With people staying at home during COVID-19, baking is suddenly the hottest craze. My Instagram feed is full of scones, pies, breads and muffins — and I couldn’t love it more. As a lifelong baker, I love seeing people discover the joy of baking. There’s nothing like taking a few basic ingredients and making them into something delicious.
Are you looking to hop on the baking bandwagon? I have the perfect place to start plus a few tips and tricks for your journey.
My stay-at-home baking began with a deep dive into Travel Oregon’s archived recipe books. In the 2006 Oregon Bounty Recipes were a collection of autumn-inspired dishes from some of Oregon’s top chefs.
The one that caught my eye? A delectable Oregon Pear and Hazelnut Crisp recipe from Mother’s Bistro & Bar in Portland on page 65. It showcases delicious local pears and hazelnuts (or filberts as we call them in Oregon) with enticing hints of cinnamon and ginger in every bite.
Fun fact: Crisps gained popularity during World War II when flour and sugar were rationed.
Oregon Pear and Hazelnut Crisp
Mother’s Bistro & Bar
Lisa Schroeder, Chef/Owner
- 10 medium Oregon Bartlett, Anjou, or Bosc pears, peeled, cored and cut into cubes or slices
- ¼ cup sugar
- Pinch cinnamon
- Pinch ginger
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Butter a 2 quart, 2-inch deep baking dish
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the pears, sugar, cinnamon and ginger. Pour into prepared dish. Set aside and make crisp topping.
- 1 ½ cups uncooked oats
- 1 ½ cups light brown sugar
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ¼ cups Oregon hazelnuts, roughly chopped
- Pinch cinnamon
- Pinch dry ginger
- ½ pound unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, flour, hazelnuts, cinnamon and ginger. Using a pastry blender or heavy whisk, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly but holds together when squeezed between your finger. (It’s okay if the mixture is not totally homogenized – little bits of butter are fine).
Spread topping on pears in the baking dish, making sure the fruit is evenly covered. Place in a preheated oven and bake for approximately 45 minutes.
Remove from oven and serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
Whether you’re baking the crisp or another Oregon chef’s treat, here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.
- Measure ALL your ingredients and set them aside before you begin. Since we’re all making fewer trips to the supermarket during the pandemic, I measure my ingredients several days in advance. This gives me ample time to put things on my shopping list and avoid last-minute trips.
- Remember that a tablespoon (tbsp) and teaspoon (tsp) are abbreviated differently and make a HUGE difference. No one wants 1 tbsp of salt.
- Check the expiration dates for all your ingredients, especially leavening ingredients like yeast, baking powder, and baking soda that may have been sitting in your cupboard for a while.
- Use ingredients at room temperature unless specified by the recipe – this includes milk, eggs, and butter. (To get eggs to room temperature quickly, place in a bowl and fill the bowl with lukewarm water and let sit for 5-10 minutes.)
- Always preheat the oven.
Freeze and Enjoy Later
Did you know that most baked goods freeze exceptionally well? This is a great way to enjoy your hard work after the pandemic ends and life speeds back up. It’s also a lifesaver for me because I live by myself and never want to waste anything (or eat it all in a few days).
To freeze bread and cake (un-frosted), wrap in plastic wrap or freezer paper and then wrap again in aluminum foil (heavy duty foil is best for long-term storage). Place the wrapped bread/cake in a freezer safe container or zip top plastic bag. Label the container with the item name and date, and you’re all set! To thaw, simply remove items from the freezer the night before and place them in the refrigerator. Frozen bread/cake is best consumed within three months. (Tip: When freezing a loaf of bread, slice the bread before freezing it so you can grab slices individually and don’t need to thaw the entire loaf.)
To freeze cookies, simply wrap the cookies altogether in freezer paper or aluminum foil and place in a freezer-safe container. Label and date the container and consume within three months.
Oregonians are lucky to have easy access to locally grown ingredients. We don’t have to go far to find Oregon-made baked goods and ingredients. Here are a few places to look before baking.
Flour has never been so popular! If you’ve searched high and low for flour at your local supermarket and come up empty handed, try reaching out directly to the mill. Oregon is the home to amazing mills like Bob’s Red Mill and Camas Country Mill.
Another great option is checking with your favorite local farmers market vendor like the small family-run Gee Creek Farm. Gee Creek Farm is continuing to sell its organic flours at two Portland Farmers Market’s as well as offering local delivery and pick-up at area co-ops.
Looking for a shortcut? In addition to selling delicious pastries, some bakeries like Grand Central Bakery and The Sparrow Bakery also sell dough and u-bake pastries to bake at home. This is a great way to get homemade pastries without the messy kitchen, and it also supports your local bakery. It’s best to give your favorite bakery a call and ask what they’re offering during this unique time.