When and how the German word Streusel (“a sprinkling” or “crumbs”) evolved in the South to denote a crumbly, sweet, spicy topping sprinkled on breads, muffins, cakes, and coffee cakes is a real mystery, but I don’t think I know a serious cook who doesn’t boast his or her special streusel topping. I first tasted my sister’s blueberry muffins at a big Sunday brunch she threw at her home in Wilmington, North Carolina. Over the years, she modified the topping from time to time with different nuts and spices, as most Southern housewives tend to do. I still prefer her original formula and use it when blueberries are in season and I decide to make these blueberry muffins for any number of occasions. Do note that, in the South, these muffins would just as likely be served as a dinner bread as at a brunch or breakfast—just as Southerners think nothing of nibbling sugared nuts and sweet pastries with cocktails.
To prepare the topping, melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the brown sugar, and stir over low heat till it dissolves. Add the cinnamon and nuts, mix well, and set aside.
To make the muffins, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer till fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and continue beating till well blended. Alternately, stir in the flour mixture and milk, mix well, then fold in the blueberries.
Fill each cup of the prepared muffin pan two-thirds full with batter, spoon a little streusel topping on each, and
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