Cranberry-Pecan Streusel Muffins

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Rewind one year.  It’s a few days after Thanksgiving.  The turkey/stuffing/mashed potato/green been casserole/pumpkin pie feast of a few days ago is but a dream.  Leftovers have been gobbled up (no turkey pun intended.)

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A lone bag of fresh cranberries lingers in the fridge.  As usual the supermarket was offering “buy one, get one free”.  I only required one bag for Spiced Cranberry Sauce with Wine, but couldn’t refuse the free bag of those brilliantly red berries.

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What to do with them?  I’m a bit over turkey dinner with the fixings, so I’m not about to make another batch of cranberry sauce.  Perhaps sew them up with some popcorn for a DIY Christmas tree garland?

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Then I have a flashback.  I heard about this recipe during my internship at America’s Test Kitchen.  It was a bit legendary.  The staff raved about these muffins as being one of the best things to come out of the test kitchen.  And they were spot on.

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The tartness of the brilliant red cranberry is tempered with sugar and then there are lots of pecans.  Toasted pecans are ground into a flour that lends the batter a really rich, roasted note.  Topping it all off is a crispy, buttery streusel loaded with more pecans.

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So go find those two-for-one cranberry bargains this year.  I know what I’m doing with my extra bag……

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1 year ago:  Herbed Oyster Stuffing

Cranberry-Pecan Streusel Muffins (makes 12 muffins)

Note:  It’s important to let batter sit for 30 minutes before baking because it allows it to firm up a bit (is quite liquid after first mixed).  Also the original recipe didn’t use muffin liners, but rather just nonstick spray.  However I found liners to work much better than the spray, so I strongly suggest using muffin liners unless you have a very new, nonstick muffin tray and apply spray liberally.  (Mine is fairly new and I applied a fair amount of spray and the muffins still were difficult to remove!).

The streusel topping:

3 tablespoons plain, all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and softened

1/2 cup (50 grams) pecans

The muffins:

1 1/3 cup (165 grams) plain, all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups (125 grams) pecans, toasted and cooled

1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar

2 eggs

6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1/2 cup (120 ml) milk

2 cups (200 grams) fresh cranberries

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon powdered/icing sugar


Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425º F (220º C). Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

For the streusel topping:  Process flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and butter in food processor until mixture resembles coarse sand, 5 to 10 pulses. Add pecans and process until mixture forms small clumps and pecans are coarsely chopped, another 5-10 pulses. Transfer to small bowl; set aside.

For the muffins: Whisk flour, baking powder, and ¾ teaspoon salt together in small bowl; set aside.

Process toasted pecans and granulated sugar in food processor until mixture resembles coarse sand, 10 to 15 seconds. Transfer to large bowl and whisk in eggs, butter, and milk until combined. Whisk flour mixture into egg mixture until just moistened and no streaks of flour remain. Set batter aside 30 minutes to thicken.

Pulse cranberries, ¼ teaspoon salt, and powdered/icing sugar in food processor until coarsely chopped, 4 to 5 pulses. Using rubber spatula, fold cranberries into batter.

Using ice cream scoop or large spoon, divide batter equally among lined muffin cups (batter should completely fill cups and mound slightly). Evenly sprinkle streusel topping over muffins, gently pressing into batter to adhere. Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time.

Let muffins cool in tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Adapted from “The Cooks Illustrated Cookbook”

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