Fall is almost here and while I love all things pumpkin, apples have a place in my heart, too. (Remember Caramel Comfort Bread Pudding ) Yes, I was one of those kids who loved bobbing for apples but I actually enjoyed eating them, too! I love a trip to the Altapass Apple Orchard in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, anytime, but especially this time of year. One of my favorite apples is in season, the Johnny Gold, or Jonagold, a cross between a Jonathan and a Gold Delicious. I love starting out with an empty bag and setting out to fill it with apples. The bag of apples can get pretty heavy, so my hubby comes in handy! Don’t worry about him, he doesn’t mind the hard work for he knows with apples comes apple crumble muffins, one of his favorites.
APPLE CRUMBLE MUFFINS: Let’s get started by making a simple apple compote. Great for any apples that are overripe or blemished heavily. Roughly chop 2 of your favorite apples (DO NOT peel and save the apple cores) and put into a saucepan over low heat. Add 1 tsp of water and 1 tsp of one of the following: apple cider, maple syrup, orange juice, honey, brandy, liquor (bourbon, honey liqueur, etc). I am using an apple pie liquor I found. (I always keep a look out for places that sell the little airline bottles of liqueurs and liquors, they can be a great addition to the spice cabinet for less. No need to buy a big bottle for a couple of recipes.) Add 1/4 tsp lemon juice, 1/8 tsp lemon zest, and sugar. The sugar amount will depend on the sweetness or tartness of the apples you are using and your taste preference. My apples are already sweet and hubby doesn’t like things too sweet, so I only add 1/2 tsp sugar. Add 1/2 tbsp pumpkin pie spice or apple pie spice. The only difference in the two is apple pie spice has all spice and pumpkin pie spice has cloves. All the other spices are the same. So if you don’t have either, just make up the difference with cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. I like to add an extra dash of cinnamon or you could add a cinnamon stick, too, just remove after cooking. Cook over low heat stirring occasionally for 15-20 minutes. Now for the hard part, let it cool. The temptation to stop and spoon some hot apple compote over vanilla ice cream will be strong! If you don’t think you can resist, go ahead and double the batch and save some. It will keep up to one week in the fridge. It is also tasty heated over pancakes, waffles, French toast, and oatmeal, too!
While the apple compote is cooking, throw the apple cores into a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain and set aside the beautiful apple “juice” for the glaze.
For the muffins: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a nonstick muffin tin, makes 6 muffins (or 1 square cake pan) fill each bottom with cooled apple compote. In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients. (yes, I know that is not a bowl, but it was my MeMaw’s so I love to use it when I can, especially when baking) 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp plus 1/4 tsp baking soda. If you are like me and always have baking powder but never baking soda on hand, don’t panic. Remember baking powder can substitute for baking soda, it just takes more. (Good rule of thumb, for each 1/2 tsp of required baking soda substitute 2 tsp baking powder.) Sprinkle all the dry mix over the apple compote. In the mixing bowl, blend 1 beaten egg, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1/3 cup oil, and 6 TBSP crushed nuts, pecans or walnuts. (Nuts are optional) Pour over flour mixture. Using a fork, gently stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture. It will turn into a batter. Smooth out the batter evenly. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until brown and center bounces back. Let cool. Slide a knife around each well and flip muffins out. They are not called apple crumble muffins for nothing, so be careful!
For the Glaze: A quick and easy glaze. In a bowl, simply whisk 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and the 2 tbsp apple core “juice, 1 TBSP at a time. Warning: If you have a person with a sweet tooth in the house, just go ahead and double the glaze: 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 2 TBSP apple “juice” and 2 TBSP water. It will save you from having to make more! My mom is visiting and she loves her sweets, so I’m making extra so she can have it on the side for dipping! Brush each muffin with the glaze, (except my hubby’s!) That’s it!
TO COOK IS TO CREATE: Want to jazz up the glaze for the kids,substitute maple syrup for half or all the apple core “juice”. Want to jazz up the sauce for yourself? Use Bailey’s Irish Cream! What is your favorite spice in the autumn spice mix? Highlight that flavor, just add more, like I did with the cinnamon. You can easily trade out the vanilla for another extract, banana is a nice one. What is your favorite nut? I used pecans today, but have sweetened them up before using toffee peanuts. Don’t like nuts? Use raisins.
FOOD FUN: Is there an apple orchard near you? The weather is getting a little cooler, so head out to pick some apples. No apple orchard? Go to your local farmers market and pick some new varieties of apples to try. Did you know there are more than 7, 500 apple varieties worldwide? Pick the “ugly” ones, too. Did you know that there is an ugly produce movement? So many “ugly” produce is wasted each year, there is a movement to help put a stop to it. I know many apples in my bag would have not made it to the grocery store–blemishes, bee sting marks (bees love apple juice, too), misshapen or too small. It is a reminder to me that it is what’s on the inside that counts. What did one “ugly” apple say to the other? “Have I ever told you I think your ‘freckles’ are beautiful?”