The scent of apple cider signals the coming of crisp fall days and cozy nights. Apple picking is fine, but when we head to a local orchard, the true pleasure for me is returning home with gallons of apple cider and way too many doughnuts. Experimenting with some of this cider led to delicious muffins that feature a middle layer of cider glazed pecans and a cinnamon streusel topping. With cider incorporated into the buttermilk batter, they smell so good that we always eat them while still freshly-baked and warm.
½ cup apple cider
¾ cup chopped pecans
2 cups all purpose flour
⅓ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup apple cider
½ cup buttermilk
5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
⅓ cup brown sugar
⅓ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter
Pinch of salt
Muffins are incredibly satisfying to bake. They don’t require special equipment, which means you get to take out your wooden spoons and favorite mixing bowls and really enjoy working with your hands. Without the whir of an appliance, it is even easier to get lost in the scents and process of baking.
Since apple cider is full of natural sugar, it is perfect for glazing pecans. Begin by bringing the cider to a boil in a small saucepan until it is reduced by half. Add the pecans and cook until the cider has almost evaporated. Spread the nuts on a sheet of parchment paper and allow to cool. They won’t be crisp like candied nuts, but they will take on the delicious sweetness of the apple cider.
While the glazed pecans are cooling, prepare the cinnamon streusel topping. Combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt. Use your hands to work in the room temperature butter until it forms a nice crumb. A pastry blender also can be used.
Now for the muffin batter. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter the insides of a 12-cup muffin pan or use liners. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Next whisk the cider, buttermilk, eggs, butter, and vanilla. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, pour in the cider mixture, and use a wooden spoon to stir until the ingredients are just combined and still lumpy. Be careful not to overmix.
Spoon batter into the prepared pan so that each muffin cup is ⅓ full. Layer in glazed pecans, and evenly distribute remaining batter among the muffin cups. Top with cinnamon streusel, and bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
By the time the muffins are done, you might have accumulated quite a crowd in the kitchen. They are perfect to serve for a brunch get-together, family breakfast, or a delicious solo treat to satisfy your fall food cravings.