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Can I tell you a secret? For a while now, I have feared that I’d lost my baking mojo. When I created this blog some months ago, I swore up and down that it would be dedicated as much to the sweeter side of things, and not just the savory. Baking has always been my retreat – my calm and happy place. I find there’s something meditative in the act of sifting, measuring and whisking. Lining a baking pan with parchment is my equivalent of deep breathing. And the beautiful alchemy that happens in the oven, when the ingredients morph and become something so much greater than their humble beginnings – that’s almost magic to me. Every single time.

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Anyway, life has been a bit short on magic lately. It’s filled with more prosaic things, like the baby needing new clothes, or the dog needing stitches, or where I put my damn dry cleaning ticket. And baking has taken a quiet backseat, one which has bothered me for a while. Today, I hope to remedy this little problem. Because here is that perfect solution – a muffin that isn’t an indulgent, I-dont-have-time-for-you-in-my-practical-life dessert. Instead, it’s just sweet enough to feel like a treat, but also healthy, packed with goodness, and gets you ready for the day with a full serving of fruit, nuts, oats and buttermilk. Sounds almost like granola, doesn’t it? Except so much better. I added a tiny dose of chocolate chips to half the batch because I just couldn’t resist, and because really, come on – chocolate and hazelnut? It’s like nutella in a muffin!

Bake these this weekend, and your breakfast is set for the week. Or your midmorning snack. Or late evening snack. You get the idea.

Hazelnut, Pear and Chocolate Breakfast Muffins

Recipe slightly adapted from Whole Grain Mornings by Megan Gordon

2 firm pears (I used Comice, but Bartlett but would be a good option too)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup rolled oats (not the quick cooking kind)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips.

Heat oven to 425°F. Line 12 standard muffin cups with papers.

Halve and core the pears (no need to peel them). Grate on the large holes of a boxed grater into a bowl. You should have about 1 cup grated, although a little extra is fine. Stir in melted butter, sugar, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla until combined.

In a separate bowl, stir together the oats, flours, baking soda, baking powder, spices, salt, all but 1/2 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts, and the chocolate chips. Gently fold this dry ingredient mixture into the wet batter until just combined; do not overmix.

Fill muffin cups almost up to the top and sprinkle with the reserved 1/2 cup hazelnuts. Place muffins in oven and immediately reduce the heat to 375°F. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of muffins comes out batter-free.

Cool muffins in pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Muffins will keep for 2 days at room temperature in an airtight container.

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