Sunday, 25 September 2011

Whole wheat apple muffins

For years now, I’ve been promising myself to try to bake more often, reasoning that it’s a far better way than reading cookbooks to gain confidence and skills and begin to develop a repertoire. (It also seems like another way to help ensure that I log some miles on the treadmill.) I’m not sure how well the resolve will stick this time, but I enjoyed yesterday’s baking session far more than any I’ve undertaken for a long time. It certainly helped that the outcome was unambiguously good.

These muffins were moist, not too sweet and full of tender apple pieces and gentle autumnal spice. Whole wheat flour is not something I’ve ever used in baked goods before, associating it with the leaden items sold by those virtuous but unappealingly ascetic health food shops. If baking is an infrequent activity at best, I think it’s reasonable that the output boasts limited health benefits. But in this case, the inclusion of whole wheat flour yielded a depth of flavour which I don’t think would have been achievable with white flour alone. And there was enough fat and moisture in this recipe (in the form of butter and buttermilk or yogurt) to make the crumb unusually light.

There’s absolutely nothing in this recipe that needs changing. But it’s such a good muffin template that I can see lots of possibilities for adaptation: adding nuts or raisins; swapping out the apples for grated carrots, pears or plums (slightly reducing the liquid if plums were used), amping up the spice with fresh or dried ginger, including a bit of oatmeal in the batter or topping the muffins with some streusel.

If nothing else, the muffin tin should at least get some play this fall.

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins
adapted from King Arthur Flour and Smitten Kitchen
Total time: 40-50 minutes; Active time: 20 minutes
Makes at least 7 muffins in a ¾ cup tin

1 cup (150 grams) whole wheat flour
1 cup (140 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tsp allspice
Generous grating of fresh nutmeg
1/2 cup (113 grams, or ½ a package) salted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar (I used sugar which was lightly scented with a spent vanilla pod)
Scant 1/2 cup (200 grams) Demerara sugar (The original recipe called for American brown sugar, which is not easily available in the UK)
1 large egg
1 cup (250 ml) buttermilk or plain yogurt (I used half yogurt and half whole milk)
2 large apples (I used a mix of Bramley cooking apples and more aromatic eating apples)

Preheat the oven to 450°F (about 230°C). Grease or line muffin cups if tin is not made of silicone.

Core, peel and chop the apples into pieces between the size of a pea and a bean. Mix together all the dry ingredients (flour, leavening agents and spices) and set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until well-mixed. (I did this with just a large spoon.) Add the egg and stir well to combine. Gently add the buttermilk or yogurt. (If you’re a bit zealous and the mixture curdles, don’t worry. It fixes itself in the oven.) Stir through the dry ingredients in several batches, mixing just enough to get any pockets of flour integrated. Fold in the apple chunks.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 400°F (205°C) and bake until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean. (With my Texas-style muffin tin, this took an additional 20 minutes.)

Allow the muffins to cool slightly, then turn out of the tin to finish cooling. Store covered and at room temperature. The tops can be at least partially recrisped by reheating briefly in a warm oven.

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