Browned Butter Pear Muffins with Brown Sugar-Walnut Streusel Topping

by Lori on October 28, 2010

A few posts ago, I told you all about my field trip to a somewhat local peach farm.  While I was there, I bought a box of Bartlett pears that were not completely ripe and stashed them away in my refrigerator to prolong their life.  I had to.  We had about 50 peaches that were ripening very quickly and there was no way we would be able to consume 50 pears in a few days as well.  So now I take a few out at a time, let them sit on the counter for a day or so, and they’re perfect for eating.  And when I want to cook with them, I just pull them straight from the refrigerator because they need to be firm to hold up to the cooking process.

I found a recipe for Sweet Peach Muffins with Brown Sugar-Walnut Streusel Topping on the internet last year when I was trying to find uses for the peaches I bought from the same farm.  I never got around to using the recipe then.  But I did this time and used my fresh peaches.   Despite my continued efforts, I simply cannot find any joy in anything with cooked peaches.  It’s the flavor that does me in every time.  I much prefer the flavor of a fresh, uncooked peach.  So the door was essentially opened and closed for me and my future with peach muffins, pies and cobblers.  Forever.

But when one door closes, another one opens, right?  And I think my fresh pears have found a new home.

Here are some of the steps:

This picture was taken the first time I made the muffins when I actually followed the version of the recipe I printed from the internet.  My adapted version makes for smoother sailing in this step.  Dice your cold butter and mix it into your dry ingredients by rubbing it with your fingers until crumbly.  Then add in the walnuts.  Don’t do it all at once as this photo implies.  It was difficult to manage when everything was combined at the same time.

Place the streusel topping into the refrigerator until you’re ready for it.

Sift all of the dry ingredients into a medium bowl.  I was being a little lazy and opted to just mix and fluff them up with a whisk.

This shot is so contradictory.  I didn’t use my sifter, yet it’s in the photo.  And I also used the shot from the batch of muffins I made with the peaches.  So please ignore those two issues and let’s look at what I’m trying to show here: the filling of the cups which will eventually be filled to the brim.  I was making sure each cup had enough before I topped them off.  Every time I make these muffins there is always a little batter left behind, so load ’em up from the get-go.  And a word about the batter, it’s very straight forward which is why I didn’t photograph it.  Please do not forgo the browning of the melted butter as indicated in the recipe below.  It adds a wonderfully subtle nuttiness to the overall flavor.

That is a scalloped cookie cutter placed over each batter-filled cup that I used to control the streusel topping.  I highly suggest you do the same.  I think I learned this from Cooks Illustrated or Cooks Country.  It’s brilliant.  Pat the topping down into the batter slightly before removing the ring.

These will puff up into 12 glorious, not too sweet muffins.

The sour cream and browned butter batter makes a delicious muffin and the streusel topping provides the extra crunch and light sweetness that goes so well with the pears.  Simply delightful and so much better than what you’d buy at one of those corner coffee houses.

Pear Muffins with Brown Sugar-Walnut Topping
Adapted from Sara Foster’s The Foster’s Market Cookbook
Makes 12 large muffins

For the topping:
1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced

For the batter:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, browned and cooled
1-1/2 cups sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract or dark rum
1-1/2 cups peeled, cored and seeded fresh peaches, chopped

To assemble the topping: In a small bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Drop in the cold diced butter.  Using your hands, rub the butter into the flour mixture until crumbly.  Add in the walnuts and toss together.  Place in the refrigerator to keep it chilled.

To brown the butter: Place butter into small skillet or sauce pan over medium-high heat.  Melt and allow the solids to get to a light brown color without burning.  Remove from heat and pour into a small bowl to cool.

To assemble the muffin batter: Preheat oven to 375 degree F.  Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners, and spray the top of the pan lightly with nonstick spray.

In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients, from flour to salt, and set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, browned butter, sour cream and vanilla (or rum).  Fold in the pears.

Add the egg mixture to the dry mixture.  Stir just until moistened and blended.  Do not over mix.

Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pan with a large ice cream scoop (about 1/3 cup sized scoop).  The batter should come to the top of the paper liner.  Sprinkle with the topping and lightly press into the muffin batter.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the tops of the muffins spring back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes in the pan.  Remove the muffins from the pan and allow to cool for about 20 minutes before serving.

Muffins are best eaten the day they are made, but they keep well in the refrigerator for a few days.  They also freeze very well.  Almost any fresh or frozen fruit (except banana, mango or strawberry) can be substituted.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

E October 29, 2010 at 10:48 am

Man do those look good! I always love a crumble topped muffin. It is bedtime here in Australia, but now I feel like making your muffins as a late night snack;)


Rebecca October 29, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Those look awesome! I was flipping through a williams-sonoma cookbook last night and wanted to make their vanilla pear muffins…. these look even better!


Lemons and Lavender November 2, 2010 at 6:48 pm

E, thanks! I'll send you some muffins if you send me some of that coconut sugar you featured a while back!

Rebecca, the muffins are great. Sweet, but not overly, with just enough umpf to get the point across. And that crumble topping really helps!


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