When I worked on the San Jose Mercury News Food & Wine section, you always knew it was going to be a good day if any Beth Hensberger baked goods were being photographed in the studio for an upcoming story.
That’s because once the photos were done, we’d all dive in, eagerly tearing off hunks of pie, cobbler, cookies or breads to nibble. They never ceased to make us smile and swoon. That’s because Beth’s baked goods are always filled with abundant love and expertise.
A former Bay Area caterer and a veteran cookbook author, Hensperger is a baking authority and one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. We still keep in touch by email. And whenever I make one of her recipes, I always think of my dear friend whose sweet tooth is matched only by my own.
Her cinnamon-buttermilk muffins are as comforting as you can get. They are dipped in melted butter, then in cinnamon-sugar. I used organic cane sugar, giving the topping an even darker contrast to the golden muffins. But regular granulated sugar also works fine.
The batter, Hensperger says, is similar to ones for donuts, giving these muffins a cake-like texture. Muffins that are like donuts, but without the frying? Does it get any better than that?
(makes 9 muffins)
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9 standard muffin cups with butter or butter-flavored non-stick cooking spray; fill the unused cups one-third full with water to prevent warping.
To make muffins, in a bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, beating well until pale and smooth.
In another bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Add to butter mixture in 2 increments, alternating with buttermilk and vanilla. Stir just until evenly moistened. The batter will be slightly lumpy.
Spoon batter into each muffin cup, filling it three-fourths full. Bake until golden, dry, and springy to the touch, 20-25 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin should come out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Unmold muffins and let stand until cool enough to handle.
To make topping, stir together sugar and cinnamon in a small, shallow bowl. Have ready the melted butter in another small bowl. Holding bottom of a muffin, dip top into melted butter, turning to coat it evenly. Immediately dip top in cinnamon-sugar mixture, coating it evenly, then tapping it to remove excess sugar. Transfer to rack, right side up. Repeat with remaining muffins. Let cool completely before serving.
From “Williams-Sonoma Muffins” (Simon & Schuster) by Beth Hensperger