Applesauce sweetens the batter for muffins
Cook an apple, and you get a magical aroma. It stirs a yearning for simple pleasures and whets the appetite for a delicious treat.
Apples are perfect when cooking for two. There are no problems with portion control. Each piece of fruit is a serving.
Baking is a simple way to bring the pleasure of this fruit to the table. Your best bets for baked apples include Rome Beauty, a big round fruit; Russet, which has a rust-tinged green skin; Haralson, a regional Midwestern apple; and Esopus Spizenburg, an old Northeastern variety.
Stewing apples for applesauce is one of my favorite preparations. Sure, you can buy packaged applesauce with a number of flavorings, but none has the thick, chunky consistency or natural sweetness of homemade. Homemade applesauce is delicious plain or as a topping for biscuits, muffins and waffles. Among the apples suitable for sauce are Braeburn, Gala, Jonagold and my pick, Pink Lady, which is intensely sweet.
Selecting apples for a baked product such as bread or pie is a little more challenging. You want an apple with an assertive flavor and a texture that is firm enough so that it won’t turn to pulp. However, the apple slices should cook to fork-tenderness. Nothing is worse than biting into a muffin or apple pie and feeling chewy or crunchy fruit.
Juicy and sweet-tart Northern Spy is a classic pie apple, but it often is hard to find. Both Idared or Jonagold are excellent. Although some people recommend Granny Smith, it’s too crisp and tart for my taste.
This muffin recipe is marvelous because it starts with freshly cooked applesauce. Turn on the coffee maker as soon as you put the muffins in the oven, because the scent of cooking apples is sure to inspire a coffee break.
As an aside, you can double the accompanying applesauce recipe and use the remainder as a spread for the muffins.
Applesauce, Maple, Walnut Muffins
Maple sugar is available at farmers markets, natural food supermarkets or gourmet food stores. You can substitute light brown sugar.
- 1/2 cup applesauce (recipe follows)
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Dash salt
- 1/3 cup maple sugar
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Prepare the applesauce and let cool to room temperature.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a muffin tin.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, salt and maple sugar. In a small bowl, combine the egg, applesauce and melted butter. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir just to combine. Do not beat. Stir in the walnuts.
Drop the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling 3/4 full, to form 7 muffins. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until the muffins are golden brown and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven. Set aside for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool.
Makes 7 muffins.
- 1 large apple, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup water
In a small pot, combine the apple, sugar, cinnamon and water. Cover and cook over medium heat until the apple is soft, for about 10 minutes. If the sauce seems watery, uncover the pot and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes.
Using the back of a fork, mash the apple until pulpy.
Makes about 1/2 cup sauce.