I saw this recipe on cookiemadness.net. as a coffeecake recipe. (The original recipe is on the Land of Lakes website.) Since I am on a muffin mission, I decided to make muffins with the recipe. Why not? Muffins are easier to work with. You can freeze muffins individually and take one out of the freezer on a whim, pop it in the microwave or sit it on the counter for 15 minutes, and you have a dessert/snack/sweet treat. A coffeecake would be a tad easier to make since you are only dealing with one single pan, but then what do you do with it if you are making it for yourself? Pig out on coffeecake? You could slice it into individual servings and freeze that way, but like I said, muffins are the perfect answer.
I didn't change anything in the recipe and I am so glad that I didn't. These muffins are absolutely delicious. The crumb is soft and delicate (thanks to the sour cream and no extra liquids), the flavorings are perfectly balanced, and the caramel sauce on top ties it all together. What a muffin! I was skeptical at first, because the streusel just didn't sound that good to me, especially with the cinnamon and chocolate chips together, a combination that I don't usually appreciate. Trust me, these are great and really worth making.
Caramel Chocolate Streusel Muffins
Streusel: 1/2 cup mini or 2/3 cup regular chocolate chips (I used 1/3 cup milk chocolate and
1/3 cup Hershey's Special Dark)
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted and cooled
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Muffin: 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly - divided use
1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, aerated before measuring
3/4 cup sugar
1-1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup light sour cream
Drizzle: 3/4 cup caramel bits
2 Tbsp. Half and Half or milk
OR 3/4 cup purchased caramel sundae sauce
DIRECTIONS: Have all ingredients at room temperature before starting. Start oven at 350 degrees F and place chopped pecans in a pie tin and into the cold oven. Set timer on 8 minutes to check pecans. You only want them to give off their aroma, so don't leave them in too long, or they will turn bitter. Remove from oven and cool. (This is when everyone needs a granite countertop, because everything cools faster on them.) In medium mixing bowl, microwave butter on high for about 45 seconds, or just till almost melted. It will continue to melt after you remove from microwave. Take out 1 Tbsp. of the melted butter and put it into a small bowl for the topping. Turn oven to 500 degrees F. Prepare muffin tins by greasing and flouring or spray with flour-added non-stick cooking spray. For coated pans, spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray.
With fork, combine all streusel ingredients with the butter in small bowl. Set aside.
In large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well combined. (To measure flour, spoon lightly into measuring cup after first aerating the flour with a whisk. Level off with knife or spatula.) Whisk the eggs into the now-cooled butter until everything is smooth. Add the sour cream and vanilla and whisk again till smooth. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the lilquids all at once. This is not your normal muffin batter. It will be thick but light and spongy. Do not overmix. It's ok to have lumps and much better to underbeat muffin batter than to overbeat it.
Put about 2 Tbsp. batter into each of 12 muffin cups. Top with about 2 tsp. streusel, then about 2 Tbsp. more muffin batter, then 2 tsp. streusel. (It's best to do 12 at a time so you can see how much of each component is left to work with; i.e., if you do one complete muffin and get to #11 muffin and see that you have way to much stuff left, what do you do? So first, put the 2 Tbsp. batter into 12 cups, then put the 2 tsp. streusel on top of the 12, then put 2 Tbsp. more batter on top of streusel on the 12 cups. Now take an assessment. Do you have batter left over? Divvy it up among the 12 cups before you put the last batch of streusel on top.)
Place muffins in oven and immediately reduce heat to 350 degrees F. Bake for 14-17 minutes, or till toothpick inserted in center of muffin returns with just a few crumbs. Cool in pans for 5 minutes, then remove muffins to rack to finish cooling completely. Put a large baking pan underneath the cake rack to catch the caramel sauce drips. Cleaning the pan will be easier than cleaning up a sticky counter top.
Make caramel drizzle: In a 1-cup measuring cup (see photo below), microwave the caramel bits with the Half and Half just till it bubbles up. Remove and stir, stir, stir. If caramel bits are still too sticky, microwave once again till it bubbles. Stir, stir, stir. When sauce is smooth and easy to work with, drizzle over cooled muffins. If this sounds like too much work, just buy a jar of caramel sundae sauce. Microwave 3/4 cup till it bubbles once, stir and drizzle over the muffins.