Published September 2, 2011. From Cook's Illustrated.
Most cranberry-nut-muffin recipes call for loading sour berries and chopped nuts into any old batter. Could that be why they always seem out of whack?
Cranberry-nut muffins are fraught with problems: The berries’ ultra-sour burst can overwhelm their delicate flavor, the nuts’ toasty flavor washes away in the oven, and the mix-ins are always unevenly distributed.
We wanted a muffin that would feature a moist crumb with plenty of its own flavor, punctuated by zingy but not harsh cranberries and rich-tasting, crunchy nuts.
Our first task was to create a muffin that could stand up to the heft of two mix-ins. To begin, we opted for the hand-mixed “quick-bread” method, which produces a coarse, sturdy crumb. To enliven the flavor of our muffin base, we cut the all-purpose flour with hefty, flavorful nut flour that we made by processing our toasted pecans in the food processor. Adding some sugar to the processor as it broke down the nuts helped them release more of their flavorful oils and prevented clumping. Letting the batter rest before transferring it to the muffin tins resulted in a batter with more body.
To temper the berries’ sour punch, we pulsed them in the food processor with a bit of confectioners’ sugar and salt, which tempered their sourness. Chopping the berries also exposed some of their inner flesh, which helped distribute the fruit more evenly throughout the batter. A pecan-streusel topping made our muffins even nuttier and added a satisfying crunch to the finished product.list of recipes