Soft, buttery muffins spiced to perfection, with a crunchy chai spice streusel topping. No mixer required!
Prep time: 10 minutes
Bake time: 25 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes (includes cooling time)
Yields: 12 muffins
Calories: 295 per muffin
Holy mother of muffin, do I have a treat for you today. While I’m a big fan of the “a muffin is just a bald cupcake” school of muffin thought, on occasion, one wants a muffin recipe that comes together in one bowl (no mixer needed!) and has that classic bakery muffin texture: a little dense and a little more bread-like than the common cake-for-breakfast muffin. Add in chai spices and a crunchy streusel topping, and you’ll be dancing around your kitchen as you eat one of these.
This recipe is similar to a scone (which is the pastry equivalent of a muffin top when done well), in that you won’t cream the butter to capture its mechanical leavening power*, but instead, you’ll cut the cold butter into your dry ingredients. This does two things. First, it creates a coarser texture in the final muffin, which means lots of nooks and crannies (perfect for soaking up coffee). Second, your muffins will have tiny pockets of buttery goodness, since you aren’t beating a lot of air into your butter.
*Your lift will instead come from chemical leavening—there aren’t any acids (in baking, common acids are buttermilk, molasses, fruit juices, etc.) in this recipe, so baking powder does it all and does it well
But let’s not forget about the spices! I’m a latecomer to the whole chai spice craze*, having only tasted it for the first time in a black tea about a year ago, but I’m a convert. Technically, the chai spice blend we know and love is a masala (since chai actually means tea, whereas masala is a blend of spices), but in the West, when someone says chai, they mean a particular spice blend, mostly defined by cardamom. Cardamom is a strong, aromatic spice that always makes me think of Indian food when I smell it, as it’s a popular spice in Indian cooking. While you can buy premade chai spice blends at the grocery, you might want to make your own (I’ve stuck instructions in the recipe); other than cardamom, the other spices in the blend are pretty standard stuff: ginger, cinnamon, allspice, cloves. If you don’t have all of those, that’s okay. Cardamom, ginger and cinnamon are the most important of the bunch, but mix and match based on what you have handy.
*This article is about as silly as it gets ;P
From a nutritional standpoint, these are pretty decadent for a muffin. At nearly 300 calories each, they push into the range I usually reserve for iced cakes. Despite that, they are totally worth the splurge (did I mention that they’re coffee’s soulmate?). If you do want to shave off some calories, skip the streusel and you’ll save 50 calories per muffin.
Set oven to 350 F | 180 C | Gas Mark 4 to preheat. Line or grease a 12-cup muffin tin and set aside.
Make the streusel
In a small mixing bowl, combine 38 g (3 Tablespoons) sugar, 38 g (3 Tablespoons) packed brown sugar, 40 g (1/3 cup) all-purpose flour, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon chai spice blend (see below for instructions on making your own), 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt (or pinch of table salt) and 30 g (2 Tablespoons) room-temperature unsalted butter and work using a pastry cutter, fork or your hands until it resembles a crumbly meal. Set aside.
Make the muffins
In a large mixing bowl, combine 280 g (2 and 1/3 cups) all-purpose flour, 150 g (3/4 cup) sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon chai spice blend, ¾ teaspoon kosher salt (1/4 teaspoon table salt) and 180 g (12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter (make sure it’s cold and cubed). Work with a pastry cutter, fork or your hands until it becomes a crumbly meal. I prefer to use my hands for this.
Make a depression in the middle of the flour mixture
Add 2 large eggs, 120 ml (1/2 cup) milk and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Stir dough with a spatula or wooden spoon until the egg has been completely incorporated. The dough will be thick and won’t be particularly smooth
Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, divide the batter equally into the prepared muffin tin.
Sprinkle with the streusel.
Bake for 22 to 27 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool in muffin tin (preferably on a wire cooling rack) for 5 minutes before removing from pan.