In the never-ending quest to live my best life, I woke up the other day with an insatiable desire to bake muffins. I imagined that baking wholesome, hearty muffins, laden with all of the “good” things (whole grains, seeds, fruit, nuts) and very little of the “bad” things (sugar), would be really key to my continued growth as a human. I dug up my go-to for idyllic morning inspiration, Megan Gordon’s Whole Grain Mornings. I very rarely cook out of cookbooks (there’s no space in my kitchen to keep the book!), but hers is amazing — full of recipes that make healthy eating delicious, surprising and inspiring.
I immediately honed in on the pear-hazelnut oat muffins recipe (and not just because it’s the only muffin recipe in the book). It looked intriguing: a new-to-me combo of pears and hazelnuts, whole oats in the batter, a healthy dose of earnestness, but no skimping on flavor. I excitedly rushed to the store to pick up pears and hazelnuts, ran home and began to bake.
Forty-five minutes later, after somehow getting pear in my hair and hazelnuts skins in every single crevice of my kitchen (where they will remain until I die), I was throwing on my snow boots and trying to find the other glove because I had, of course, forgotten a crucial ingredient (baking soda). Moral of the story: these muffins aren’t the magical key to your best life, at least not if you are as forgetful, crazy and/or a general hot mess as yours truly.
The muffins are, however, delicious. I got a little extra and browned the butter in addition to toasting the hazelnuts, which meant that these are deeply nutty. In my last experiment with baking pears, I diced them, but here, they’re grated, meaning little bits of pear in every bite. It’s messy (see: pear in hair) but so worth it for that subtle floral note. They’re even better on Day 2, once the flavors have gotten a chance to really meld together, which makes them perfect for baking in advance.
I ended up baking these before a weekend trip to the Hudson Valley. The process of making them may have been less than glamorous, but let me tell you: when I finally bit into one of these, with a steaming cup of coffee by my side, a cozy fire blazing in front of me and snow falling outside, I really was living my best life. WIN.
- 1 cup hazelnuts
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more to grease the muffin cups
- 2 medium pears (make sure they're firm)
- 2/3 cup cane or granulated sugar
- 1 cup buttermilk (see note)
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- a pinch of ground ginger
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds (optional)
- Toast your hazelnuts: heat the oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with foil. Spread the hazelnuts out on the baking sheet, then toast for 10-12 minutes. Fold a dishtowel in half, and place the hazelnuts in the "envelope" so that they're completely covered. Let the hazelnuts sit for 30 seconds, then rub the skins off with the towel. Chop the nuts, then set aside to cool completely.
- Raise the oven temperature to 425F. Butter a 12-cup muffin tin.
- Brown the butter: in a small saucepan, melt the butter. Once it starts to foam, stir frequently until the solids on the bottom have started to brown and it smells nutty and toasty. Transfer immediately to a heatproof bowl and set aside to cool. (More tips on browning butter here.)
- Grate the pears over the large holes of a box grater (you can peel them if you prefer, but I didn't find it necessary) into a large bowl. (You should have a little over 1 cup of grated pear.) Stir in the browned butter, sugar, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla extract. Mix until just combined.
- In a separate bowl, mix the oats, flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir until just combined -- do not overmix.
- Fold in all but 1/2 cup of the chopped hazelnuts, and the chia seeds (if using). Spoon the batter into the muffin wells, then sprinkle the remaining nuts over top.
- Place the muffins in the oven, then bring the heat down to 375F. Bake for 25-27 minutes, until the tops are golden and the muffins are firm and springy in the center. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- I never have buttermilk on hand, so instead, I put 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, white vinegar or apple cider vinegar in a measuring cup, and pour in enough milk to make one cup. Give it a good stir and let it sit for 10 minutes. Voila: homemade buttermilk!