Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Swiss Pear Bread—by Kathleen Ernst

Hope you’ll join me in welcoming mystery writer Kathleen Ernst to Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen today. She’s got a new release…and a delicious recipe for Swiss Pear Bread to share with us today! Be sure to comment for her contest today, too! ~Riley

The Swiss Connection

TheHeirloomMurders-ColorCoverWebChloe Ellefson, the protagonist in my Historic Sites mystery series, has a definite Swiss connection. She worked at an outdoor museum in Switzerland for five years. In The Heirloom Murders her Swiss ex reappears, and the plot takes Chloe into a Swiss-American community in southern Wisconsin.

My father’s parents were born and raised in Switzerland. I was fairly young when they died, and I wish we’d had more time together. Thinking and writing about their homeland, and Swiss-American culture, helps me feel closer to them both.

My grandfather was trained as a pastry chef in Bern, and he continued that trade after immigrating to the US. Since I’m such a foodie myself, it grieves me to not have any of his favorite recipes.

While researching The Heirloom Murders I talked with elderly Swiss-Americans about food traditions. It was hard to choose a single recipe to feature, but I finally settled on Swiss Pear Bread. Dried pears were once a staple in rural Swiss kitchens, and many versions of pear bread made their way to the new world.

Pear Bread is still common in Swiss enclaves such as Green County, WI. This loaf is hearty and moist and absolutely delicious. In my novel, Chloe’s friend Frieda Frietag serves it to guests. It makes me smile to think that perhaps my own ancestors did so as well.

Frieda Frietag’s Swiss Pear Bread

Makes 2 loaves.

½ lb. dried pears, diced (about 1-3/4 c.)
1- ½ lb. other dried fruits, such as dates, prunes, apples, and apricots, also diced
½ c. chopped black walnuts
1 T. anise seed
2 pkg. dry yeast
1 T. melted lard or butter
1 t. sugar
1 T. honey
1 T. salt – (or as desired)
3 c. lukewarm water
9-10 c. flour (I use all wheat, but you could also use white flour, or a blend)

Pear Bread pears

Pear Bread fruitChop dried fruit, place in a pan, cover with water, and simmer until fruit is soft, about fifteen minutes. Drain fruit, reserving the liquid. You can do this the night before, and let the fruit drain overnight.

Add water to the drained fruit water as needed to make 3 c., and bring to lukewarm (about 100 degrees) temperature. Dissolve yeast and 1 t. sugar in the liquid. Add honey, anise seed, lard or butter, and salt.

Pear Bread mixerAdd about 3 c. flour and beat until smooth with an electric mixer. Add the dried fruit and walnuts. Continue adding flour gradually until the dough is of kneading consistency—soft, but dry enough to handle. Knead until dough is light and elastic, using your hands or a dough hook with a large, heavy-duty electric mixer. (This is the maximum quantity my mixer can handle, but it does work.)Pear Bread dough rising

Pear Bread doughPear Bread dough1Cover the dough with a damp towel and let dough rest for 15 minutes.

Knead dough again for about 10 minutes. Put dough in a large, greased bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place for about two hours. (I put the bowl beneath the light over my stove.)

Punch dough down with your fist several times. Cover and let rise again for about an hour.Pear Bread pans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Divide dough in half, shape into loaves, and place each into a well-greased bread pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until a straw inserted into loaves comes out dry. Remove from pans and cool on racks.

Keep bread in refrigerator. These loaves also freeze well.Pear Bread2Ernst06 Gerold

I’m grateful to Riley for allowing me to celebrate publication of The Heirloom Murders: A Chloe Ellefson Mystery by guest-posting here. And I’m grateful to readers! I love my work, and I’d be nowhere without you. Leave a comment, and your name will go into a drawing for a free book. The winner can choose any of my seventeen titles. The Heirloom Murders, one of my American Girl mysteries, a Civil War novel—the choice will be yours! To learn more, please visit my website,


  1. I'm glad to be here today! And I wanted to mention that while I talked with a number of bakers in nearby Swiss communities, I'm particularly indebted to Hedy Wuethrich. I tried several Pear Bread recipes, and hers is my favorite.

  2. Thanks so much for coming by today, Kathleen! I wish we had a Swiss community near me. :) It sounds like you took after your grandfather quite a bit. This bread sounds and looks amazing!

  3. That bread sounds delicious! I've never heard of pear bread, but I love pears. I'm making a note of the recipe and thank you so much Kathleen for sharing it. I'm also so glad to hear of your mystery series and will be putting it on my list. Thanks so much for sharing with us!

  4. Kathleen, that looks delicious, and perfect for right now. I can't wait to fill my kitchen with that aroma. Thank you for the recipe and the history!

  5. Best wishes for success of The Heirloom Murders.

    A blog on Sue Grafton reminded me that I envy Kinsey her retired baker neighbor.

  6. This is a keeper recipe, especially for the holidays and home-baked gift-giving. Thank you so much for sharing it with us, Kathleen! I'm also delighted to see Chloe back in action. OLD WORLD MURDERS was a wonderful read, and I'm looking forward to the new book in your Historic Sites series. Three cheers and congrats on the release of THE HEIRLOOM MURDERS!

    ~ Cleo

  7. Thank you Kathleen for the wonderful recipe. I will have to try this. I have not read any of your books, but I am now. Thanks again for stopping by.

    Babs Book Bistro

  8. This sounds wonderful! Makes me want to go to Switzerland too.

    Thanks for coming by, Kathleen, and sharing this recipe. Good luck with your new book.

  9. Thanks for the kind comments! I hope you enjoy the bread as much as I do. I'm keeping several loaves in the freezer for the holidays myself. I don't use anise often, so before trying the recipe I had some doubts. But it provides the perfect complement to the fruit. (IMHO.)

  10. Welcome, Kathleen! I've never heard of this bread before. Sounds like the perfect thing for a cold winter day.

    ~ Krista

  11. Thank you for sharing with us today. Swiss Pear Bread - YUM. I think the Heirloom Murders sounds like an awesome read and I will definitely be checking it out.

  12. I love to make bread. This is a recipe I'll definitely try. It will be perfect on a gloomy day with a cup of hot tea and one of your Historic Sites mysteries! Thank you for sharing!

  13. Thanks for the comments! And ooh, definitely--a nice cup of tea, some bread warm from the oven, and a book. Sounds like my idea of a perfect autumn day!

  14. I'm trying to post again Maybe it will go through this time. Great recipe I must try it---could munch on it while reading the mystery.

  15. I've pulled a name from the hat, and Kay is the winner of the book giveaway. Kay, I'll be in touch via email.

    Thanks again, everyone, for letting me join the conversation here at Mystery Lovers Kitchen!

  16. I'm so excited! Thanks so much for offering the book, Kathleen!