Let Them Eat Muffin

Apple Cinnamon Muffins, hanging out on the balcony.

Honestly, who doesn’t love a big, fluffy muffin?  I mean, seriously, let’s talk about it!  Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • They are super cute, because they are a single unit of food.  This virtue is also exhibited in the muffin’s super hot half-sister, the cupcake.  In fact, most “single-serving” carbohydrates tend to be “cute”.  Consider the personal pizza, the demi baguette, the frosted and sprinkled doughnut…  Awww.
  • Seriously, most muffins sold these days are enormous and full of refined sugar and flour, but you are allowed to eat them for breakfast!  Awesome!  And, if you choose your muffin carefully, you can even pretend that your dessert breakfast is virtuous!  I mean, honestly…  Banana Nut!  Raisin Bran!  Zucchini!  How could they not be nutritional powerhouses!?
  • Muffins have great range.  They can be stale or bland or cheap or boring or standard.  Or they can be exceptional, featuring powerful, seasonal flavors: Meyer lemons and farm-fresh blueberries in summer; brilliant cranberries and mellow squashes in fall.  A good bakery makes a good muffin, no exceptions.
  • And this is the best part: with muffins, the thought really counts.  I believe that a muffin is one of those things that really tastes better if it’s made with love and care.  And I know that’s pretty cheesy, but it’s true.  I mean, when I first started dating Ryan, I spent days searching for a perfect recipe… I wanted to make him no-sugar-added banana muffins.  Hmmm.  They were not good at all.  The general consensus was they needed more sugar.  But he liked me anyway!  Yay!

I had purchased the ingredients for a muffin recipe that I really like a few days ago, but I couldn’t find the downtime to actually bake them.  Luckily, I got around to it on Tuesday afternoon.  They were great, and guess what?  These muffins are actually not terrible for you!  Now, let’s clear the air right now: these are not sugar-free, or fat-free, or cholesterol-free, or whatever.  They are muffins.  But they incorporate a lot of healthy swaps without compromising taste and texture.

They are made with a combination of whole wheat pastry flour and all-purpose flour, so there is a nice blend of whole-grain goodness and the requisite soft, tender crumb.  Regular whole wheat flour is coarse and hearty, and really doesn’t belong in anything delicate.  That’s why whole wheat pastry flour is so wonderful: it’s much finer than regular whole wheat flour, so it combines perfectly with all-purpose flour, almost, well, disappearing.  When it comes to baking sweets, it’s safe to say the best thing a whole grain can hope for is to just go unnoticed.  You should be able to find whole wheat pastry flour at your grocery store, and Whole Foods and King Arthur Flour both sell it, too.   The Whole Foods’ variety is organic and reasonably priced.  Store it in the freezer for the summer.

A good muffin must be moist, and this recipe utilizes fresh apples, applesauce, and low-fat buttermilk to achieve that gooey softness.  Of course, eggs and oil are used as well, because these are muffins, folks.  If I wanted to eat apple-infused cardboard, I would dip some cardboard in applesauce and call it a “snack”.  I would also probably not take pictures.  Now, onto the recipe… and pictures, too!

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Almost as cute as that stupid doughnut, right?

This recipe is essentially adapted from Ellie Krieger’s original for Apple Muffins.  I’ve tweaked only a little of the recipe so far because this was only my second time making them.  Next time, I’m going to play with flavors a little more— zucchini, perhaps?  It will make 12 enormous muffins.  Honestly, it probably makes at least 15, but I’m stubborn.  If you decide to stretch the batter, reduce the baking time by a couple of minutes.  You can access a printable, one-page version of the recipe here, I think:  Apple Cinnamon Muffins.  I need to put together a consistent and usable recipe format, and I’ll get on that soon.  Please don’t be upset or OCD if next week, the format is totally different.  Because I would totally get upset over that, and it’s absurd.

Ingredients

I use my table for everything...

For the muffins:

  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup canola/safflower/flavorless heart-healthy vegetable oil (not olive!)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup unsweetened, natural applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon true vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk*
  • 2 Golden Delicious** apples, peeled and chopped into 1/4″ cubes

For the topping:

  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or other nut (pecans, sliced almonds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons raw, old-fashioned oats
  • berries/apple slices for garnish, optional

Muffin topping mixture

* Buttermilk is best, but you could also use just under 3/4 cup of regular milk soured with lemon juice.  I have reason to believe yogurt may work, too, but I haven’t tried it, so if you do, and your muffins are gross and curdled, well… let us know, and we can all learn from your mistake!

** Golden Delicious are a good choice because they are mild, consistent, and when baked, are soft and sweet and delicious.  You could try other varieties, but stick with an apple that actually bakes well!  But remember, this isn’t a pie, and a mild apple like Golden Delicious is fine because we’re looking for moisture and sweetness, not necessarily bite or character…

Fruit is involved, of course.

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Coat a muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.  I cannot stress this enough.  Those cute little cupcake papers?  Not gonna do the job!  These muffins are not full of butter and will stick to the paper, and unless you want to scrape your breakfast off a pastel yellow cupcake liner with your bare teeth, I suggest you just coat the pan.  Okay!
  3. Prepare the topping.  In a small bowl, combine nuts, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, and the oats.  Set aside.
  4. Prepare the dry ingredients.  In a medium bowl, combine whole wheat pastry and all-purpose flours, baking soda, salt, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
  5. Prepare the wet ingredients.  In a large bowl, combine 3/4 cup packed brown sugar with the oil.  Add eggs, one at a time, ensuring each egg is absolutely combined.
  6. Combine the applesauce and vanilla so the vanilla will be evenly distributed throughout the batter.  Then whisk the mixture into the wet ingredients.
  7. Whisk in half of the dry ingredients, then half of the buttermilk, until just combined.  Then whisk in the remainder of the dry ingredients, and the remainder of the buttermilk.  Do not over-mix!  Muffins are not cake, and lumps are okay!

