Browned Butter Crumb Cake Muffins

These New York crumb cake muffins have a few qualities that elevate them a step above others. They not only incorporate lemon zest and browned butter, they also have additional crunchy crumbs hidden inside each muffin. Genius.

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used the zest of an entire lemon and modified the baking time for a convection oven. They were quite large but baked perfectly in a standard muffin tin. Great.

Yield: 12 muffins

For the Topping:

  • 1/2 cup/115 grams unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1 1/3 cups/165 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup/110 grams dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice or cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

For the Batter:

  • 3/4 cup/180 milliliters sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (I used the zest of 1 large lemon)
  • 1 1/2 cups/190 grams all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup/135 grams granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup/115 grams unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into 1-inch slices and softened
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection, and line a 12-cup muffin tin with liners.

Make the Topping:

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter, then let it simmer until the foam on top falls to the bottom of the pot and turns brown, 4 to 6 minutes. It will smell nutty when it’s ready. Immediately pour butter into a small bowl to keep it from getting any browner, and let cool for 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk together flour, sugar, spices and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Pour in the brown butter and stir, pinching the mixture together, until crumbs form. Set aside.

Make the Batter:

  1. Whisk together sour cream, eggs, vanilla, almond extract and lemon zest in a mixing bowl.
  2. In a large bowl, using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a handheld electric mixer, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt until combined, about 10 seconds.
  3. Add softened butter and beat for 20 seconds to work it into the flour.
  4. Add egg mixture and continue beating until the batter is very smooth, about 1 minute.
  5. Sprinkle a scant tablespoon of the topping crumbs into the bottom of each muffin liner. (I used a cookie scoop.)
  6. Spoon the batter on top of the crumbs, dividing it evenly. (I used a large cookie scoop- plus a little bit extra- per well.
  7. Bake muffins for 5 minutes to firm up the tops so the crumbs don’t sink into the batter. Remove muffin pan from the oven and lower heat to 350 degrees.
  8. Sprinkle the remaining crumbs on top of each muffin. (I used 1 tablespoon per muffin, rationed with a cookie scoop.)
  9. Continue to bake until the muffins are springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 17 on convection or up to 30 minutes longer.
  10. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes.
  11. Use an offset spatula or butter knife to lift the muffins out of the pan. Finish cooling muffins on a rack.

Pumpkin Muffins with Cinnamon-Sugar Topping

I do have a favorite pumpkin loaf but I can’t resist trying another recipe- especially if it involves cinnamon-sugar. 🙂 This one incorporated lovely spices as well.

This recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen.com. I increased the amount of cinnamon-sugar topping and baked the batter as muffins rather than a loaf. I love the portion control of a muffin.

Makes: 18 standard muffins or 1 large 9×5-inch loaf

For the Batter:

  • 1 15-ounce can (1 3/4 cups) pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable or another neutral cooking oil or melted butter (115 grams)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 2/3 (330 grams) cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • heaped 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  • heaped 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • two pinches of ground cloves
  • 2 1/4 cups (295 grams) all-purpose flour

For the Cinnamon-Sugar Topping:

  • 2 tablespoons (24 grams) granulated sugar (use 1 T for a loaf)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (use 1 tsp for a loaf)
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F, preferably on convection.
  2. Butter 18 muffins wells or a 6-cup loaf pan or coat it with nonstick spray. (I used 8 outer wells in one pan and 10 in another.)
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, butter or oil, eggs and sugar until smooth.
  4. Sprinkle baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinanmon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves over batter and whisk until well-combined.
  5. Add flour and stir with a spoon or rubber spatula, just until mixed.
  6. Using a 3 tablespoon scoop, ration the batter into prepared muffin wells, or scrape into a loaf pan, and smooth the top(s).
  7. In a small dish, whisk or stir sugar and cinnamon together. Sprinkle over top of batter. (I sprinkled 1/2 teaspoon over each muffin top.)
  8. Bake muffins for 15 to 17 minutes, and a loaf for 55 to 75 minutes, or until a tester poked into all parts of cake (both the top and center will want to hide pockets of uncooked batter) come out batter-free, rotating the pans once during the baking time for even coloring. (I rotated the oven racks between the two muffin pans as well.
  9. Cool in the pan(s) for 10 minutes and then remove, or cool completely in the pan(s). The latter provides the advantage of letting more of the loose cinnamon sugar on top adhere before being knocked off. 

