cut the bean pod in half lengthwise, leaving the top 1/2 inch attached. Scrape out the oily seeds (or caviar) from the inside, and use as your recipe directs. Don't throw the pod away! It can be used later, in something like infused sugar.
Vanilla Pear Muffins (adapted from The Pastry Affair)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 tablespoons vanilla extract
seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 cup packed light brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 large ripe pears, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12-muffin pan, and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, mix together the eggs, vanilla, zest, brown sugar, butter, oil, and applesauce until well combined. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined; do not overmix. Distribute the muffin batter evenly between 12 baking cups. Stick 3 thin slices of pear directly into top of the muffin batter. Bake for 20 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Yields 12 muffins.