I wish I could tell you these Pralines-and-Cream Pecan-Caramel Muffins had flax or wheat germ or some redeeming value. They do not.

The batter is loaded with the most incredibly moist mixture of butter, brown sugar and pecans. Delicious on its own. But then you add a tiny dollop of caramel sundae topping. Hide the caramel under a few spoonfuls of a smooth, tangy cream cheese mixture. And then take a deep breath and sprinkle pecan-brown sugar-butterscotch streusel over each one. Now, you’ve got something lethal special enough for any holiday brunch, dessert or Thursday morning.

If you can’t eat all of these fresh from the oven, don’t worry. They are equally amazing the next day, and the smell … If I hadn’t sent them to work with Jeff, I’d have spent the day popping the container open, huffing them like pecan-caramel whippets.

Officially, these are muffins and therefore great with coffee, but they make a mean dessert with a scoop of ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce. Perfect for curling up and watching “The Biggest Loser.”

P.S. For this recipe, I used jumbo raw Georgia pecans ordered online from Oh! Nuts. Why, why, why hadn’t I thought of ordering nuts online before? I’ve been making substitutions every time I couldn’t find hazelnuts. Now, I have a pound of them. And a pound of pecans. No wonder squirrels have started circling the house.

Pralines-and-Cream Pecan-Caramel Muffins

Adapted from Marcy Goldman’s “A Passion for Baking”

Makes 12 large muffins or 24 regular muffins

    Pecan Streusel Topping:

  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butterscotch or caramel chips, optional
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
    Cream Cheese Topping:

  • 6 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    Muffin Batter:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup very finely chopped pecans
  • 12 squirts of butterscotch or caramel sundae topping, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 12-cup large muffin pan (or two regular 12-cup pans) with paper liners, and generously spray liners with nonstick spray. Place pan on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
  2. For Pecan Streusel Topping: In a food processor, grind nuts, both sugars, and butterscotch chips, if desired, to make a fine meal. Add butter and pulse to blend. Put mixture into a mixing bowl. (This is a fine, gravelly streusel.)
  3. Without cleaning food processor bowl, blend Cream Cheese Topping ingredients well and then spoon out into another bowl. Chill in the refrigerator.
  4. For Muffin Batter: Blend butter with both sugars in food processor until well blended; then add egg and vanilla and mix well. Add buttermilk, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nuts and blend well, making sure no unblended sugar or butter is stuck in bottom of bowl.
  5. Scoop some batter into each muffin cup, filling about half full. Add a small spoonful of sundae topping to the center of the batter. Add a spoonful of Cream Cheese Topping over the center of the batter, and then carefully add streusel.
  6. Bake 30 to 35 minutes until muffins seem firm to the touch when gently pressed with fingertips. Let cool 5 minutes before removing from pan.