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Diner Style Cranberry Walnut Muffins

Post image for Diner Style Cranberry Walnut Muffins

by Amber on October 1, 2011

Maybe this is just a food blogger thing, but sometimes my pal Jamie and I get on the phone and talk for a ridiculously long time so long you get grounded from your cell phone because you used up all your minutes and then some about a recipe that has stumped you, and how you’d like to conquer it.

For me, muffins are like a holy grail of baked goods. It wasn’t so long ago that I had no clue you shouldn’t mix the batter with a mixer, or that you should really stir it only until just combined. I always wondered why my muffins were hard and tough and tiny – they never rose! It drove me crazy.

Our most recent discussion centered around Perkins’ Restaurant muffins. These gargantuan beasts boast flavors like double chocolate chip, the seasonal pumpkin, or my favorite (since they don’t make peaches and cream anymore), cranberry and walnut muffins.

Did you know if you ask for your muffin to be toasted at Perkins’, what they really do is slice it in half, slather it with butter and grill it on the flat top? Talk about a way to enjoy your breakfast!

So as Jamie and I talked about this, my google-fu went into action. I just had to find out what the deal is with the beautiful puffy muffin tops you see at places like Perkins’ Restaurants and your local fu-fu grocery store baking racks.

I really had trouble finding an answer, until I stumbled on a random forum about secret recipes, where one poster mentioned that when it comes to diners, 9 times out of 10, they’ll use ingredients they already have on hand for other items. For example, most of their muffins start with a base of pancake batter. I nearly fell out of my office chair.

So simple. So logical. So perfect.

Most pancake mixes use both butter and vegetable shortening. The box of Bisquick or Jiffy Baking Mix you buy at the grocery store? Run it through your fingers. It feels so silky because it already has shortening mixed in (unless it’s the gluten free variety – they don’t).

I was just dying to try this out, but a couple of things scuppered me: lack of a vehicle (we had yet to replace our Hurricane Irene-totaled car at the time), and lack of fresh cranberries.

When I finally made it to the store after making a totally unfair deal (wherein he gets some sort of pie) with The Brit so I could have the one remaining car for the day, there were no fresh cranberries to be had. I opted instead for the “jumbo dried cranberries” and also picked up our favorite Trop50 Farmstand Apple juice drink.

Guys, pancake batter for muffins? It’s a revelation. I altered the ingredients and how they were combined from the post on that Secret Forum, but I pretty much followed all the advice in the directions, and the texture and crumb that came out of my muffin pan? Incredible. Perfect even.

Were they jumbo? No. But that’s because I didn’t use a jumbo pan. I will next time. But the flavor, the texture, the light and fluffy delight on my tongue – diner perfect.

I suggest – no – insist you enjoy them with butter, coffee, and a lazy Sunday morning.

Secret Recipe Club

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Katrina October 1, 2011 at 7:40 AM

Love these! Cranberry and walnut are so great together!

Amber October 1, 2011 at 4:01 PM

Katrina, they’re a classic combination, aren’t they? One of my favorites.

Tracy October 1, 2011 at 9:21 AM

Woah! This a revelation, and I think I’m just going to have to make these tomorrow morning. I just spotted fresh cranberries at the store yesterday, so I’ll have to go back and snag a bag for these!

Amber October 1, 2011 at 4:01 PM

Crazy, right? And SO good!

Deborah October 1, 2011 at 10:28 AM

I totally have got to try this. I am a muffin addict, and have never thought to use pancake mix!!

Amber October 1, 2011 at 4:02 PM

Deborah, it was a crazy crazy idea that works out so very well. Can’t wait to hear what you think!

Caroline K October 1, 2011 at 5:46 PM

This is so clever! The thought of using pancake mixes never crossed my mind! Thanks a million for sharing your recipe- I will be making several variations tomorrow morning.

Amber October 2, 2011 at 2:09 PM

Caroline, I can’t wait to hear what you think!

Casey@Good. Food. Stories. October 1, 2011 at 10:36 PM

So you’re going to think I’m insane when I admit this, but muffins just don’t do it for me! I love biscuits, scones, English muffins… but a regular old breakfast-type dealy is not my scene. AM I insane??

Amber October 2, 2011 at 2:10 PM

You’re not insane. If I’m presented with a scone or a muffin, I’d probably almost always choose the scone. Unless I’m at Perkins where they do that crazy grilling thing. That takes it to a whole new level of buttery, caramelized sugar goodness.

Mindy October 2, 2011 at 9:44 AM

Interesting, I love muffins and bake many, but I never even heard of pancake batter as a base! I’ll have to try that- with butter, coffee, and a lazy Sunday morning of course.

Amber October 2, 2011 at 2:10 PM

Crazy, right, Mindy? But it works. I can’t wait to hear about that perfect Sunday. :)

Barbara | Creative Culinary October 2, 2011 at 10:03 AM

I was heading out today hoping to find some fresh cranberries but knowing it might be a bit early. You have confirmed my concern, doggone it.

This is a favorite combination of mine for muffins. I have a base I’ve used for years that I love and seldom mess with because they work so well at altitutde but you hit one nail on the head…stir, don’t mix. These look fabulous.

Amber October 2, 2011 at 2:11 PM

Barb, I made them about a week ago, and of course, two days after I made and photographed them, guess what? Fresh cranberries at the grocery store. You might be in luck now.

Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction October 6, 2011 at 2:47 PM

Oh, muffins at diners are one of my weaknesses. We had a favorite diner when we lived down in Baltimore, and they would slice the muffins in half and slather them up with butter and “toast” them on the grill, just like you mentioned. Oh. My. Goodness. I am now tempted to go bake up a batch of muffins. These look delish!

Renee March 18, 2013 at 4:22 PM

I made these, very good, but I think I’ll try using Orange Juice instead of milk and increase the Cranberries to 1 Cup. I love Cranberries and have seen other recipes with orange juice in them. Worth a try.

Renee March 18, 2013 at 4:27 PM

I’m trying to match the Cranberry Muffins at Perkins – these are close – or should I say, right next door.

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