My husband and I like dining at this casual little American café in the West Portal neighborhood of San Francisco. We’ve been going there for years, even before we moved to the western side of the city. During weekend brunch service, they grace each table with a plate of freshly baked muffins and homemade jam. My favorite of these muffins is the coffee praline muffin. Maybe I’ve lived a sheltered life as far as muffins are concerned, but I had never seen or heard of such a muffin. And I certainly have never tasted one like it. Hooked at first bite, I was dying to get my hands on the recipe and make them home. I finally got the recipe from them about 4 years ago. But it wasn’t until recently that I finally tried the recipe for the first time. I know, I know, but I’ve had a huge backlog of recipes to try.
I made a few minor modifications to the original recipe based on what I had in the kitchen. Baking a breakfast muffin shouldn’t require making a special trip to the grocery store. I used half and half instead of milk and espresso powder in place of the instant coffee called for in the original recipe. And so the coffee praline muffin became the espresso praline muffin. The muffin itself is not very sweet. The predominant flavor is espresso/coffee. Most of the sweetness will come from the "praline" topping.
Espresso Praline Muffin
(makes 8 muffins)
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup whole milk or half & half
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp espresso powder
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
Praline topping ingredients:
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp light brown sugar
5 tbsp chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 375F. Butter and flour muffin pan or line with paper cupcake liners.
Make praline topping by combining the sugars and pecans. Set praline topping aside.
In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, pecans and salt. In a small bowl, combine milk, egg, vanilla and espresso powder. Whisk until espresso powder is dissolved.
Add the espresso mixture and the melted butter to the dry ingredients. Mix just until flour is incorporated. Do not over mix the batter.
Set your muffin pan on a rimmed baking sheet. The sheet will catch any topping that might fall off the muffins as they rise in the oven. Fill (to the top) 8 cups of the prepared muffin pan. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of praline on top of each muffin and lightly press the praline into the muffin.
Bake at 375F for 16-18 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes in pan and then remove muffins to cooling rack.
P.S. The word praline can be used to describe different confections. Praline can be almonds or hazelnuts in caramelized sugar or it can be pecans mixed with caramel cream. It can be a shard-like brittle (as in peanut brittle but in this case it would be almonds, hazelnuts or pecans) or a pulverized powder and/or paste. It can also be a Belgian chocolate candy. Praline can even be a homologous sequence alignment tool, but that praline is really the acronym PRALINE and this is just my dorky science self encroaching on my food blogging self. See how confusing it can be?