Friday, October 19, 2012

Apple Muffins

Incomparably moist muffins made with freshly grated apples and a healthy dose of spice are just the thing to have right now with a large cup of coffee or a small espresso.  These somewhat innocuous-looking muffins may seem a bit squat & unassuming when they come out of the oven, but I warn you, they're addictively good.  Made with a large amount of the season's best apples along with delicious brown sugar & tangy buttermilk, my muffins have just enough batter to hold them together.  Cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg are naturals with apples, but so is cardamom.  Adding just a small amount of ground cardamom enhances the batter and really makes the flavor of the apples shine through.

Many varieties of apples are in season right now, and I highly encourage each & everyone of you to seek out the most flavorful and juiciest at a farmer's market near you.  If you want these morsels to taste of apple, the fruit must be delicious to begin with or else you may end up with bland muffins.  While testing the recipe I used a mix of apples that I enjoy eating (smokehouse, honeycrisp, golden delicious just to name a few), but I also made sure to test one batch using all granny smith apples.  Much to my surprise, the muffins made with granny smiths had the most apple flavor, while the ones made with a mix of apples had a more subtle, but equally delicious taste to them.

Perfect for a weekend brunch to eat at one's leisure, the muffins are also great to have during the week, either for breakfast or as an afternoon snack.  Completely optional but highly delicious is a cream cheese spread sweetened with a bit of brown sugar to top the muffins.  The tang of the cream cheese pairs nicely with the flavors of apple & spice, at least in my opinion.  What's more, using a low fat cream cheese (neufchâtel) takes away a bit of the guilt from icing them with it, but none of the indulgence.

Tempted? 


Apple Muffins with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese.

Apple Muffin Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups {200 gm} all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons {10 ml} baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon {2.5 ml} baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon {1.25 ml} fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon {5 ml} ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon {1.25 ml} freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon {1.25 ml} ground cardamom
  • 6 tablespoons {85 gm} unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed {250 gm} dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 cups {200 ml} buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 lb {.455 kg} baking apples, peeled & grated (about 2 1/3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup {65 gm} coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)
Brown Sugar Cream Cheese
  • 8 ounces {227 gm} low-fat cream cheese (neufchâtel)
  • 2 tablespoons {30 gm} dark brown sugar

Yield: approximately 18-20 standard muffins
Equipment: Two standard-size muffin pans with 12 cavities each

Center racks & preheat the oven to 375° F (190°C)

In a large bowl sift the all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, fine sea salt, ground cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg and ground cardamom; stir to combine thoroughly.

In a 2 quart saucepan, melt the 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter over low heat and set it aside to cool to tepid.

Note: in the ingredients picture I was using a 1 qt. saucepan and found it too small, so make sure you use a 2 qt. sized one.

Core & peel the apples.  Grate them into a medium bowl and pour in the buttermilk; stir to combine.


Add the eggs to the room temperature melted butter and whisk to combine.  Make sure the eggs are well blended.

Add the dark brown sugar and whisk to combine thoroughly.  Eliminate any lumps that may be found in the brown sugar.  The mixture will lighten, thicken and take on a dark caramel color.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.

Add the melted butter, egg & sugar mixture.

Stir to combine with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until almost blended; you still want to see a bit of flour.  Add the reserved apples & buttermilk.  Stir to combine.  Add the chopped walnuts (if using) and blend evenly.

This is what the batter will look like.  Thick, fragrant and quite delicious.  Go ahead, have a small taste.


Spray your muffin tins with a nonstick cooking spray or line them with muffin liners if you prefer.  Portion out the batter filling each cavity at least 3/4 full.  I would even venture to say to fill them all the way to the top because this batter will not spill over.  It's much too thick to do that.


Place the pans in the oven &
bake for approximately 15 to 20 minutes.


The muffins should feel set & spring back when tapped in the center.  A toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin should come out clean.


When you remove them from the oven, let the muffins sit in the tins for 5 minutes before removing them onto racks to cool down.

Storage: the muffins will keep for up to 2 days at room temperature in an airtight container.  To freeze for up to 1 month, set the muffins on a large cookie sheet & freeze until completely solid.  Transfer them into zip top freezer bags and seal well.  Thaw at room temperature or in a small toaster oven.

To make the cream cheese spread, mix the cream cheese & dark brown sugar in a small bowl with a spatula until completely smooth.  The spread will keep for up to 1 week, well-covered, in the refrigerator.


Warm muffins are placed in a yellow ware bowl lined with yellow & black linen napkins to keep them warm.


 Suitable for breakfast, the muffins are very delectable with afternoon tea.



Most muffins are best eaten the same day they are made, but these apple muffins stay perfectly moist and edible for up to 2 days.  If you plan on spreading the muffins with the brown sugar cream cheese, do so right before serving.  Any leftover ones that happen to be iced should be refrigerated.  If you're having guests over for a weekend brunch, place the muffins in a large bowl lined with a kitchen towel and have a smaller bowl of the cream cheese at the table set & ready.  I can almost guarantee that everyone is going to devour these tasty morsels in no time.  Enjoy them with your favorite hot beverage or even with some cold milk if you prefer.  Apple muffins are delicious, very much of the season and great any time of day. 

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