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a southern belle

Strange as this sounds, I always wanted a grandma. Not just any grandma though. I wanted a southern grandma. Someone who would call me sugar, drink copious amounts of sweet tea with the occasional mint julep on Sundays, fry up a mean chicken, and teach me how to bake all those sweet treats my mom wouldn’t allow in my kitchen.

But unfortunately, I wasn’t given the gift of a grandma, let alone a southern one as both my parent’s lost their mothers before I was old enough to tell the difference between my nose and finger. Sometimes, I imagine what my life would’ve been like with a grandmother. All those stories waiting to be told, pictures to be shown, memories to be reminisced. She’d let me stay up way too late, buy me caramels from the local candy shop, and show me the secret techniques behind making the best bread and pies.

It breaks my heart a little to think of what I missed out on, but that’s the card we are dealt with, right? When I browsed through Southern Cakes I felt like I had discovered the next best thing to my grandma-envy. The way Nancie McDermott writes, you feel as if you are in the kitchen with her, watching her every step in awe.


There were so many recipes I wanted to try, but since I lacked the fund to buy the book at my bookstore and didn’t want to shoplift the damn thing, I put it on my request tab at the library (yes, I am still putting things on hold there despite my still-waiting 10 books). But I found this recipe for a pear bread so simple and rich on Leite’s Culinaria and knew I had to make it. I had a plethora of pears left over from farmer’s markets past and put them to good use with this recipe.

First of all, can I just say that the name “Cornelia Walker Bailey” should go down as one of the best names in history because it just evokes that image of a southern belle who isn’t afraid to speak her mind, and yet has the kind manners that would charm the pants off of any man. I’m picturing a modern day Scarlett O’Hara. She’s a toned down, less caricature-y version of Paula Deen, who seems just a wee bit off her rocker sometimes.

I would like to meet this Cornelia Walker Bailey of Sapelo Island and share some lethal cocktails with her because this bread made my day. The cinnamon speckled dough cooks up beautifully with the pieces of pears popping through. The brown sugar keeps the dough moist and the nuts give it a hearty bite. The recipe is failproof. Literally, babies could make this thing and yet it manages to blow the roof off of everyone’s mouth. If you don’t have pears, you could probably use another a stone fruit instead. I think Cornelia and I must meet sometime soon and who knows, maybe I can adopt her in to my family. It could be like a grandma-exchange program… 

And while you are in this southern kitchen mindset, you should crank up the new Jenny Lewis cd, “Acid Tongue”. Acoustic-sounding, soulful, and honest, this cd will be in constant rotation in my house. I have a serious girl crush on Jenny Lewis. Between her and Christina Hendricks of Mad Men fame, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself…

Cornelia Walker Bailey’s Pear Bread
from Southern Cakes

Ingredients:

For the bread:
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts (I used almonds)
3/4 cup butter, softened, or 3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups sugar ( I used 1 1/2)
2 cups peeled and finely grated ripe but firm pears
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used almond)

For the glaze:
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch or flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Make the bread:
Heat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and lightly grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan or two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans.
Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl, and stir with a fork to mix everything well. Scoop out about 1/4 cup of the flour mixture and combine it in a small bowl with the chopped walnuts, stirring and tossing to coat the nuts with the flour.
In a medium bowl, combine the butter or oil, eggs, sugar, grated pear, nuts, and vanilla, and stir to mix everything well. Scrape the pear mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until the flour disappears and the batter is evenly moistened.
Quickly scrape the batter into the prepared pans and bake at 350°F (175°C) for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the bread is handsomely browned and firm on top and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack or folded kitchen towel for about 10 minutes. Then turn it out onto a plate or a wire rack to cool completely, top side up. Serve as is, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, or ice with a simple frosting, such as Buttermilk Glaze.

Make the glaze:
In a medium saucepan combine the buttermilk, sugar, butter, cornstarch, and baking soda. Bring to a gentle boil. Remove at once, stir well, and cool to room temperature. Add the vanilla and then set the glaze aside until the cake is done. Spoon the Buttermilk Glaze over the warm cake and cool completely.

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September 25, 2008 - 12:43 pm

alesbianandascholar - You know, I had not one but two southern grandmas (though one died when I was five; the other not till I was 16) but they were never like your imaginary one. The one who lived longer did cook, but baking wasn’t really her thing and she didn’t really teach me anything. She did drink tea, but not sweetened because she had diabetes. She did call me sugar, as well as the detestable “sweet baby love.” Actually her most memorable dish was squash casserole! Not very Southern, is it?

