"Oh shoot, I should have frozen these. Don't they last only a month in the fridge? Oh well, they don't look so bad. [They are happily turning into Craisins.] I don't see any mold. Hmm, what can we do?"
You may also have bought a few very late season apples from the farmer's market that turned out to be more mealy than crisp, and perhaps you didn't get around to making that pear, blue cheese and walnut salad at Christmas, so you have a squishy, browning pear mingling with the celery in the crisper drawer.
"Hmm, I wonder if we put all together we can make something - I'm sure the texture won't matter once they're cooked." Rummaging in the cupboard and cookbooks ensues.
I'm sure by now you're thinking, "I am never eating at her house." Don't worry, I'm not some kind of crazy hoarder, and we do throw food out. But if it's salvageable, why not? One reason I love baking is you can turn something totally unappealing into something delicious - the magic of chemistry.
Here's a bundt coffee cake I made, with apple and pear in the filling and a cranberry swirl. It's very moist, with a strong taste of the fruit. It's a mix of several different recipes, mostly The Joy of Cooking mixed with a little Cook's Illustrated.
Apple-Pear-Cranberry Coffee Cake
1 apple and 1 pear (or 2 apples/2 pears)
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt (I used 1 cup yogurt, 1/4 cup sour cream)
1 tsp vanilla
4 tbsp butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
About 2 1/2 cups cranberries
3 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp lemon, lime or orange juice
pinch table salt
pinch ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
- Have all ingredients at room temperature. Butter and flour a bundt or tube pan (don't skimp - this is a very moist cake). Pre-heat the oven to 350 deg.
- Make the filling first: combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the cranberries begin to burst and the cornstarch has made the liquid jelled and glossy, about four minutes. Set aside to let cool.
- Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- Combine yogurt and vanilla in a small bowl.
- Peel and chop apple and pear into 1/4 inch pieces and set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat sugar and butter together until light colored, a few minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time.
- Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the sour cream mixture. Stir until smooth, then fold in the apple and pear.
- Scrape 1/3 of batter into the pan, then top with half of the filling. Add another third of batter and the rest of the filling, then top with remaining batter. Take a small spoon and dip it to the bottom of the pan, repeating five or six times around the pan, to marble the filling.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool for five to 10 minutes, then invert on a rack to cool (be sure to tap the pan all around to make the cake come loose). Cool before serving.