1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 standard muffin cups with paper liners.
2. Place the pears in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the brown sugar and puree. Add the remaining ingredients (except the toppings) and process to combine, scraping down the bowl of the food processor once. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans.
3. If desired, sprinkle the almonds on top of the batter and sprinkle with a little sugar. (To intensify the flavor of the almonds you can toast them in a dry pan over high heat for a few minutes, just until toasted and fragrant.)
4. Bake for 25 min. or until the muffins have risen and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (These muffins don't get too brown.) Let cool in the pan.