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.

Soft Pretzels

These soft pretzels are the real deal. I looked for a reason to make them as soon as I saw them on the cover of my Martha Stewart Living. They looked so good! I had fantasized about making them with my kids and having a wonderful time. 🙂 Well, thank goodness they were absolutely delicious because we all had a minor breakdown while making them… My kids weren’t the only ones who got frustrated!

By the time we had formed two dozen pretzels, we had established pretty good technique. The secret to managing the sticky dough was to form it into the pretzel shape on a very lightly floured surface. (Too much flour kept it from maintaining the twist.) The secret to simmering the pretzels prior to baking was to keep the water-beer mixture at a high simmer and to transfer the pretzels from the liquid to the baking sheet with two slotted spatulas.

This recipe was adapted from Lina Kulchinsky of Sigmund’s Pretzels, in Manhattan’s East Village, via Martha Stewart Living. We ate them as part of our Memorial Day barbecue but I was able to freeze a bunch to enjoy later. Yay! We ate them warm with yellow mustard for dipping.

Note: Read this link on Martha Stewart.com for tips on making fun soft pretzel shapes. We worked hard to make pretzels in the classic shape, but my son also made a “snail” and my daughter made a “heart.” 🙂

Yield: Makes one dozen large, two dozen medium, or four dozen small

  • 2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
  • 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) rapid-rise yeast
  • 3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 6 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 4 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup pale ale–style beer
  • Pretzel salt (available at kingarthurflour.com) (I used coarse salt)
  • Poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, caraway seeds, sesame seeds, and finely grated Parmesan, cheddar, and Gruyère, for toppings (optional)
  • Mustards and cornichons, for serving

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together warm water, yeast, and 1/2 cup brown sugar; let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour and coarse salt using your hands.
  3. Add butter and continue to combine with your hands until mixture is crumbly. Add yeast mixture and, still using your hands, combine until a shaggy dough is formed and water is absorbed.
  4. Using the dough-hook attachment, mix dough on medium-low speed until tight, elastic, and smooth, 6 to 8 minutes.
  5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hours and up to overnight.
  6. Preheat oven to 450 degrees, preferably on convection, with rack in upper third.
  7. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
  8. Between 2 layers of plastic wrap, roll out dough into a 14-by-12-inch rectangle. Cut dough into twelve 14-inch-long strips, each about 1 inch wide.
  9. On a lightly floured surface, working with one piece at a time, form dough into desired shapes and sizes (see note above). Transfer to prepared baking sheet.
  10. Line another rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly coat with cooking spray.
  11. In a wide stockpot, combine 8 cups water, baking soda, beer, and remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar; bring to a (high) simmer over medium-high.
  12. Simmer pretzels, one at a time, about 30 seconds each, holding them under surface of water, if necessary, with a wide slotted spoon or spatula. Transfer to prepared baking sheet using 2 slotted spatulas. (You can gently reshape pretzels if they become misshapen.)
  13. Sprinkle pretzels with pretzel salt and/or desired toppings, using one topping or combining different ones.
  14. Transfer to oven and bake 5 minutes. Rotate baking sheet and bake until deep brown, 3 to 4 minutes more.
  15. Transfer pretzels to a wire rack; let cool slightly. Serve warm, with mustards and cornichons.

Note: Pretzels can be made in advance and frozen in an airtight container; thaw and warm in a 250 degree oven.

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