These are the ultimate Sunday morning muffins – light but rich with a delicate crumb and a lingering spiciness. The tops are crunchy from a sprinkling of brown sugar crystals and the inside contains tiny cubes of fall apples. When I thought about making muffins for this month’s Spice Rack Challenge, I envisioned a perfect autumn breakfast in the garden, with the air crisp and clear, orange leaves slowly drifting down, and the smell of smoke from a neighbor’s chimney. Spiced muffins fresh from the oven, hot mulled apple cider, sliced pears….
Ahem, the only thing that materialized in that little dream of mine was the tray of muffins. A late-season nor’easter tore up the coast yesterday and dumped about 6 inches of snow on us. Snow and ice! This is the freakin’ day before freakin’ Halloween. This is October. Normally, we would think a storm like this was early if it came around Thanksgiving. So I spent Saturday canning tomatoes that I picked at our CSA last week. Haha. That was, after I harvested all of the peppers and other perishables from my garden as the sloppy wet flakes fell to the ground. Stores closed, games were postponed, trees and power lines were down, parking lots were 4 inches deep in slush, and everyone looked at each other and said, “This is ridiculous.”
So, I’m glad I took the time to make the muffins. I adapted them pretty liberally from a recipe in Marion Cunningham’s excellent Breakfast Book, which she called the “last word in nutmeg muffins.” I substituted mace for nutmeg (they’re related, and I actually liked the mace better than I would have nutmeg), added diced apples, sprinkled the tops with sugar and made them in several sizes. Her recipe was supposed to make 12 muffins. Mine made 12 full size and 12 minis. This is the first time I made these muffins and I have to say that they’re a keeper.
Apple-Mace Muffins adapted from Marion Cunningham
2 c all-purpose flour
¾ c granulated white sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1½ tsp ground mace (or grate a whole nutmeg)
½ tsp salt
5 tbsp butter, melted
1 egg, room temperature
¾ c heavy cream
¾ c milk (I used nonfat)
1 apple, peeled, cored and cut into ¼-inch dice
1 tbsp turbinado or Demerara sugar (brown sugar crystals)
Butter for the muffin pans (or use paper cups)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare muffin pans (18 regular size or 12 regular size and 12 minis or 36 minis) by buttering them or inserting paper muffin cups.
Sift together the dry ingredients.
Melt the butter in a 2-cup glass measuring cup in the microwave oven, until just melted. Cool slightly and add the egg, beating the mixture with a fork. Add the cream and milk (you can measure this right into the cup to keep the number of dishes down since the butter and egg will equal ½ cup).
Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients, stirring lightly until the flour is just absorbed. Do not over mix. Fold in the diced apples. Spoon batter into the muffin cups, filling them 2/3 full. Sprinkle the sugar crystals on top.
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden. Let them cool for 5 minutes and remove them (gently, they’re delicate when warm) to a cooling rack. Serve warm.
Makes 18 full-sized muffins, or 12 full-sized and 12 minis, or 36 minis.