Note: The muffins (or loaf) keep well at room temperature. The original recipe recommends covering the cut edge of the loaf with a piece of foil or plastic and leaving the top exposed to best keep the lid crisp as long as possible.

Sourdough English Muffins

As a big fan of English muffins, I tried a few sourdough versions before finally finding this successful one. It was worth it!

This recipe is from Emilie Raffa’s book, Artisan Dough Made Simple, via thelemonapron.com. I may need this book. 🙂 I cooked the muffins in a large cast iron skillet but may try to expedite the process by using a griddle next time. They were equally delicious with mustard egg and cheese as with butter and jam.

Yield: 12 to 14 muffins

  • 245 grams (1 cup plus 1 tsp) milk, whole or 2%
  • 120 grams (1/2 cup) water
  • 56 grams (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 75 grams (heaped 1/2 cup) bubbly active starter
  • 24 grams (2 tbsp) granulated sugar
  • 500 grams (4 cups plus 2 tbsp) all purpose flour
  • 9 grams (1 1/2 tsp) salt
  • Cornmeal or semolina flour, for dusting

To Make the Dough:

  1. In a small saucepan, warm the milk, water and butter together over low heat, or in the microwave. Cool slightly before adding to the dough.
  2. Add the starter and sugar to a large bowl. Slowly pour in the warm milk mixture, while whisking to combine.
  3. Add the flour and salt. Mix with a fork to form a rough dough, then finish by hand to fully incorporate the flour. Cover with a damp towel and let rest 30 minutes. Meanwhile replenish your starter and store according to preference.
  4. After the dough has rested, work the mass into a semi-smooth ball, about 15-20 seconds. (I did this on a lightly floured piece of plastic wrap.)

Bulk Rise:

  1. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl.
  2. Cover the bowl with the damp towel and let rise until double is size, about 8-10 hours at 70 degrees F. (21C) (I let the dough rise for about 5 hours in a proofing oven.)
  3. Once fully risen, cover the dough in lightly oiled plastic wrap and chill in fridge overnight.

To Shape:

  1. In the morning, remove the cold dough from the fridge onto a floured surface. Let it rest 10 minutes.
  2. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper and sprinkle a generous amount of cornmeal all over them. This will prevent the dough from sticking.
  3. With floured hands, pat the dough into a rectangle or oval, about 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) thick.
  4. Cut rounds about 3 inches in diameter (you can use the rim of a drinking glass: use a rim that isn’t too thick) You should get 10-12 rounds. (I used a Bonne Maman jam jar.)
  5. Place them onto the cornmeal on the baking sheets. Sprinkle tops with more cornmeal.

For the Second Rise:

  1. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let rest till puffy, about 1 hour depending on the temperature of your kitchen. (I used a proofing oven.)

To Cook the Muffins:

  1. Warm a large cast iron or non-stick skillet (you can also use a cast iron griddle) over low to medium-low heat.
  2. Place a few rounds of dough into the pan to fit comfortably. Don’t worry, they really won’t spread.
  3. Cook on one side for about 8 to 10 minutes, checking at the halfway mark for even browning. Adjust the heat if necessary. Flip the muffins over and continue to cook for an additional 8-10 minutes. When ready, the muffins should feel lightweight and the sides should spring back when pressed gently.
  4. Transfer the muffins to a wire rack to cool. Continue cooking the remaining rounds.
  5. When ready to eat, split them open using a fork piercing into the equator of each all the way around and gently prying open.

Recipe Notes:

Muffins will stay fresh 2 days, stored in an airtight container or plastic bag at room temperature.

The tip to cooking English muffins is to find balanced heat.  If the flame is too high, the outside will brown too quickly leaving the center undercooked.  If you find this has happened, finish baking the muffins in a low heat oven (about 250F) until cooked through.

You can avoid this by doing a test run with one or two muffins to begin with to help guide your stove top heat.

