Oct 13, 2007

Apple Coffeecake Muffins

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October has, inadvertently, officially become Apple Month here on “Piece of Cake”. There’s a couple more apple recipes coming your way, and then I will start to scale back, I promise. But when you’re working your way through a pile of gorgeous autumnal orbs, it’s impossible to not get inspired, okay? It’s just been too perfect–peeling, coring and quartering in my favorite new dove gray sweater, cinnamon and nutmeg flying everywhere. Sipping on an enormous mug of something warm while the goods are baking. And that toasty mug is what inspired me to tinker with this next recipe. I wanted THE apple muffin go along with it. Big, soft, fragrant, lightly spiced. And, of course, the pleasant surprise of a brightly flavored, al dente apple chunk here and there. Sturdy enough to be eaten with one hand, with an inspirational teacup in the other.


All too often, apple muffin recipes create lumpy, rubbery or dry results. So I decided to start with a recipe that is a phenomenal muffin all on its own, and then add my own fruit to the recipe. This Coffeecake Muffin is usually intended to be relatively subtle in flavor, with just brown sugar and cinnamon for interest. The genius of the recipe is in the space where the delicious pebbly streusel meets the just-right density of the finished muffin. But spiced apple chunks tucked into the center take it to the next level, keeping the interior delightfully moist and playing beautifully with the tender chew of the muffin and the salty-sweet crunch of the streusel.

This recipe may seem a bit confusing at first, because one moment you’re making the streusel, then it’s on to what seems to be the batter, but no! Take some of that mixture out and add it to what you thought was the finished streusel, then get back to the batter, adding some of the streusel...oh, man. But don’t worry. Just read the recipe carefully before you begin to wrap your brain around the process, and then it will come together in a snap.

Apple Coffeecake Muffins

Makes 12

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt plus an extra pinch
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and softened
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large apple, peeled, cored and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and set an oven rack to the middle position. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin or use paper liners.

In a medium bowl, mix together the dark brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, a pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon of the butter with a fork until the mixture resembles wet sand. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of salt on low speed until combined. Drop the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter pieces evenly over the flour mixture and mix again until the butter is about the size of oats. Remove 1/2 cup of the of the flour-butter mixture and mix it into the reserved brown sugar mixture to make the streusel. Now divide the streusel: 3/4 cup of streusel for the muffin batter, and the remaining will be for topping the muffins. Add the baking powder and baking soda to the remaining flour mixture in the mixer bowl and stir to combine.

Whisk together the sour cream, egg and vanilla. Turn the mixer on medium speed and pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture until just moistened. Fold in the 3/4 cup of streusel until distributed evenly throughout the batter.

Divide the batter into the muffin cups, filling about 2/3 full. Toss the apples with an additional sprinkle of cinnamon and press several pieces into the center of each muffin cup. Top the muffins equally with the streusel mixture. Bake for about 18 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs. Let the muffins cool in the tin for 2 minutes, and then carefully transfer them to a wire rack to cool for five more minutes. Serve warm and watch them disappear.

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