Writings on curious recipes, food I've tasted around the world and the quest for finding the perfect blueberry muffin.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pecan Streusel Coffee Cake Muffin

I'd like to hope that when people think of me, they think of a really good muffin. Yes, a muffin. Not only because they know I am kind of obsessed with them - that would be too obvious. No, but because muffins at their best are beautiful little treats, just sweet enough to satisfy any craving and just the right size to hold you over to the next meal. Muffins, while predominately associated with breakfast, are always welcome. As an afternoon snack or on a late winter night with some hot chocolate - who would say no? And at their best, they leave you insanely happy. So really, who wouldn't want to be associated with a muffin?

I say "at their best" because not all muffins are created equal. Being such a muffin freak, also makes me extremely critical. More often than not I am disappointed with bought ones. They're too dense, too dry, too crumbly, too BIG. (Did I miss the memo that muffins should put you to sleep?)

Nowadays I hardly ever spontaneously buy muffins. A bought one has to have been researched, I'll have to have the insurance that it will be really good. One of the first things I did in London was google "best muffin". As luck would have it, one of the supposedly best muffins happens to be right near where I live (Lucky, because while being a muffin freak, I am also kind of lazy and I am not going to travel a half hour to bite into a muffin - well on most days at least).


And in fact, the banana-toffee muffin I had at The Muffin Man was definitely good. But we can do better. I also googled "best muffin" a few weeks back when I was in NYC and on a "best of"-trip - in every sense of the word - (bagels, doughnuts, falafels... my trip was just one of food-seeing) and I found that supposedly Locanda Verde in the Financial District had the best blueberry muffin. Here I was not so lucky, as I reasoned to myself that traveling for 40+ minutes on a cold winter morning to get there before 11am to bite into a muffin was not that wise. (I know, I should never reason with myself). Instead, I decided to google the pastry chef, and found that she had released the book The Craft of Baking, which had a 4.5 star rating on Amazon and surely contained muffin recipes. And a few clicks and one day later, I had in my hand the key to the best muffins and countless other baked goods.

I have yet to make her blueberry muffins - because I don't know if I can handle the idea of finally finding the perfect one - but I made these Pecan Streusel Coffee Cake Muffins. And they were amazing. I believe I heard "These are the best muffins I've ever eaten" and witnessed my mother, a person who does not eat more than a few bites of anything, reaching for a second one. Now you be the judge.


Pecan Streusel Coffee Cake Muffins
Adapted from Karen DeMasco's recipe in The Craft of Baking: Cakes, Cookies and Other Sweets with Ideas for Inventing Your Own
This recipe is very easy to make and you can't really mess it up. I didn't have enough pecans, so I mixed in walnuts, which were delicious. I scraped out a 5cm vanilla bean, because I didn't have any extract. I also upped the cinnamon by a generous sprinkle, because there's no such thing as too much cinnamon. Also I have no idea how to pack a "half a cup of sour cream" and probably put in too much, but they were still perfect - and I think the secret to the moistness lies in this ingredient.

Also, I halved the recipe, using one medium egg. Worked like a charm.

Here's the original recipe - makes 12 perfectly sized muffins. It's best to have all ingredients at room temperature.

For the pecan streusel
170g // 1 1/2 cups of pecans (chopped)
120g // 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
42g // 3 tablespoons of melted, unsalted butter

1. Preheat oven to 176°C//350°F .
2. Spread nuts on baking sheet and bake until toasted (about 5 minutes).
3. Remove nuts from oven and let cool. In a large bowl, mix the cooled pecans with the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt, making sure to break up and incorporate all of the brown sugar.
4. Stir in the butter.

For the muffins - butter a standard 12 cup muffin tin or line with paper liners.

113g // 8 tablespoons of unsalted, very soft butter
Finely grated zest of two lemons
200g // 1 cup of granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup plus two tablespoons of sour cream (I'm guessing it was around 80g, but don't quote me on that)
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
220g // 1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder

In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter, lemon zest and sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

With the mixer on medium speed, add the egg, and then the sour cream and vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the mixer bowl and beat on low speed until just combined; the batter will be soft.

Using a spoon, fill the prepared muffin cups with batter so they are only one-third full. Sprinkle a generous tablespoon of streusel over the batter in each cup. Evenly divide the remaining batter among the cups, and sprinkle the muffins with the remaining streusel. The cups will be filled about three quarters of the way.

Bake, rotating the muffin tin halfway through, until the muffins spring back to the touch, about 25 minutes. Transfer the tin to a wire rack and let stand for 10 minutes. Then turn out the muffins onto the rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The muffins will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days. (I definitely think they are best warm out of the oven but I haven't tested them days later, as the muffins disappeared as soon as they were out of the tins...)

Enjoy!


1 comment:

Jessi said...

I work at Bass Pecan Company every year they have a recipe contest for a chance to win $1000!
If you love baking with pecans you should check it out. Check out their Recipe Blog for great recipes and the contest rules and entry!!

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