Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cherry Almond Muffins with Streusel Topping

I am in love with this recipe. I figured it would be pretty good when I found it after doing a random search of the Food Blog Search, but I didn't know it would be this good.

I did change it up a bit, both for practical reasons, and because I thought it would be good this way too. The original recipe had dried cherries and walnuts, but I like the almond/cherry combination and I don't use almonds nearly enough in my baking. I also had some Washington Cherry Extract that I bought from the King Arthur Flour webpage and I wanted to use that, along with some almond extract to up the flavor a touch. The other change I made was to use sour cream instead of yogurt since that's what I had at home.

The muffins themselves are dense and moist the way they should be with chunks of almonds to give them crunch (I use slivered, 'cause that's what I had) and dried cherries to give them some chew. I only used a scant 1/4 teaspoon of the extracts because I was afraid of overdoing it. You could probably up the extracts a bit, but I wouldn't want to use much more than that because extracts can get overpowering really quickly, and too much turns the flavor of whatever you're baking to cough syrup -- not good.

This recipe is also great because of it's versatility -- pretty much any nut and dried fruit combination can be used and there are endless add-ins as well. In the original post Alpineberry suggested dried mango and macadamia which was great, but what about throwing in some coconut as well? Or using a banana extract? Cranberry/pecan would be great, as would blueberry/walnut. What about zest? I thought about adding lemon zest to the cherry/almond mixture I made today, but didn't only because the lemon I had was pathetic. Really, the posibilities are endless, especially for those souls who don't mind fruit and chocolate, 'cause chocolate chips are always easy to throw in. :)

Streusel topping
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup coarsely chopped almonds
2 1/2 ounces (5 tbsp) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup yogurt or sour cream
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp of cherry extract (you can order it online or find it in a few specialty stores)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups dried cherries
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F. Line with paper liners or butter and flour 24 (4-ounce capacity) wells of a muffin pan.

To make streusel topping

Mix flour, sugar, and almonds in a bowl. Add the butter and, using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut or rub in the butter until coarse crumbs form. Place streusel in freezer while making the batter.

To make batter

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk butter, sugar, eggs, yogurt, and vanilla until smooth. Add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Gently fold in cherries and walnuts.

Divide batter evenly among the 24 wells. Sprinkle each generously with the streusel topping.

Bake until tops are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes then transfer to cooling rack.


burkie said...

these were fabulous, and i too have always loved the cherry/almond combo. (i made a recipe for cherry crisp once that use those italian amaretti cookies in the topping? intensely good.) shame on you for even mentioning the idea of a fruit & chocolate combo in this beautiful posting!

Anonymous said...

Erik from West Vancouver: This is the third (or fourth) time I make this recipe, always with whatever's on hand but as close to the original as possible - quite possibly one of the best recipes I've come across and they always turn out perfectly - thank you!

Jennifer said...

My batch came out of the oven ten minutes ago, and they are wonderful. I didn't have plain yogurt, so I used vanilla and cut down the sugar a little (probably could have cut more than I did...hubby's first comment was, 'These are like cake!'). Texture is perfect. Last week I tried making low fat banana yogurt muffins, and they were pretty gross. From now I think I'm making the rule that muffins must be buttery and delicious (but occasional). Thanks for the recipe!