coffeecake muffins with cinnamon-walnut streusel

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Ok, your nose is plugged with pollen, because, let’s face it, most of us are a little bit smelling-impaired as spring carries us away, but let me tell you (April showers, spring flowers aside), the scent of this streusel crisping: buttery.

DSC_4044Warm, like a blanket while you’re watching the rain clutter the window with wet. Warm, because even if you forgot your umbrella (like you usually do), you’re toasty inside like the walnuts that went into this yummy company for your steamy coffee cup.

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And remember when I told you that I didn’t really like muffins, but that these were, actually, pretty darn good? Well I didn’t stop. I couldn’t. Instead I kept the muffin tins greased. Obviously. It’s what a good baking girl does, right? Toughs it out with the flour so she can stuff the faces around her, near and dear, with sweet, in a muffin-marathon. I’m glad I did.

I think you’ll like this one.

DSC_3985It’s got a sour cream-based batter. And if you’ve had traditional sour cream coffeecake, you realize just what kind of magic sour cream can spin in the oven. Go ahead and use reduced fat, if you must, it doesn’t really matter, this cake is moist enough to take the cut.

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It’s caky and crumble-topped. It’s falling all over you, inviting you to make black coffee (or tea, I suppose, if you’re not a bean-drinker) and stay awhile.

I cut back on the sugar a bit (1/4 c.) and studded a few of mine with apricots, because, well, who doesn’t like apricots? Dried and tucked into baked things, but also chewy and popping, perhaps unexpectedly jammy over chicken.

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If you can handle the sweet with your morning joe, you might add some roughly chopped bittersweet chocolate to these muffins instead of the apricots. Oh yes, I’m sold on you making this twist for us. Give it a go and say hello to the melty bits for me.

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Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated (January 2007)

  • 1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into small chunks
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 12-cup muffin tin or fill with liners.

For coffeecake batter:

In a large bowl, combine flour, granulated sugar, and salt.  Evenly distribute softened butter chunks over flour mixture and using a pastry blender, mix butter into flour mixture until until flour is moist and butter is coated. Overall texture should be rough yet slightly moist. Remove 1 cup of mixture and set aside.

Whisk baking powder and baking soda into large bowl containing the flour-butter mixture until combined. Create a well in the center of the mixture.

In a separate small bowl, using a fork, mix together sour cream, egg, and vanilla.

Pour sour cream mixture into the well that you created in the large bowl containing the flour mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold sour cream mixture into dry mixture until flour is just moistened.

For streusel:

In a small bowl, combine walnuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon with a wire whisk.

Add the cup of flour mixture that you had set aside from batter (above), to the brown sugar mixture, and whisk together until combined.

To complete muffins:

Gently and without overworking, fold  3/4 cup streusel mixture and apricots, if using, into coffeecake batter.

Using an ice cream or melon scoop, divide batter evenly between 12 muffin cups until each cup is about 3/4 full.

Sprinkle muffin batter tops with remaining streusel, pressing lightly so that streusel adheres. Allow muffins to sit a few minutes, so that baking powder can properly set. Bake about 18 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in center of muffin comes out dry. Cool muffin tin on wire rack for 2 minutes, then remove from their tins to cool completely.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

*I had nearly 1/4 cup streusel topping left over after scattering mixture over muffin tops. If you encounter the same problem, reserve what’s left to sprinkle over oatmeal for tomorrow’s breakfast!

 

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