Coffee Talk...

Not unlike my favorite lifestyle guru, Martha Stewart, I try to be a good hostess whenever I have house guests. I don't go so far as to put out little custom-monogrammed novelty soaps in the bathroom, but I try to make sure everything in the house is as clean as I would hope my accommodations to be if the tables were turned (this rarely seems to be the case when I go visit people, but I suppose that's the cost of free lodging), and I try to have some manner of homemade treat on hand to offer my boarders. Since I'm eagerly anticipating the arrival of Katherine, my college best friend, who is visiting Chicago after another year and a half of our mutual inability to arrange more frequent rendezvous, I decided to bake up a batch of muffins so we'd have a delicious and easy breakfast on hand to fuel our planned agenda of local tourism.

Since these muffins were slated for breakfast, it seemed natural to turn to my old, reliable recipe for coffee cake muffins. Though I've apparently not made them in the last couple years (all those new recipes I blog about serve as a distraction from some of my "classic" dishes), these muffins are definitely an old favorite. The recipe came into my life when I was just starting to teach myself to bake, after Mom copied it from an issue of Midwest Living because she thought they sounded tasty.

I never got around to trying the other recipes that she sent me at the same time, but for whatever reason, I did try the muffins, and they quickly became popular within my group of college friends. Whenever I would make them, they would quickly disappear, and often, they didn't even survive long enough to actually eat them for their intended meal the next morning. Since I associate them so strongly with life at the Pershing house during my senior year of college, when Katherine and I were housemates, they had an added nostalgia factor to recommend them as an option for her visit.

These muffins really do taste like a perfectly light, moist, sour cream coffee cake. Much of the coffee cake I've eaten in my lifetime has been dry and dense, prompting me to wonder if it's so named because it requires a dunk in some coffee to be palatable. Hence, these muffins are actually way better than 90% of the coffee cake experiences I've ever had. Whether you're expecting guests, or you want to keep them all to yourself, you need to give these muffins a try. Seriously.

Coffee Cake Muffins
adapted from Midwest Living

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 c. shortening
8 oz. sour cream or plain yogurt
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. chopped walnuts or pecans
1 tsp cinnamon
additional spices to taste

Preheat oven to 375.
1. Lightly coat 9 muffin cups with non-stick spray or line with paper baking cups and set aside.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add any additional spices you like; I add a couple generous shakes of cinnamon, a pinch of clove, and a pinch of nutmeg. Cut in the shortening using a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly.
3. In a large glass measuring cup, combine the milk, sour cream or yogurt, egg, and 1/2 cup of sugar.
4. Stir together the brown sugar, nuts, teaspoon of cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons of white sugar in a small bowl.
5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir until just combined. Batter will be slightly lumpy.
6. Spoon half the batter into the prepared muffin tin. Sprinkle half of the nut mixture over the batter in the cups. Top with remaining muffin batter and remaining nut mixture.
7. Bake muffins 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the muffins comes out clean. Cool 1o minutes in the pan, then remove and serve warm, or save until the next morning.

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