You can make the dough Friday morning before you leave the house for the day, put it in the fridge at the end of the day, and then bake them on Saturday morning for a great treat.

Strawberry Ricotta Muffins

When I saw these strawberry muffins, I knew that they would be a perfect addition to my tried and true strawberry recipes. They were very tender and minimally sweet- a perfect summer breakfast.

This recipe was adapted from Bake from Scratch, via Cooking with Aunt Juju.com. I incorporated whole wheat flour and modified the topping. The recipe also included a ricotta glaze for the topping which would also be a tasty option (see link above). Nice.

Yield: 16 muffins

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice or 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups diced fresh strawberries
  • turbinado sugar, for topping
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Spray 16 regular muffin wells with cooking spray or use liners.
  3. Whisk the flours, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl; set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl whisk the ricotta cheese until smooth.
  5. Add the eggs, milk and lemon zest or juice; whisk until smooth.
  6. Add the oil and vanilla and stir until combined.
  7. Add this mixture to the flour mixture and fold in with a spatula; gently fold in the strawberries.
  8. Divide the batter among the 16 prepared wells, filling about three-fourths full.
  9. Sprinkle the top of the batter in each well with turbinado sugar.
  10. Bake for 15-25 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. (mine were ready in about 17 minutes.)
  11. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes; remove. Finish cooling on the racks.

Sourdough Muffins: Oatmeal Raisin & Whole Wheat Apple Cinnamon

I love making muffins with my sourdough starter discard. Both of these muffins were very wholesome, minimally sweet, and had a wonderful crumb/texture. I incorporated whole wheat flour into both varieties and also sprinkled the top with cinnamon sugar prior to baking. I think that the sweetness on top was an essential addition.

The Oatmeal Raisin Muffin recipe was adapted from Food.com, contributed by Yankiwi. I weighed the ingredients, incorporated whole wheat flour and cinnamon in the batter, and sprinkled the tops with cinnamon sugar prior to baking. I also reduced the baking time for a convection oven.

Sourdough Oatmeal Raisin Muffins

Yield: 12 muffins

  • 90 g (1 cup) rolled oats
  • 1 cup milk (I used whole milk)
  • 113 g (1/2 cup) sourdough starter, unfed
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 120 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 57 g (1/2 cup) whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • cinnamon sugar or turbinado sugar, for sprinkling (see Note)
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C), preferably on convection.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine rolled oats and milk. Set aside to soak.
  3. Grease 12 muffin cups; set aside. (I used cooking oil spray.)
  4. Stir sourdough starter, oil, egg and raisins into soaked oats; set aside.
  5. In a large bowl mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and brown sugar.
  6. Add oats mixture. Stir until dry ingredients are just moistened; don’t over mix.
  7. Divide batter among the 12 cups. (I used a cookie scoop.)
  8. Sprinkle the tops with cinnamon sugar or turbinado sugar.
  9. Bake in preheated oven 15 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove promptly from muffin cups.
  10. Can be served hot or cold.

Whole Wheat Sourdough Apple Cinnamon Muffins

The Whole Wheat Sourdough Apple Cinnamon Muffin recipe was adapted from tastykitchen.com, contributed by baking barrister. I weighed the ingredients, added salt, incorporated brown sugar and reduced the total amount of sugar by half, modified the proportions and baking time, and used a Pink Lady apple. They were very moist and tasty.

Yield: 12 muffins

  • 170 g (3/4 cup) sourdough starter, unfed
  • 113 g (1 cup) whole wheat flour or white whole wheat flour
  • 50 g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 100 g (1/2 cup) light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 T ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 T (1/4 cup) canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch chunks (I used a Pink Lady apple)
  • cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling (see Note)
  1. Preheat your oven to 350F, preferably on convection.
  2. Thoroughly mix the starter, flour, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, egg, vanilla extract, and oil.
  3. Fold in the apple chunks.
  4. Using cooking oil spray, generously grease a muffin tin.
  5. Divide batter among the 12 cups. (I used a cookie scoop.)
  6. Sprinkle the tops with cinnamon sugar or turbinado sugar.
  7. Bake for 17 to 24 minutes, until they pass the toothpick test. Promptly remove from muffin cups.
  8. Serve warm or at room temperature. Let cool completely before storing.

