At the beginning of my freshman year of college, I did what any kid new to living on her own would do -- went absolutely crazy with the freedom to do whatever I want... staying up late, getting ice cream for dinner, you get the idea. All relatively tame things :)
But the biggest change in my lifestyle that year was discovering that my eating habits were totally and completely my own. No longer was I required to adapt to an entire family's dining routine or eat what was being served. If I wanted to eat an early dinner before night class or wait until noon for breakfast on a weekend, nobody was going to stop me. And, if I wanted to indulge in the dining hall options including Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Subway, and my weight in chicken tenders, watch out world.
Muffins? Harmless fluffy muffins?
Yes, muffins. You see, the dining hall below my dorm had these insanely delicious giant muffins. I'm talking huge, people! The size of a softball. I think they were made by Otis Spunkmeyer. They were convenient and not totally terrible tasting. Sure, they were a bit dry and super sweet without much flavor, but they were the closest thing I could find to my mom's incredible banana muffins.
And then, one day about two weeks after discovering these gems, I flipped the package over and checked out the nutrition label -- 470 calories! 26 grams of fat, which accounted for 41% of my daily intake... in ONE MUFFIN! "Step away from the muffin!" And that was the last Otis Spunkmeyer muffin I ever had.
Thankfully, two years later I moved into an apartment on campus that had a full kitchen -- hooray! And thus began my home baking/cooking career and a new chapter in my life. Still yearning for my mom's muffins but not quite bold enough to make them without her (and she still provided them in mass quantities on a monthly basis), I looked for a muffin recipe I could make with limited culinary experience. Something with basic ingredients and familiar flavors. Warm and seasonal flavors.
And then, I found it -- my go-to recipe for a yummy fall anytime treat. Apple muffins!
And because I would never settle for anything less than rich-tasting baked goods, a generous helping of buttermilk gave the batter a thickness crucial to muffin-making.
Topping it off with a mixture of nuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon was what sent these delicious apple gems into another dimension. Crunchy, tasty, g-o-o-d!
Individually wrapped (and still so, so much less harmful than their Otis relatives) and ready to go. Perfect for an early morning tailgate before a college football game.
Unwrap and bite into that chewy, moist, slightly sweet but not too much for a breakfast item, apple-y creation. And, get this, one of these babies clocks in at 200 calories. That's it!!!
Want to make this already perfect breakfast truly ideal? Pair with a mimosa. I dare you!
(adapted, slightly, from Ellie Krieger's recipe)
-makes 18-20 muffins
A few notes: You can substitute some wheat flour for the all-purpose by adjusting to thefollowing quantities - 1 cup all-purpose flour + 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour. Per suggestions by others who made these muffins, I doubled the cinnamon and mixed half into the batter while reserving the other half for the topping. I also doubled the apples and stretched the recipe even further.
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups + 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 cup natural applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
2 apples of your choice (I used Golden Delicious), peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 12-capacity muffin pan with cooking spray or liners.
In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar, the pecans and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk the remaining 3/4 cup sugar and oil until combined. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in the applesauce and vanilla.
Whisk in the flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Whisk just until combined. Gently stir in the apple chunks. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan filling cups 2/3 full and sprinkle with the pecan mixture. Bake for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of 1 of the muffins comes out clean.
Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the muffins to loosen them and unmold. Cool completely on the rack. Keep, wrapped or in sealed container, for up to 3 days. If freezing, wrap individually, and freeze for up to 2 months.