[Photograph: Carrie Vasios Mullins]

Given their awkward shape and bigger-is-better/more-is-more approach to mix-ins and streusel toppings, muffins are not typically what I'd call elegant. (One of the human body's least elegant parts is named after them, in case you need further proof.) But low and behold, if you make muffins in a standard size muffin tin and flavor them with two extremely elegant ingredients like pears and cardamom, they become quite elegant indeed. (When I personify them, pears become a languid French woman and cardamom, a lithe Swedish skier. Just me?)

These muffins are extremely straightforward to put together. Unlike some recipes, they do require creaming together butter and sugar, but even with that step, the batter comes together in about 6 minutes. Buttermilk keeps the crumb moist and helps to offset the earthy flavors. To further balance the cardamom, which can be strong, especially if you grind it straight from the pod, I added just a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg.

The muffins are light and tender of crumb and a bite that marries the pear with cardamom has a sweet, fruity, lightly spiced flavor. They make a great breakfast that won't send you crashing from a sugar high, and pair nicely with green tea.

About the author: Carrie Vasios Mullins is the editor of Serious Eats: Sweets. She likes to peruse her large collection of cookbooks while eating jam from the jar. You can follow her on Twitter @carrievasios


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