Monday, August 22, 2016

Peach Pecan Muffins

Well, I’ve been away a while again. This time I had technical difficulties, a figurative computer kaboom that set me back a few days. Everything seems to be functional now, so here we go…

I made some muffins. I end up making muffins a lot when I want to make something new and exciting, and don’t have as much time as I thought I would. These were especially delicious, but not for the reason I thought they would be.

You see, a good peach is hard to find. Those of you who live in places where they are grown and can be had at their peak better darn well appreciate how good you have it. I do not live in such a place, and even when peaches are in season, it’s hard to get good ones here. They may look beautiful in the produce department or in a bowl on the table, but cutting into them and tasting them reveals the sad, sad truth. They are dull, bland, boring, uninspiring, often mushy in texture and decidedly un-peachy overall.

And so, while I imagined that the fragrance of ripe peaches would dominate these fruity muffins, it was really the brown sugar streusel topping that stole the show. (That being said, the peaches were still good here, and this recipe is a good place to use up mediocre peaches!) The topping is sweet and flavorful, slightly caramely from the brown sugar, rich from the butter, and gently spiced by the ginger. It’s crunchy when the muffins are fresh, but still wonderfully delicious if it softens upon sitting for a while.

The pecans were also terrifically delicious in these muffins (much as they were in these muffins), and when peaches are out of their alleged season, I’ll probably make these with pecans alone. Of course dates, figs, raisins, or craisins might be good substitutes for the peaches and good companions for the pecans, too. Since I like a bit of ginger with peaches, I used it here, but other warm spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom or even allspice or Pumpkin Pie Spice would be good if different fruits or just nuts are used.

The original source (Moosewood Restaurant New Classics) of this recipe treats it as a variation on a base recipe, one of many possible improvisations, and I love that kind of thing. You can bet I’m going to go back to this one for delicious and satisfying combinations all year round.

Peach Pecan Muffins with Brown Sugar Topping
Based on a recipe in Moosewood Restaurant New Classics

For the topping:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground ginger

For the muffins:
½ cup chopped pecans
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 large egg, beaten
¾ cup light brown sugar
½ cup + 2 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cup finely chopped peaches

1.  To make the topping, combine the topping ingredients in a small bowl. Work the butter into the dry ingredients with a fork or with your fingers until it is well-distributed and the whole mixture is crumbly and will hold together if squeezed. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. (This can be done up to a few days ahead.)

2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare a 12-cup muffin tin by spraying each cup with cooking spray or smearing them with butter or oil.

3. In a small skillet, warm the pecans over medium-low heat. Stir or toss frequently and continue heating until a few spots on the pecans are toasted brown and the pecans are fragrant. Set aside to cool.

4. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Set aside to cool.

5. In a medium-size bowl, combine the 2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon ground ginger. Set aside.

6. In another medium-size bowl, beat the melted butter into the egg with a whisk. Whisk in the ¾ cup brown sugar, milk, and vanilla extract. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture. Stir gently until most of the dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the peaches and pecans.

7. Scoop the batter evenly into the prepared muffin pan. Sprinkle the topping mixture evenly over each cup of batter, squeezing it to form clumps. Bake at 350 F for 30-35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool about 15 minutes in the muffin tin. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack or enjoy warm. Leftovers can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for a few days, or frozen.

Makes 12 muffins.

One year ago: some Summer Recipe Love

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