Thursday, February 06, 2014

Cherry Pie Muffins

The other day I heard my daughter Annie singing from the living room,
Oh do you know the muffin man,
The muffin Man, the muffin man
Oh do you know the muffin man,
He lives on Cherry Street!”
It made me smile to think that she had decided the muffin man must be our neighbor, but then I started thinking about muffins and cherries, and I got hungry. Being early February, our freezer is starting to get very bare and low on frozen summer fruits. But I did have a can of cherry pie filling in my pantry, and the idea for these cherry pie muffins came to me in a stroke of inspiration.

I used my standard basic muffin recipe, which I adapted from a vegan muffin recipe that we made at the natural foods coop where I cooked for two years before having kids. Now, I am a committed and passionate omnivore, but the vegan muffins really were better than the non-vegan muffins we made in the same kitchen. I usually make it now with real butter and milk, but it tastes just fine with margarine and soy milk.

Laurie happily contemplates eating one of our fresh cherry pie muffins, much to Cookie Monster's dismay.

Having made four dozen of these cherry pie muffins in the past week, I think I can safely say this is a fantastic recipe. I mean, really, really amazingly good. Good enough to make my sick one-year-old’s eyes brighten, and get her waving her arms in the air and shouting excitedly when she sees we’re having some with lunch. Good enough to devote the whole morning baking dozens of these with my girls for Collin to take to one of his lecture classes. And good enough to motivate me to spend the better part of the afternoon writing up the recipe for you. Enjoy!

Cherry Pie Muffins
Makes 1 dozen

Muffin batter
½ c. (1 stick) butter or margarine
½ c. white sugar
2/3 c. milk or soy milk
2 c. flour
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. baking powder
¼ t. baking soda
¼ t. salt

Streusel topping
2 T. butter, melted
3 T. brown sugar
3 T. flour
3 T. rolled oats
½ t. cinnamon

Muffin filling
½ can (21 oz) cherry pie filling.


Make muffin batter
1.       Mix the butter and sugar together thoroughly. I would say cream them, but you don’t have to beat it until light and fluffy like you would for a recipe with eggs. Just get them thoroughly combined.
2.       Pour in the milk, stirring until combined. At this point, the batter will look like a mess. With no egg to emulsify the mixture, the butter will separate into globs, and it doesn’t look hopeful. But it will all work out just fine.
3.       Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Stir until just combined, scraping the sides of the bowl to pick up any stray bits of flour from the sides or butter hiding on the bottom.

Streusel topping
4.       Melt butter in glass measuring cup.
5.       Mix in brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and oats. Stir until combined.
6.       Place streusel in freezer to chill a bit while you assemble the muffins.

Assemble muffins
7.       Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (It take a while to put together the muffins, so you don’t really need to do it before you make the batter.)
8.       Line a standard muffin tin with cupcake liners. Spray pan with the liners in it with a cooking spray oil.
9.       Put a dollop of batter into each muffin tin. You have to use your judgment about how much exactly, just try to estimate how much half of the batter each of the dozen muffins can get.

10.   Spray the muffin dollops with spray oil to make them easier to spread.

Make a nice big cavity in the center of your muffins to hold the filling

11.   Using a clean teaspoon and/or your fingers, spread the batter up the sides of the muffin liner, making a large cavity in the middle for the cherry filling. Keeping the spoon free of batter will make your work much easier – if it ever starts to get sticky, give it a quick rinse in the sink before continuing.
12.   Using another clean teaspoon, fill each muffin cavity with a cherry and sauce. I found each muffin could comfortably hold about three cherries, with a proportional amount of sauce.
13.   Again, with your clean teaspoon, place another dollop of batter on top of each muffin until you have portioned out the rest of the batter. Spray the tops again to help spreading.
14.   Spread the batter all the way to the edges, trying to get it down to touch the batter cup around the cherry filling. If the cherry pie filling goes all the way to the edge, the batter cannot seal it in. This is somewhat inevitable unless you are going to be extremely painstaking in your efforts, but try to seal it in as much as possible. Muffin liners do help a lot in keeping the muffins neat and tidy if you have filling leaks, so if you aren’t using them you need to be even more careful.
15.   Get the streusel topping out of the freezer, and give it a good stir to break it up into crumbles. Sprinkle it on the muffin tops liberally.

From left to right, muffins with filling, with the portioned topping batter, with the batter sealing the edges, and with the streusel topping, ready to bake.

16.   Bake the muffins in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops are starting to turn golden brown.

Finished, beautifully rounded muffins

17.   Let the muffins cool a bit before eating! I let my eagerness overcome my common sense the first time I made these, and even though the muffin itself wasn’t too hot to eat, the cherry filling was boiling hot and burned my tongue badly.
18.   These muffins taste awesome if you warm them up in a toaster oven, should you have one available. We always toast muffins when reheating them up for breakfast, and it freshens the flavor of the muffins. Bonus: giving the muffins a quick toast won’t heat the filling as thoroughly as the initial baking, so when you eat them the outside is warm and crunchy, but the inside is still safe to eat.

I hope you enjoy these cherry pie muffins! Let me know if you try them, and if you have any suggestions for improvement.

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