2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 vanilla bean scraped or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 Tablespoons browned butter (start with 6 tablespoons and melt it down just over 5 Tablespoons)
3/4 cup maple syrup, divided
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans, plus 12 pecan haves (or the largest pecan pieces of the bunch for topping the muffins)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners and set aside.
In a small saucepan, melt 6 tablespoons of butter over medium flame. Butter should crackle and foam and then produce little brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Turn flame to low, scrape brown bits from the bottom of the pan (thatís where all the flavor is hiding) and remove from heat to cook a bit before using.
In a large bowl sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl whisk together buttermilk, egg and vanilla bean or extract.
Add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients and stir with a large spoon until just incorporated. Add melted butter and carefully mix until incorporated. Add the chopped nuts and half of the maple syrup (you can eyeball half of 3/4 cup) and fold until evenly dispersed throughout the batter.
Fill the muffin cups until about two thirds full (I was able to make 16 cupcakes). Place a large pecan piece on top of each unbaked muffin and drizzle all of the muffins with the remaining maple syrup.
Bake muffins for 20-25 minutes or until a metal skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
Allow to cool in the muffin pan for 10 minutes before removing to serve.