These delightfully tender and moist muffins are studded with sweet pears and savory, crunchy walnuts and topped with decorative sugar. Sweet pear and crunchy walnut muffins are so decadent, and perfect for your next brunch gathering.
In May, I received a new baking book, Shirley Corriher’s BakeWise, for my birthday. I was drawn to these muffins because they are made with canned pears. I had a can on hand, so naturally I HAD to try this recipe out.
I made a few tweaks to the original recipe, but followed the critical steps to ensure perfection (i.e., using a baking stone). Don’t skip steps, and you’ll be rewarded with some of the best muffins you’ve ever eaten!
Why You’ll Love Sweet Pear and Crunchy Walnut Muffins:
- They are Tender – These are the most tender muffins I have ever had. In fact, in her recipe, Shirley recommends beating the batter a bit longer to build some gluten in the batter.
- They are Moist – There’s nothing worse than a cakey dry muffin. These muffins are melt in your mouth and stay moist for days.
- Easy to Make – I won’t lie, the extra step of whipping the heavy cream is a bit more than I normally would do for a muffin, but it takes just another couple of minutes. Overall, this recipe is easy to follow and whips up in less than a half hour.
- Easy to find, on-hand, Ingredients: This is one of those recipes where you could go to the corner store, grab a can of pears, and make the muffins in an afternoon.
What’s in Sweet Pear and Crunchy Walnut Muffins:
If you’ve scrolled down to the recipe, the list of ingredients may seem daunting. However, once you have your nuts and pears prepared, the rest of the ingredients are what you’d find in a typical muffin recipe.
- Butter – You’ll use a bit of butter for the roasted walnuts. Otherwise, these are oil-based muffins.
- Salt – Diamond Crystal kosher salt. You’ll need salt for the roasted walnuts and then also in the batter.
- Flour – Regular AP flour here.
- Baking Powder
- Cloves (just a pinch – highly recommended if you have it! Otherwise, you can leave it out).
- Buttermilk – If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can make your own. Place 1/2 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon in your measuring cup. Fill the rest with milk. Allow to sit for at least five minutes before using.
- Canola Oil – Could substitute vegetable oil.
- Pure Vanilla Extract – Try to use the real stuff here – it really stands out and is worth it.
- Heavy Cream – You’ll need a half cup of heavy cream. This ingredients adds an incredible flavor and adds moisture.
- Orange Zest – Zest from one orange. Note: I have made these without the zest and they are equally phenomenal!
- Optional mix-ins: Candied ginger and/or toasted coconut. In her book, Shirley uses candied ginger. My husband isn’t a huge ginger fan and so I omitted this, but if I had it my way I’d add the candied ginger because I think it would taste amazing with the pears.
How to Make Sweet Pear and Crunchy Walnut Muffins:
**STOP: Before anything else, arrange a shelf in the lower third of your oven and place a baking stone or cast iron pizza skillet on the rack. Don’t skip this step!**
You’ll start by roasting the walnuts. In the book, Shirley has you roast the nuts on a baking stone. Personally, I find it easiest to roast them separately on a small baking sheet ON TINFOIL at 350 degrees for approximately 7-10 minutes. Keep an eye on them, as nuts can burn quickly! (ask me how I know).
Once you remove the nuts from the oven, sprinkle salt and the butter on top of the nuts. I like to use tin foil, because at this point I wrap it around the nuts, causing the butter to melt. Once the nuts are cool, chop them into small pieces.
Turn the oven up to 425 degrees.
Drain the pears and chop them up. I like to use a paper towel to gently blot the liquid off. As long as they aren’t soaking wet, you’re okay.
You’ll need two medium mixing bowls to mix the wet and dry ingredients separately (not including the heavy cream – don’t add that yet). If you have one big and one small bowl (like I do), I’d use the bigger one for the dry ingredients
In one bowl, whisk the dry ingredients for 30 seconds. In another medium bowl, beat the egg yolks and eggs briefly, and then beat in the oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and orange zest (if you are using it).
Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet. Using a fork or whisk, beat well. If you’re using candied ginger, now’s the time to mix it in gently.
In a cold bowl, whip the heavy cream until medium soft peaks form. Make sure not to over whip the cream – once it hits soft peaks you should only beat it a bit beyond that.
Whipped cream visual cues: When you lift the beater up, peaks will form and curl slightly downward, slowly. melting back down on themselves. If they quickly fall, it is softer, and you can beat it another 30 seconds or so.
With a spatula, fold in about a quarter of the whipped cream to lighten the batter, then fold in the remaining whipped cream. At this point, you can fold in your pears and walnuts.
Fill the muffin pans almost to the top and sprinkle with coarse, decorative sugar. Turn the oven down to 400 degrees, and place the muffin pan on top of the baking stone.
*Note: If you only have one standard 12-cup muffin tin, you probably will have too much batter. Save the remaining batter and bake a second batch. Just make sure to let the tin cool off before adding the batter to a hot tin.
