Brown Sugar, Garam Masala, and Pistachio Muffins | #MuffinMonday

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 Brown Sugar, Garam Masala, and Pistachio Muffins

I’m pretty excited about these brown sugar, garam masala, and pistachio muffins. They had a warm, earthy, and deliciously complex flavor.

Garam masala you ask? It’s a blend of spices used in regional Indian cooking. I’ve read that the phrase in English means “warm spice.” Epicurious describes it as the Indian equivalent to the French herbes de Provence, or the Chinese five spice blend.

 Brown Sugar, Garam Masala, and Pistachio Muffins

This month, in honor of leap year, the Muffin Monday group was challenged to use an ingredient they’d never used before. And never meant never. In a muffin. As a leap of faith.

I’m in!

Fortunately, as an ingredient “enthusiast” (i.e. hoarder), I knew I’d find something in my spice cupboard that I’d bought on a whim but had never used. You see, I’m always falling for some sort of lovely spice or herb blend that I didn’t know existed. Don’t even get me near The Spice House in Chicago, a Penzey’s store, or Williams Sonoma. I could spend hours!

While shopping my spice cupboard, I found Garam Masala (along with Ras el Hanout, a Moroccan blend of spices and Za’atar, a Middle Eastern blend of herbs, as well as a bunch of barbecue blends that I might have admit I’ll never use).

The Garam Masala blend I found in my cupboard contains black pepper, coriander, cumin, mace, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and bay leaf.

Doesn’t that sound interesting?

I combined the flavors with brown sugar and double strength vanilla, and then, because I was really feeling creative, topped the muffins with pistachio tossed in a tangelo glaze.

How fancy is that?

P.S. I will be making these muffins again. They are so good.

 Brown Sugar, Garam Masala, and Pistachio Muffins

After the recipe, check out what the rest of the Muffin Monday bakers made with a “new to you” ingredient this month. May this leap year be the year we all say yes to things that scare us and succeed!

 Brown Sugar, Garam Masala, and Pistachio Muffins

Makes 12 muffins


2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon garam masala

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 large egg

1 cup whole milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used double strength)

For the glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon (or so) freshly squeezed orange, tangelo, tangerine, or minneola juice

Handful of roasted, salted pistachio nuts, roughly chopped


  1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees F. Live a twelve cup muffin pan with paper muffin liners. Set aside another set of 12 muffin liners in which to place the finished muffins. 
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and garam masala. 
  3. In a large bowl, add the melted butter. Whisk in the egg, the milk, and the vanilla. 
  4. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and whisk until combined. Add another third and whisk until combined. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula until just combined. 
  5. Distribute the batter among the cavities in the muffin pan. 
  6. Bake the muffins for about 20 minutes, until golden and a toothpick emerges clean. 
  7. Cool and glaze (see below) the muffins in the pan on a wire rack. 
  8. To make the glaze while the muffins are baking, mix the powdered sugar and juice until you have a fairly runny glaze. Add the chopped pistachio nuts. 
  9. While the muffins are cooling, with a spoon, spread some of the glaze with a few coated pistachio nuts on top. 
  10. When the muffins have cooled completely, place them, original liner and all, in another paper muffin liner to contain the stickiness of the glaze. 

The rest of the “new to you ingredient” muffins:

#MuffinMonday is a group of muffin loving bakers who get together once a month to bake muffins. You can see all our of lovely muffins by following our Pinterest board.

Updated links for all of our past events and more information about Muffin Monday, can be found on our home page.

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