I think it’s no secret that I love to bake. To me, baking is magic. Baking is a lot different than cooking. In cooking, each ingredient typically remains the same. Master chefs can blend ingredients seamlessly but carrots are still carrots, meat still meat. In baking, you blend a bunch of ingredients together and what you get in the end is something entirely different. What starts out as a lump of dough ends up as soft, sweet bread. Lumpy, pourable batter transforms into moist, delicious cake. Baking is all about synergy. What you end up with is so much more than the sum of its parts.
I’ve been hankering to bake lately. I mean really bake…and that usually means without my children.
I love my girls. I adore my girls. It’s just they tend to suck the joy out of baking for me (and I mean that in the best, most loving of ways). When they help, there’s always spills and fighting and lots of noise. When I get in my kitchen, I just want to create. I want quiet and peace to focus on what I”m doing. To enjoy the process and the magic.
(Note: All that being said, I think it’s of the utmost importance to get kids in the kitchen. It’s fun and it’s educational and it’s a time to really enjoy each other’s company. Passing on time-honored recipes and the joy of baking or cooking is a something that bring parents and kids together and it helps develop important skills they’ll have for a lifetime.)
Last night, I found myself alone. Howie was working late. The kids were (mostly) asleep. I had seen a recipe on Everyday Baking for mini cherry-pecan loaves that I wanted to try. I’ve been on a mission lately to use up stuff in my pantry and fridge, not only for the space but to save money. I had both cherries and pecans. I thought this was a perfect recipe to make while I had a few moments of quiet, even if it was a bit late in the evening.
The online reviews for this recipe often reported that they had too many cherries so I decided to cut back on them. It’s a good thing because the recipe called for 1 1/2 cups and I only 2/3 of a cup. In all honesty, I wish I had had more but I do think that the full amount would have been too much. Next time, I’ll aim for 3/4 to one cup. Also the original recipe called for 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans (mine were chopped a bit more finely). I didn’t want the nuts to overpower the cherries, so I cut back on those as well. I could have used some more of those as well. I made a few other changes as well. First, I made them into muffins since I didn’t have enough mini loaf pans. Second, I added chocolate chips to the streusel. How could that be wrong?
I really enjoyed these muffins. Although they were a bit on the heavy side for a muffin, they weren’t too dry or too sweet. The dried cherries gave them a sweet-tart almost spicy undertone and the pecans added a nice flavor and texture contrast. I toyed with adding the chocolate to the batter but I’m glad I didn’t. Putting it in the struesal gave it just a hint of chocolate that was both satisfying and left you wanting more (in a good way!). I do wish that they hadn’t turned out so heavy. They probably would have been much better as a loaf, but as muffins they were still delicious. This recipe is definitely a keeper. The best part is if you leave out the cherries and pecans, you have a great base recipe to which you can add other flavors.
Cherry-Pecans Streusal Muffins
This recipe is the way I made it so it is slightly different from the original recipe of mini cherry-pecan loaves. To view the original click on this: http://www.pbs.org/everydayfood/baking/recipes/mini_cherrypecan_streusel_loaves.html)
For the Streusal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
In a bowl, mix together flour, sugar and butter with your fingertips until small, moist clumps form. Mix in pecans and chocolate chips. Place in freezer.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 stick butter, melted
2/3 cup dried cherries (I’d add 3/4 -1 cup next time)
2/3 cups chopped pecans (Again, I’d 3/4 – 1 cup next time)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lighlty spray 15 muffin cups with baking spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, sour cream, eggs, vanilla, and butter until smooth. Mix in cherries and pecans.
Fold in dry ingredients until just moistened.
Divide batter among the muffin cups. Top with streusal. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the largest muffin comes out clean. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before removing muffins to cooling rack.