Bake for approximately 20-22 minutes, or until well-risen and lightly golden brown. The muffins will spring back to the touch.
Allow the muffins to cool in the muffin tin for about five minutes before CAREFULLY removing and transferring to a wire cooling rack.
Modifications & Substitutions:
- Feel free to use a combination of brown and white sugar – just make sure it doesn’t exceed the total units of sugar.
- Fresh pears would likely work well with these. Just make sure the pears are ULTRA ripe.
- You could turn these into peaches and cream muffins easily – just sub canned leaves for the pears!
How to Store Sweet Pear and Crunchy Walnut Muffins:
- These muffins are best eaten the day-of! However, they’ll keep well in an air-tight container for up to three days.
- These muffins freezer great. Simply wrap each muffin in cling wrap and store in a gallon size freezer bag. They’ll last in the freezer for about three months.
- To Defrost/Reheat: Take them out to defrost at room temperature about an hour before you want to eat them. Alternatively, you can wrap them in tinfoil and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes until warm.
Sweet Pear and Roasted Walnut Muffins
- 1 baking stone, cast iron or a pizza stone both work!
- 1 sheet tray
- 2 standard 12-cup muffin tins
- 1 cup (100 g) walnut pieces
- 1 tablespoon (14 g) butter
- 1/2 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt (see notes)
- 2 cups (249 g) all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- 2 teaspoons (9 g) baking powder
- 1 ½ cups (297 g) sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger
- 1 pinch ground cloves
- 2 (37 g) egg yolks, room temperature
- 1 (50 g) large egg, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (118 ml) canola oil
- 1/2 cup (118 ml) buttermilk, see notes
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon orange zest, optional
- 1/2 cup (118 ml) heavy cream, (don't add to wet until whipped!)
- 1 ½ cups canned pears, drained well and patted dry on paper towels, chopped into 1/2-inch chunks
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger (optional)
- 3 tablespoons Coarse sugar
- Preheat the Oven: Arrange a shelf on the lower third of the oven and place a baking stone on it. Preheat the oven to 350℉. DON'T SKIP THIS STEP!!
- Roast the Walnuts & Chop: Spread the walnuts evenly on a baking sheet lined with tin foil or parchment paper and roast the walnuts for approximately ten minutes or until fragrant and slightly browned. Remove from the oven and stir in the tablespoon of butter, tossing it with the nuts to coat them evenly. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of salt on the nuts and stir to combine. Set aside and allow to cool before chopping into small pieces.
- Turn the Oven Temperature up to 425℉.
- Mix the Dry Ingredients: In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and sugar. Mix well to combine.
- Mix the Wet Ingredients (minus the heavy cream): In another medium bowl, beat the egg yolks and egg, then mix in the oil, vanilla, and buttermilk.
- Add the Wet Ingredients to the Dry Ingredients: Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Using a hand mixer or a fork, beat the mixture well. If you are using candied ginger, you can add it to the mixture now.
- Whip the Heavy Cream: In a cold bowl with cold beaters, whip the heavy cream until medium peaks form. The whipped cream will hold its shape but not be stiff. Be careful not to overbeat the whipped cream as the butterfat will start to form lumps
- Fold In the Whipped Heavy Cream & Mix-Ins: Using a wooden spoon or spatula, gently fold in 1/4 of the whipped cream to lighten the batter. Fold in the remaining whipped cream. Gently fold in the pears and walnuts.
- Fill the Muffin Tins: Spray the muffin tins with non-stick spray or line them with cupcake liners. Fill the muffin pans nearly to the top. Sprinkle coarse sugar on top of the batter evenly. Leave the extra batter on the counter at room temperature if you only have one muffin tin.
- Bake the Muffins: Turn the oven down to 400℉. Place the pans into the oven on the baking stone. Bake the muffins until they are well-risen, approximately 20-22 minutes. When the muffins are fully cooked, they will spring back to the touch. Alternatively, insert a toothpick and ensure it comes out clean.
- Remove the muffins from the oven, allow to cool for approximately 5 minutes in the pan, and then gently remove them using an offset spatula. They are very delicate and tender so be careful not to break them. Allow the muffins to cool on a wire rack. If you are re-using the pan to make a second batch of muffins with the remaining batter, allow the pan to cool for several minutes before refilling them.
- These are VERY tender muffins so don't be afraid to stir the batter vigorously - Shirley recommends this in her book.
- You can swap fresh pears in this recipe. I would pick Bartlett, anjou, or Bosc. Make sure they are nice and ripe!
- Feel free to play around with spices - cardamom would work nicely here or a little bit of nutmeg.
- If you make muffins in a different size pan you'll need to adjust the baking time. Generally, mini muffins will take about 8 to 10 minutes, and jumbo will take 22-25 minutes. Your best bet is to monitor the muffins by site and texture.