Monday, January 23, 2012

Pear, Pistachio and Ginger Blondies

Meet my grandpa (or in Cantonese, my yeye). He passed away more than five years ago, I didn’t even go to the funeral, I was in school and the ceremony was in Hong Kong. My dad went alone instead. This photo was taken at Centre Island, when I was four and attached to neon green objects (note: polka dot capris and tennis balls) and also very close to my grandpa (who breathes coolness with his shades and coke). 

Yeye was a quiet, kind-hearted man. You would have liked him, maybe even spent an afternoon watching cartoons like Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry while splayed out on the carpet. He’s the kind of grandpa that would pick you up from school at 3pm every weekday and walk the thirty minutes back home. No matter what the weather conditions were, be it sunny or thick snow that piled to knee height, he still walked with you because that’s what families do (and when both parents are working). He took you home despite how you purposely delayed the walk to play in the snow, or you ‘accidently’ have to tighten your boots or you spotted 'something' in the snow.

But once, he told on me. He ratted out to my mom that I ate snow, and not just any snow, but snow straight from the sidewalk (hey, I was curious!). So much for being my best friend. My mom threw a fit, yelled at me for not knowing the difference between clean and dirty and punished me by forcing me to write Chinese poems 50 times over. Yuck.

When he wasn’t being a snitch, he would give in to my pleas for candy. My parents rarely gave in to my desires for fancy packaged candy since they had zero nutrients save for sugar and corn syrup. When I pointed at fruit gushers, I got a pink gumball that lost its flavour within a minute of chewing. I even tried to trade my seaweed at snacktime for a teeny piece of Fruit Roll-Ups from the blond girl in pigtails. I lived a sad candy-deprived childhood.

So, with no sweets at home, my yeye gave me a bowl and filled it with three spoonfuls of sugar. I crushed the sugar into white powder, smashing a spoon against the table, then dabbed my fingers before licking them clean, anything to prolong my treat. 

If he was here today, I think he would be proud that I moved on from eating snow to making my own treats, like these blondies. Sitting in the cakey, soft cookie-like batter are chewy bits of dried pear along with crunchy nuts, not to mention the spicy kick of crystallized ginger (which I lurve), a combination that would make any grandparent happy.

This recipe is from Martha Stewart and also where these treasures were born. I made these blondies last week for a friend’s birthday and gave some away to other friends too. One friend in particular sneaked a bite for breakfast, mumbled how yummy it was because it wasn’t too cloying, returned it to its foil packaging, went on to eat two bowls of cereal and milk for a real breakfast and then without missing a beat, reached for the blondies again for what I can only assume was dessert for breakfast. I approve.  

By the way, happy Chinese new year! May the new year bring you and your family happiness and prosperity. I just got home from a very filling dinner of roast chicken and steamed fish marinated in a ridiculously scrumptious tomato and coconut broth. In other words, may the new year bring you lots of good food too.

Pear, Pistachio and Ginger Blondies

The only change I made was reduce the sugar by a smidgen which I promise, you won’t miss. I also think these blondies would love a cup of toasted coconut added into its batter, something to liven up the flavours. You can make these in a square cake pan as blondies are usually made, but it's all up to you.

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon sea salt
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup dried pears, coarsely chopped
¾ cup shelled pistachios, unsalted
¼ cup crystallized ginger

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan or a round cake pan. Line bottom with parchment paper, butter parchment and set aside.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Put butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. 

3. Add eggs and vanilla; mix until combined. Reduce speed to low; mix in flour mixture until combined. Mix in pears, pistachios, and crystallized ginger until just combined.

4. Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth top with spatula. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack 15 minutes. Lift blondie out of pan; transfer to a wire rack. Let cool completely; cut into wedges.

Recipe here!

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