Brooke Bell's Strawberry Pecan Muffins

Brooke Bell's Strawberry Pecan Muffins

Healthy Directions: Brooke Bell of Hoffman Media
By Stephanie Burt

Brooke Bell, Vice President of Culinary & Custom Content at Southern publishing giant Hoffman Media, is a self-professed pecan “nut.” “I keep roasted pecans on my kitchen counter at all times,” she says, “I keep pecan halves in the freezer as they are a wonderful utilitarian product, and I have an extreme addition to chocolate covered pecans.”

Being surrounded by food is nothing new for Brooke; in fact, it’s how she prefers to live. She grew up in a family where food was the center of many a gathering, and her grandparents had sizeable gardens too. But it was when, during college, she went to Italy, that she saw her path before her. “All it takes is studying in Italy to become one hundred percent food obsessed,” she recalls. An English major, she enrolled in culinary school after college, and soon began writing about food whenever she could, melding her two passions, which of course, led her on a winding path to Hoffman Media, where she directs content about Thanksgiving pies in July (that’s the world of magazines), spends long days in meetings and photo shoots, and when she comes home, wants something simple but perfectly delicious.

“Pecans can be the crunch topping, an element I enjoy on almost everything, and they can be used sweet to savory,” she says. From simple roasted pecans to baked goods, she stresses that quality are paramount. “I like the meatiness and the very nice small size I get with Schermer pecans. So many grocery store brands are shriveled and scrawny, like they have been sitting for so long.”

Although most of the time she prefers to eat healthy -- pecans on salads or roasted with herbs de provence atop a salmon filet -- she gets her delicious baked goods fix often on weekend mornings, when there’s a little more time to enjoy being in the kitchen. It’s all about balance, just like these muffins, which use the fleeting strawberries of spring with pecans, her Southern pantry stable. Combining the two showcases both in a sweet treat that isn’t too over the top decadent.

Strawberry-Pecan Muffins with Strawberry Butter
Makes 8 muffins

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1¼ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole buttermilk
  • 1¼ cups chopped fresh strawberries, divided
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped pecans, divided
  • Sanding sugar, for sprinkling
  • Strawberry Butter (recipe follows)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line 8 jumbo muffin cups with paper liners, or spray with baking spray with flour.
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar with a mixer at medium speed until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating just until combined after each addition. Fold in 1 cup strawberries and ½ cup pecans. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Top with remaining ¼ cup strawberries and remaining 2 tablespoons pecans.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with sanding sugar, and bake until muffins are golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes more. Let cool in pans for 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with Strawberry Butter.


Strawberry Butter
Makes ½ cup
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh strawberries
  1. In a medium bowl, beat butter and strawberries with a mixer at medium speed until combined.

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