We all know that muffins teeter precariously on a razor-thin line that divides the food categories of “Acceptable for Breakfast” and “Nope, This Is Dessert” and one must maintain firm boundaries during the breakfast hours lest the day that follows devolve into a full-on bacchanal of Resolution decompensation that ends with one passed out amid scatters of Cheetos, ketchup packets and French fry grease with a side of cronut.
Thus, when I come upon a new muffin recipe — or in this case, when my son is told to pick a recipe for us to make from a new book, and he predictably chooses the thing that most resembles cake — I immediately assess the list of ingredients and label them accordingly:
Whole grains and oats = breakfast!
White flour = cake.
An egg or two = breakfast!
Lots of eggs = cake.
Natural sweeteners = breakfast!
White sugar = cake.
Unsaturated fats = breakfast!
Butter = cake.
And so this goes until the marks in each category can be tallied and a determination can be made as to whether we can pull this off during the breakfast meal. The Pear-Hazelnut Muffins from Megan Gordon’s beautiful new book, Whole Grain Mornings, came out clearly in the breakfast camp with oats, whole wheat flour and nuts and might have even remained there, had my husband not planted the idea in my head that pears (breakfast!) and hazelnuts (breakfast!) might go especially well with … chunks of chocolate. (Oops.)
I’m sorry, Megan, I know you tried to steer our mornings wholesome with this book; it just didn’t stand a chance with the likes of us.
So, maybe we had them for dessert last night instead, but I have no regrets. These muffins have a few more ingredients than my beloved blues, but there’s a complex flavor I hadn’t remotely expected from something as usually forgettable as a muffin — grated pear, toasted hazelnuts, vanilla, butter, oats and, yes, chocolate chunks tangle together in a nubby, crunchy muffin that actually tastes amazing even a day and two after it’s baked. Not that I had one for breakfast today. (Please don’t tell my son?)
Thank you: For making yesterday’s Facebook Chat an overwhelming success — that was really fun! I tried to get to as many questions as I could throughout the afternoon and evening as well, but have a bunch to go. I’ll get to them as I find pockets of free time. Feel free to catch up right here, if you wish. Please forgive errors of grammar and spelling — that was a lot of fast typing for a couple hours! [1/15/14 Smitten Kitchen Facebook Chat]
One year ago: Lentil Soup with Sausage, Chard and Sizzling Garlic
Two years ago: Buttermilk Roast Chicken
Three years ago: Baked Potato Soup
Four years ago: Poppy Seed Lemon Cake and Black Bean Soup + Toasted Cumin Seed Crema [still my favorite accompaniment to a taco night!]
Five years ago: Light Wheat Bread
Six years ago: Our Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies
Seven years ago: Leek and Mushroom Quiche
Pear and Hazelnut Muffins
Adapted from Whole Grain Mornings
This book is a delight, creative, seasonally-sorted recipes through the lens of whole grains. I made these first (preschooler’s choice!) but have already bookmarked Bacon and Kale Polenta Squares, Strawberry Oat Breakfast Crisp, Vanilla and Cream Steel-Cut Oats Porridge, Creamy Breakfast Rice with Honey-Poached Figs and Pistachios and Zucchini-Farro Fritters, to give you an idea of what will await you when you buy the book. It’s nothing short of what you’d expect from the creator of Marge Granola.
This recipe, however, I tweaked it a bit, mostly because it used many bowls and I wanted it to use fewer. A bunch more notes: This calls for 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat (pastry flour was recommended) but I think it can be tweaked with any flour mix your prefer, be it mostly whole wheat or white whole wheat, or a gluten-free mix (Sprouted Kitchen smartly recommends 1/2 cup each of oat, almond and brown rice flour). I (always) think you could brown the butter. Yogurt thinned with a little milk could replace the buttermilk, as could coconut milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice added, and coconut oil or olive oil could replace the butter, just to give you a few ideas. The bittersweet chocolate chunks were not necessary, but they were not regretted either.
Yield: Theoretically, 12 muffins, but I got 16.
2 small-medium firm pears
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (plus more for cups)
2/3 cup (125 grams) natural cane sugar, such as Turbinado, light brown or granulated sugar
1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup (75 grams) rolled oats
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (60 grams) whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, which I replaced with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, which I replaced with 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (120 grams) toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (85 grams) bittersweet chocolate chunks (optional)
Heat oven to 425°F. Butter a standard 12-cup muffin tin or line it with papers.*
Peel (if you so desire, can be skipped) pears, then halve and core them. Grate pears on the large holes of a boxed grater into a large bowl. You should have about 1 cup grated (although I ended up with 1 1/2, opting to meet the recipe halfway and used 1 1/4 cups). Stir in melted butter, sugar, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla until combined.
In a separate bowl, stir together the oats, flours, baking soda, baking powder, spices, salt, all but 1/2 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts, and chocolate chunks, if you’re feeling extra indulgent. Gently fold this dry ingredient mixture into the wet batter until just combined; do not overmix.
Fill muffin cups almost up to the top and sprinkle with the reserved 1/2 cup hazelnuts. Place muffins in oven and immediately reduce the heat to 375°F. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of muffins comes out batter-free.
Cool muffins in pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Muffins will keep for 2 days at room temperature in an airtight container.
* Unsolicited plug: Just bought these for the first time, which were wonderful at keeping the muffins from sticking to the paper.