Oat, Pear, and Raspberry Loaf
Last night, someone put up a video of my high school’s 2010-2011 homecoming assembly. For a moment I was brought back to senior year – I knew exactly how the new seniors felt sitting in those bleachers. It was so surreal to suddenly realize that high school was continuing without me. All the sophomores and juniors I knew are upperclassmen now, my old friends are scattered across the country, yet life goes on like normal back home.
Then I realized that Boston is home.
I still haven’t felt homesick yet. I just don’t have the time. My journalism homework is very hands-on, sending me into the city for interviews and investigations. I’m submitting short stories and articles to the literary magazines. I joined the photography club in a heartbeat, and I’m smitten. Every week we get a new assignment and arrive with a new photo to critique. It’s inspiring me to look at the world from new angles and keep a camera with me at all times.
And for 15 hours a week, I’m a reporter and writer in the news department of my school’s radio station. I’m learning so much (mostly from my mistakes) and absorbing as much as I can from the experienced vets. I’ve never read the paper as often, stayed so up-to-date with the news, or known so much about Massachusetts politics. I’ve also never heard my voice coming out the radio until now, but there’s a first for everything.
After a long day, when I get off the T and see my dorm in the distance – I get the same feeling I used to get when I pulled into the driveway of my house. The comfort of knowing you’re safe and just seconds away from where you belong.
Every day, I have to remind myself that I’ve only been here a month. I feel like I’ve known my new friends for years – we have classes together, late night talks, we support each other without judgment and love each other like family. The city of Boston, too, already feels familiar. I’m spending enough time off campus that I can navigate parts of Boston based on street names and landmarks, without a map. In four weeks, I’ve fallen into a steady rhythm.
I didn’t know I could be so busy. Every Monday morning I drag myself to my 8 am class, clinging to sleep until I sit down in the cold classroom. I’ve written pages and pages of notes for my literature of the Americas class, the most difficult course I’m taking. And I adore my photography class, even though it’s in the furthest building from my dorm, even though I have to cross rainy streets and climb the stairs up because the elevators are full.
In the evenings my floor hangs out in the common room, passing around a bag of honey pretzels and a tub of Nutella. I stop at the cafe to wolf down a panini between classes. But best of all, every weekend I visit the nearest Trader Joe’s for soy milk, yogurt, crackers and veggie chips. Then there are the farmers markets – Copley on Tuesdays, Haymarket on Fridays – and it almost feels like Seattle again.
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I’ve been visiting the local farmers markets since my first weekend here. Haymarket, especially, offers the cheapest produce around. Six plums for a dollar? A huge plastic bag of bright green grapes for two dollars? I circle around the market in search of the perfect buy, like a lost bird looking for home. Two weeks ago my roommate E- bought a mini fridge for us to share, and I lost any excuse not to stock up on fruits and veggies.
The markets were overflowing with August’s bounty during my first visit. I passed over papery zucchini blossoms, like half-folded origami cranes. I couldn’t resist a tiny jar of blackberry jam at one vendor, an almond pastry at another. I tried my first concord grape. Over the past few weeks I’ve watched the summer produce slowly transition into baskets of butternut squash, dusty beets, and sweet potatoes heavy as stones. And… pears.
For some reason, nothing feels more like autumn to me than a ripe pear. The trees in the Boston Common have begun to turn scarlet at the tips. Some afternoons I step outside to fat raindrops splattering in every direction – yesterday, it was so blustery, my umbrella broke. But nothing has made it feel more like October than those green farmers market pears, bent stems and brown freckles and all.
I like to eat pears in just about every way imaginable. Raw, consumed in large, unashamed bites. Sliced and spread with a slathering of peanut butter, or poached in white wine. Maybe best of all? Diced and tossed with fresh raspberries, baked into a soft loaf with oats and a crunchy topping.
I’ve wanted to make this for ages and ages and ages, since I bought the cookbook second-hand three years ago. I thumbed through it and dog eared this recipe that very day, but didn’t bake it until this summer. I made it twice. The first time it came out all wrong, but I tried again with some significant tweaks, and found the perfect balance.
The loaf is moist, and the brown sugar granola topping is crisp and crumbly. I was surprised by how strongly the loaf tasted like rolled oats, but I liked the rustic, homemade feel it gave every slice. The center is marbled with a ribbon of raspberries, the occasional burst of sweetness… I’m sighing as I write this. I miss mornings when I used to bake breakfast and eat it at noon.
Oat, Pear, and Raspberry Loaf
Adapted from bills open kitchen
Makes a 8 1/2” by 4 1/2” loaf
Crunchy Granola Topping
1/4 cup (25 g) rolled oats
1/4 cup (55 g) brown sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons (1 oz) chilled butter, cut into small pieces
Oat, Pear, and Raspberry Loaf
1 cup (100 g) rolled oats
1 cup (250 g) boiling water
11 tablespoons (150 g) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (115 g) brown sugar
1/4 cup (55 g) granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of a tangerine
1 1/2 cups (185 g) all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
Few generous shakes of ground cinnamon
1 pear, peeled, cored, and diced
3/4 cup (90 g) raspberries, fresh or frozen
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 8 1/2” by 4 1/2” loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper (not 100% necessary, but it’s nice to be safe.)
To make the topping, combine all the topping ingredients in a small bowl and rub with your fingertips until the mixture is well incorporated and forms small clumps.
To make the loaf, pour the boiling water over the rolled oats and set aside until lukewarm. Squeeze out the extra water.
Cream the butter and sugars until light and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between eggs, then mix in the vanilla extract and tangerine zest. Sift the flour, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon over the creamed butter. Add the drained oats and half of the diced pear, and fold the whole mixture with a rubber spatula until combined.
Spread 2/3 of the batter into the loaf pan. Sprinkle the remaining diced pear and the raspberries. Smooth the remaining 1/3 of the batter over the fruit, then sprinkle the topping evenly over it. [The batter will probably completely fill the loaf pan without leaving any room – it’s okay, mine went all the way to the top but didn’t rise much or spill. You might want to put a rimmed baking pan on a lower rack of the oven just in case it overflows.]
Bake for an hour and ten minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean (keep in mind that the pear and raspberries will stay moist.) Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then run a knife along the edges and turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
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