Peaches are among the freshly harvested fruit ripening on columnist Cheryl Wixson’s dining room table. CHERYL WIXSON PHOTO

Maine Dish: Short peach season inspires muffins



With the onset of fall weather, shorter days and cooler nights, my dining room is lined with trays of pink tomatoes, bright blue-green pears, and fuzzy orange peaches.  This “fruit-ripening” station allows me to harvest the produce before the critters like squirrels and coons raid the garden. I check the fruit daily, processing or eating each piece when the complex sugars are best.

Our family loves fresh peaches. Intensely fragrant, perfectly ripe, sweet and juicy, with velvety, red-blushed skin and soft orange flesh, peaches are the third most popular fruit in America. (Right behind apples and oranges)

A fruit native to China that migrated to New England via Persia, the early homesteaders planted peach trees up and down the Eastern Seaboard. The peach tree became so firmly established in the United States that botanists in the mid-1700s assumed that the peach was native to America!

The peach season in Maine every year is short, and I’m always on the scout for preparation methods that allow the flavors of the fruit to really shine. The recipe for Peach Streusel Muffins is my new favorite.

These muffins are the type seen on display in local bakeries and coffee shops: elegant, oversized, and finished with a crunchy streusel coating.  The muffin batter is prepared with creamed butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and flour. For best results, be sure to allow your butter and eggs to come to room temperature. Once the batter is ready, fold in the chopped peaches. Don’t despair if you have no perfectly ripe, fresh peaches. Canned peaches are equally delicious.

The topping, a mixture of brown sugar, ground cinnamon, melted butter, flour and chopped nuts, is added to the batter once it has been spooned into the pan. These are generously sized muffins, so gently press the crumbs into the mixture before baking.  Bake at high heat, 425 degrees F, for five minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake until a toothpick comes out clean.

Because of the fruit, these muffins are a bit fragile and delicate, so handle them carefully before they cool completely. Peach Streusel Muffins are a welcome treat for the morning coffee break, or as part of a festive brunch. They store well at room temperature, and taste even better the next day. Buttery, tender and moist, in my book, these muffins are peachy keen!

 

Cheryl Wixson lives and cooks in Stonington. She welcomes food-related questions and comments at [email protected].

 

Peach Streusel Muffins

Makes 12 generous muffins

 

For the streusel topping:

1/3 cup brown sugar

½ tsp. cinnamon

¼ cup butter, melted

2/3 cup flour

1/3 cup chopped nuts (optional)

 

For the muffins:

½ cup room temperature butter

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup white sugar

2 eggs at room temperature

½ cup plain yogurt or sour cream

2 tsps. vanilla extract

1¾ cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. allspice

1¾ cups peeled, chopped peaches (about 4 medium)

 

Assemble ingredients and tools.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Grease or spray a 12-cup muffin tin.

To prepare the streusel topping, mix until combined the brown sugar, cinnamon and melted butter together in a small bowl. Add the 2/3-cup flour and chopped nuts.  Using a fork, mix together until it is just crumbly.  Set aside.

To prepare the muffins, add the butter, brown sugar and white sugar to the bowl of your electric mixer. Beat on high speed until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Add the eggs, yogurt or sour cream and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed for about 1 minute, scraping down the sides as needed, until the mixture is combined and creamy.

Add the baking soda, baking powder, flour, cinnamon and allspice and blend on low speed until combined. Fold in the chopped peaches.

Portion the batter into the muffin tin. It will be quite full.  Spoon the streusel topping on each, gently pressing it down into the batter.

Bake for 5 minutes at 425 degrees. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 15- 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for at least 5 minutes before removing them to a rack to cool completely. They will be fragile!  Store at room temperature or refrigerate for up to one week.

 

Nutritional analysis per muffin: 332 calories, 5 grams protein, 40 grams carbohydrates, 17 grams fat, 158 mg. sodium, 1.5 grams fiber.