September 25, 2008 - 2:51 pm

steph (whisk/spoon) - this looks delicious, and i love the flaked almonds on top! i have this book–there is a whole chapter on coconut cakes, one of which i must make soon! i am lucky to still have both my grandmas, but neither does much baking…

September 25, 2008 - 4:48 pm

Amanda - steph- is there a good handful of recipes? I’m contemplating buying this book. I love southern gals :)

September 25, 2008 - 9:26 pm

Syrie - Lovely post. While I don’t have grandma envy, I do have a fascination with southern food. I love the thought of mint juleps, grits and sinfully sweet pies. Your bread looks gorgeous.

September 26, 2008 - 6:44 am

siri - Hi! I just checked out your blog for the first time (I’m one of the supper club girls) and think it’s great! Lovely photos and super fun to read. I have a grandma, but she’s Minnesotan, not southern, and never bought me caramels nor made me great homemade desserts. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t feel too bad.

September 26, 2008 - 9:22 am

kati - really beautiful images.

September 28, 2008 - 6:10 pm

bekahpowell - to give you back the sense that your dream could have been a reality…i had a southern grandma. she bought me things like caramels and peppermints and teacups, made cheese grits like there was no tomorrow, and definitely had (maybe more than) the occasional mint julep. her voice sounded like wildflower honey and when she said my name, it took three times as long as it did for anyone else. she had serious class, and she knew it.

September 29, 2008 - 5:33 am

maggie - This looks DELICIOUS. I love baking with pears.

September 29, 2008 - 6:41 am

gkbloodsugar - Not enough Pear usage these days.
Great recipe.

October 1, 2008 - 7:02 am

kpriss - uuugh.. I just had a very bad digestion day (that ended up in a glorious face to face encounter with the toilet seat. Threw up almost everything I ate yesterday). Today’s reminiscent of that bad digestion resulted in nothing to eat all day long. Except tea and honey butter tartines. Reading you and simply seeing the pictures got my head turning and the sweetness dizziness installed its overwhelming reign over the bad digestion! Sooo wonderful!

October 4, 2008 - 6:44 pm

Jojo - I’m so excited to have stumbled on your site today. I just happen to have a load of pears sitting on my countertop right now, and this bread looks heavenly. I can’t wait to give it a whirl.
I was blessed with one grandma, and, while she isn’t much of a cook, she could give Martha Stewart a run for her money in the arts & crafts department. Reading about your fantasy-grandma made me want a southern grandma, too!

August 5, 2010 - 11:13 am

35 Things To Make With Pears: {Recipes} : TipNut.com - [...] Cornelia Walker Bailey’s Pear Bread: The cinnamon speckled dough cooks up beautifully with the pieces of pears popping through. The brown sugar keeps the dough moist and the nuts give it a hearty bite. The recipe is failproof. Literally, babies could make this thing and yet it manages to blow the roof off of everyone’s mouth. If you don’t have pears, you could probably use another a stone fruit instead. Found at A Southern Belle. [...]

August 8, 2010 - 10:38 am

35 Pear Recipes | Life At The Big HH - [...] Cornelia Walker Bailey’s Pear Bread: The cinnamon speckled dough cooks up beautifully with the pieces of pears popping through. The brown sugar keeps the dough moist and the nuts give it a hearty bite. The recipe is failproof. Literally, babies could make this thing and yet it manages to blow the roof off of everyone’s mouth. If you don’t have pears, you could probably use another a stone fruit instead. Found at A Southern Belle. [...]

July 29, 2011 - 7:42 pm

Laura Madere - I was very happy to find this recipe today. We have a pear tree in our yard so full of big juicy pears. I don’t really like pears that much so I never looked up recipes for them before, but with a tree full of them I had to find things to do with them. I hate to waste food so I though I’d start looking for recipes. I made this recipe and I even took pictures of it. I am going to put a link to your recipe and add the pictures I took on my blog, Smart Moms Saving Money. If you don’t want me to share it, please just come e-mail me, or post a comment and I’ll take the link down. What I like about this recipe is it’s easy and I was able to make it with things I had in the house. I LOVED the taste! I did change a few things: I didn’t make the glaze and I had to use egg beater to replace the eggs. I also switched out 1/3 of the sugar for brown sugar. 1 stick of butter, and 1/4 cup of veg oil. I then sprinkled powdered sugar over the slice before eating. Thank you so much this is a recipe I’ll be making again, many times. :)
Sincerely,
Laura

September 12, 2011 - 12:39 pm

Lori - I was lucky enough to have a southern grandma and a Native American grandma. My Grandma Minnie Plum (yes, that was her real name) was an excellent cook. She made the best biscuits, chicken and dumplings, and corn fritters in the whole world. Love and miss her every day. My NA grandma was an excellent cook as well. Growing up in two very different food worlds was pretty darn awesome!

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