Almond Plum Big Top Muffins

Stone fruit is still going strong here in Paradise, and for some reason, I waited quite a while before I brought home some plums.  I love plums — especially the black ones with golden fruit inside — and when I see them in the store, I look for the ones that are very firm hoping that when I bite into one, it will at least come close to the flavor of the plums I used to steal from those trees in Spain when I was eight.

I know.  Another Spain story.

When we lived in Chipiona, there was a grove of fruit trees very near our house.  There were also rows and rows of grape vines, but after eating grapes that weren’t ripe, the plums in the trees must have become immediately more attractive.  They were big trees that required painful shimmying up the trunk since the lowest branches were too high to reach.  But that didn’t stop me and while my younger brother and sister watched, I made it into the tree, and watching for the farmer.  We’d seen him before, and I’m sure it was no surprise that we were the Americano waifs that prowled the neighborhood barefoot and unsupervised, so he wouldn’t have too much trouble finding our parents if we were caught.  But the plums were so big and looked so juicy.

I straddled a hefty lower branch and edged my way to the plum I wanted, grasping a smaller branch with one hand, and reaching hard with the other.  Unfortunately, the smaller branch broke, and I fell, landing hard on my left shoulder, dislocating my arm from its socket.

Yes, it hurt.  My brother and sister thought I’d been shot because of the cracking sound the branch made, and ran, leaving me in the dirt.  I never got to taste that plum, but it’s impossible not to remember that story every time I see them and although it was pretty painful, the memory makes me laugh.

These muffins only add to it all.  They’re moist and crunchy at the same time, and they’re made from Joanne Chang’s master recipe which was published in the March 2006 issue of Tauton’s Fine Cooking, “All Your Favorite Muffins.”  Joanne Chang wrote the article to illustrate how easy it is to have one recipe, then alter it with different ingredients for variety.  The first time I tried them, I went with large cups .

This time, I decided to work on making big top muffins.


Joanne Chang’s Master Muffin Recipe
Makes 12 big top muffins


3-1/2 c. all purpose flour
1-1/3 c. sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
10 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 c. whole milk at room temp
1 c. sour cream at room temp
2 lg. eggs at room temp
1 lg. egg yolk at room temp.


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl and set aside.  In another bowl, combine sugar, melted butter, milk, sour cream, and eggs.  Add this wet mixture to the dry mixture and mix gently until nearly all the dry ingredients are moist and the batter is still lumpy.
  3. To make my plum almond muffins, to the batter, add:

1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 black plums, chopped with peelings on (about 1-1/2 c.)
3/4 c. blanched almond slivers (about 3 oz.)

  1. Gently mix the additional ingredients into the batter being careful not to over mix.  Line a 12-cup standard muffin tin with paper cups, and spray over the top of the muffin pan lightly.  Divide the batter evenly among the 12 cups, mounding it.  Bake in the center of the oven about 30 to 35 minutes or until tops are golden brown and centers set.
  2. Cool muffins in the pan placed on a baking rack for about 20 minutes before removing them to a platter.
  3. While the muffins are cooling, make a glaze of:

1 c. powdered sugar
1-2 T half-n-half

  1. Stir well, and adjust to your liking.  Pour over cooled muffin tops and sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Recipe Notes:

  • I used some cute non-paper cups for these a good friend brought back from Japan.  They were smaller than a standard sized cup, so unfortunately, my batter oozed over the edges during baking.
  • I’m probably one of the only people on Earth who doesn’t have to have a big top on a muffin.  I like the entire thing.  Although the tops on these were very nice, the best aspect was that I got a bit of crunchy blanched almonds in every single bite.
  • The peelings on the plums added lovely color and a pleasant tartness here and there.
  • Joanne Chang advises that if you want to add fruit or chocolate to the master recipe, do so in 1-1/2 cup quantities.
  • If you’re altering flavorings such as citrus zest, or spice, then 2 tsp. of zest is recommended, and/or 3/4 tsp. spice.
  • I used a glaze on these since it was included as a part of her recipe that can be experimented with.  It was pleasant, but I’d prefer not to have a glaze. It softens the top if you’re planning on not eating the entire batch fresh out of the oven, which is highly possible.  Of course, maybe I just don’t know how to make glaze…
  • Her blueberry recipe is available free in the Taunton’s link provided above.  You just have to register to the site to access it.