November 5, 2011

Ginger Apple Muffins (and cake)

I got my apple picking in just under the wire this year. By the last weekend in October, most of the Orchards within a reasonable drive of the city are close to picked out. Any apples left worth eating are well out of reach. At the Orchard I went to (Stribling, in Virginia), they were passing out apple picking poles, which I unfortunately didn't get any pictures of. They are about ten foot long wood poles with a wire basket at the end. And let me tell you, they are not so easy to use. In the end, my friend and I resorted to climbing the trees, and, as a result, came away with ten pounds of apples each!

I planned to make an enormous apple crumble, but came to find my roommate had just made one with the apples I foolishly bought at the store the day before. I decided instead to try to recreate the apple cake that Stribling sells in its bakery. A small loaf cake, it was crusty on the outside and light on the inside. It had subtle hints of cinnamon, but nothing overpowering. I asked for the recipe, but they don't give it out.

I scoured all my recipe books looking for something that seemed like it would approximate the same result. The closest I found was an apple cardamom muffin from the Metropolitan Bakery Cookbook. Reading this recipe reminded me why that bakery is so delicious: it called for three sticks of butter, four eggs, two cups of heavy cream, and a cup of sour cream. Now, I'm definitely not adverse to following that recipe exactly, but the last two ingredients I just didn't have in the house (I don't even have milk, since my roommates decided to experiment with substituting almond milk for the real thing, mostly a success so far), and I was stocking up on butter for a serious cake project (stay tuned on that), so I set to work at revision. Heavy cream = almond milk. Sour cream = plain yogurt. Three sticks of butter = two sticks of butter. Four eggs = three eggs. Lastly, cardamom = ginger. No offense to cardamom, I just don't love it.

Not quite following the instructions on the proper apple to batter ratio, I ended up with muffins that nearly fell apart because of their heavy apple content. And they were perfect--with a nice crust on top, a substantial mouthful of apple in every bite, and a moist but not too heavy and not too sweet muffin base. Where I went wrong was what I decided to do after putting the first dozen in the oven. I didn't want to wait and make a second batch (I only have one muffin tin, so I can only do twelve at a time), so I through the rest of the dough and batter into an 8*8 and then accidentally underbaked it. The dough to apple recipe was way too high. Next time, I will either cut the recipe in half or I will make it when I have enough time to go through too rounds of baking.

- Franklin

Ginger Apple Muffins
Adapted from The Metropolitan Bakery Cookbook
Makes 2 dozen
Total Time: 1.25 hours
Sweetness Factor: 5; Indulgence Factor: 5; Difficulty Factor: 4; Chance I'll Make it Again: 8.

For the Apple Filling:
6 Apples (recipe calls for Granny Smith, I used Staymans)
3 tablespoons water
1 cinnamon stick
Juice of 1 lemon

For the Batter:
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 and 1/4 cups sugar (divided)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
2 cups unsweetened plain almond milk
1 cup plain yogurt
3 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 375. Prepare muffin tins (either with paper inserts or with a thorough buttering). Peel, core, and chop the apples. Combine about the apples in a saucepan with the other filling ingredients. Remove about 1/3 the apples and set aside. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the apples are soft. Finely dice the remaining apples (I went for more of a rough chop -- depends on how chunky you prefer the ovens). Once the cooking apples are soft, mash them a bit and add the remaining apples to the mix.

While the apples are cooking down, combine the flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar, baking powder, ginger, salt, and brown sugar in a stand mixer. Cut the butter in small cubes and toss with flour/sugar mixture. On low speed with paddle attachment, mix until the butter is nearly combined (should resemble a course meal).

In a separate bowl, whisk together the almond milk, yogurt, and eggs. Add to the flour mixture (on low speed) and blend until just smooth.

Fill the prepared muffin tins 1/3 - 1/2 full with batter. Put a healthy scoop of apples onto each muffin and cover with another dollop of batter. Sprinkle with the remaining granulated sugar. Bake 20 minutes until a wooden skewer comes out clean (when stuck into a batter part of the muffin). Allow muffins to cool in the pan for about five minutes, then remove and eat while still warm (although they're also pretty good the next day)!

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