Note: I usually have leftover cinnamon sugar in my kitchen. Proportions vary, but 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon is a nice start. More sugar can be added to taste.

Blueberry Sourdough Muffins

I am going to share a couple more breakfast recipes that use sourdough starter. I was in LOVE with these muffins! They are sweetened with pure maple syrup, are loaded with blueberries, and incorporate cornmeal. Delicious.

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour. I used whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose flour, and added vanilla extract. Wholesome and tasty!

Yield: 12 muffins

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F, preferably on convection.
  2. Grease the wells of a 12-cup muffin pan, or line with papers and grease the inside of the papers. (I used cooking oil spray.)
  3. Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  4. In a second bowl, beat together the starter, milk, egg, melted butter, sweetener, and vanilla.
  5. Blend the wet ingredients with the dry, taking about 20 seconds.
  6. Gently stir in the blueberries just until blended.
  7. Fill the cups of the prepared pan two-thirds full; sprinkle the tops of the muffins with sugar.
  8. Bake the muffins for 17 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  9. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes before removing them from the pan. Don’t let them cool in the pan, or they’ll steam and the outside will become tough.

Note: If using frozen berries, don’t thaw them before adding to the batter; you’ll have fewer blue streaks if they’re added frozen, just before scooping.

English Muffin Bread

I have another special breakfast to share. Having a treat to start the day brings a little sunshine. 🙂

I am not really a bread person, but I do really enjoy English muffins. I often have a whole wheat “British muffin” from Trader Joe’s for breakfast. Naturally, this bread full of nooks and crannies caught my eye.

The recipe is from Shauna Sever’s Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland. It is easy and relatively quick to prepare, with only one rising time. She suggests baking the loaf in a German Rehrucken (crimp loaf pan) or standard loaf pan. I baked the loaf in my favorite Pullman loaf pan and modified the baking time accordingly.

The original recipe recommends making it a day ahead to serve it toasted the next day. We ate warm from the oven, slathered with salted Irish butter and our homemade strawberry-vanilla bean jam. We did toast the leftovers! Perfect.

Yield: One loaf

  • nonstick cooking spray, for pan
  • 3 T (30 g) yellow cornmeal, divided
  • 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 1/3 cup (75 g) warm water (110° to 115°F/43° to 46°C)
  • 3 tsp granulated sugar, divided
  • 3 cups (384 g) unbleached all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup (225 g) well-shaken buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 T plus 1 tsp (32 g) vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
  • 1 T unsalted butter, melted
  1. Lightly spray a 9×5-inch (23×12.7 cm) metal loaf pan, German Rehrucken crimp loaf pan, or Pullman loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Wipe away any excess that pools in the edges.
  2. Dust the pan all over with about 2 tablespoons of cornmeal; tap out the excess.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the yeast, warm water, and 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Let rest for a couple of minutes.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk together the flour, the remaining 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar, salt, and baking soda.
  5. On low-speed, stir in the buttermilk, oil, and finally the yeast mixture. Mix until incorporated. (It is very important that the buttermilk is at room temperature so that the dough can rise well.)
  6. Increase the speed to high and mix for 1 minute, stopping halfway through to scrape down the bowl. The dough will be soft and sticky.
  7. Scrape the dough into the prepared pan.
  8. Oil your hands lightly and pat the dough gently and evenly into the pan.
  9. Sprinkle the top with the remaining tablespoon of cornmeal.
  10. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled and the dough comes about 1 inch from the top of the pan, about 1 hour. (I used a proofing oven.)
  11. During the rise, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 400°F/200°C.
  12. Bake the bread until golden and risen, with a hollow sound when tapped int he center, 22 to 25 minutes for a standard or crimped loaf pan, or 18 to 20 minutes for a Pullman loaf pan. The internal temperature should register at least 190°F/88°C on an instant-read thermometer.
  13. Turn out the bread onto a wire rack. Brush lightly all over with the melted butter. (I only brushed the top.)
  14. Let cool completely before slicing- if you can wait!

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