    Finally, fold in the apples, but don't over-mix.

  8. Fold in the diced apples.
  9. Pour the batter into the muffin pan.  Tap (or slam!) the whole pan on the counter a few times to eliminate any lingering air bubbles.
  10. Add the topping mixture to the muffins.
  11. If desired, press sliced berries or apples or other cute fruit/random nut onto the top of the muffin.

    Berry garnish is optional, adorable.

  12. Bake for about 20 minutes.  Check for doneness with a toothpick, and check early!
  13. Let muffins cool in the pan for about 15 minutes on a rack before loosening them with a knife.
  14. Remove muffins from pan and allow them to cool.

Aren't they lovely? I really like the strawberry ones!

I always thought this was interesting, and I’ve read about it a few times: sugar and fat are great natural preservatives, so a muffin’s shelf life is extended by adding lots of refined sugar and oil to it.  So, when you buy a muffin, all too often you have to choose between natural but unhealthy and lighter but full of weird preservatives.  Bah!  But there is a solution!!  Bake your own muffins and cut out some of the fat and sugar!  Then, eat them immediately!  The cooled leftovers should be sealed in plastic wrap and then stored in an air-tight container.  Any muffins that probably won’t be consumed within the next 24 to 36 hours should be frozen as soon as those muffins are completely cooled.  Wrap the muffins in plastic, then in foil (to protect from freezer burn) and then store them in a big freezer bag.  Thaw one and warm it in the toaster oven, if desired.  I hate microwaves and don’t know how to use them anyway, so you can figure out how to ruin nuke your muffin and talk about it amongst yourselves, if you please.

Oh, and if you only take one thing from this entry, let it be this: If you give a moose a muffin, he is going to ask for a glass of milk.

Okay, get baking!  Bye!!

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Comments
10 Responses to “Let Them Eat Muffin”
  1. sweetlife says:

    oh wow love your muffins…buttermilk is always great in muffins, ya I have made chocolate zuchinnin muffins and they are awesome..blackberries in muffins can be tart, but i like tart, but in the muffin recipe i have there is oatmeal which kinda cuts it..sometimes i dont even chop the frozen berries and they whole berries get warm and oh my ..well i love them..and I think it is luck of the draw sometimes i buy really sweet blackberrie sand sometimes I get very very tart berries..
    sweetlife

    sweetlife

  2. Jessie says:

    I love the idea of the fruit on top of the muffins… and in them. They look so healthy and cute. I’d like to try more muffins but I tend to overmix them…lame.

    Jessie
    http://www.themessiekitchen.com/

  3. Monet says:

    Oh Lauren,
    What beautiful little muffins. I am so glad that I took the time this afternoon to look at these beauties. I am having a fabulous time in the city, but I miss being able to bake! I love using whole wheat pastry flour in my muffin recipes. So yum and so good for you!
    We ate at John’s Pizzeria, by the way, which was in the East Village, I think, and absolutely delicious.

  4. Mom says:

    I was thinking I might like a muffin tomorrow morning while I obsess over the details of the summer dinner party. Can you and Ryan drop by with some muffins? Or do you prefer to stop by Sunday morning and pick up some leftovers? The menu is finalized….gazpacho,vegetable crudite, ribs, chicken, greek salad, corn casserole, blackberry crisp, and Mississippi Mud Pie with Fresh Market decaf. I am tired just thinking but it will nice to have good food with good friends! Wish you wer here!!!!

  5. Love your ingredients pic:) These look wonderful!

  6. These are adorable! I love the little berry garnish.

  7. Hey Lauren! I’m completely with you on the crappy oversized everything that I seem to see at bakery counters all over the place! Besides, there’s nothing like a great home made muffin that full on flavor and low on fat! 🙂

  8. A few things Miss Lauren:

    1. Yogurt is a fine substitute for buttermilk as long as you aren’t using tons of it. I’d be weary about replacing 3/4 cup of buttermilk with yogurt. On the other hand, if you find that a lot of your baking requires buttermilk, purchase yourself some SACO buttermilk powder. It has an amazingly long shelf life if kept in the fridge and does not require a run to the store OR leftover buttermilk you won’t drink. It has not altered the taste or consistency of any of my recipes.

    2. I am so making these muffins. I may make them with strawberry though. I might try them with white whole wheat flour, too, which is a different strain and better for baked goods.

    3. You don’t know how to use a microwave? Have you ever had one? Is it by choice you currently don’t have one? Ours was broken and it was annoying trying to reheat things in a frying pan.

    • Lauren says:

      Thanks for the buttermilk tips!

      I do know how to use a microwave, in theory, but I hate what it does to my food, and haven’t owned one in a long time. So I don’t really have that magic microwave skill, you know, the one that kind of instinctively tells you how long to nuke something for? Last time I tried to use a microwave, I was visiting my parents. I tried to reheat some pasta for 2 minutes, but I did 20 instead, and I walked away… That was a chewy lunch!

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  1. […] Without further or do… here is the recipe, adapted from Lauren’s Little Kitchen. […]



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