Every fall I seem to go on an all-out apple bender, putting them in everything and anything I can think of. I usually make it a good month or two until my excitement finally sputters out, and then I'm satisfied for another season. This batch of apple streusel muffins marks this year's kickoff using my favorite fall fruit, and what a delicious start it turned out to be.
I am always aiming to achieve light and airy muffin perfection, and my all-time favorite is the orange poppyseed recipe I created last spring. With a chill finally settling in down South, I've been craving a heartier fall-friendly muffin so I decided to tweak that recipe using gorgeous local apples and cozy autumnal spices. These turned out oh-so-satisfying, like warm apple pie you can hold in your hand.
I tested this recipe using a few different variables including two alternate mixing methods. The instructions I am including here are for the 'muffin' method as opposed to the 'creaming' method, which is the slightly quicker of the two; I don't know about you, but I need quick and painless in the morning. Hand mixing also yields a dense, substantial crumb, which I think supports the apples and streusel quite nicely. (The creaming method also made for delicious results, but in a much more 'apple cupcake' sort of way.)
I experimented with a few other ingredients while on my apple muffin quest and I think they yielded fabulously tasty results. Crème fraîche as the tenderizer is undetectable yet provides unbelievable richness to the muffins. (It will probably be my new baking go-to in lieu of buttermilk and sour cream!) To get the most "apple" out of my apples I decided to vary the size of the pieces that would be going in — the finer chopped apples seemed to melt right into the batter while the larger diced apples kept their shape, revealing sweet morsels in every bite.
I also added a streusel topping to create some contrast to the tender muffin below, and the crunchy, buttery flavors definitely gilded the lily in the best way possible. This one is very basic and can be adapted to suit your personal taste: toasted walnuts, oats, and cinnamon would all be welcome additions.
This recipe makes 12 muffins, more than enough for my house of two, but they keep well so we can enjoy them throughout the week. If you don't want that many, I'm sure you can find someone who would be willing to share.
Apple Streusel Muffins
For the muffins:
2 cups (9 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
8 ounces crème fraîche (or full-fat sour cream)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
2 medium-sized baking apples, peeled, cored and diced into irregular pieces (See Recipe Note)
For the streusel:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a regular-sized muffin tin generously with cooking spray, both inside the cups and over the top.
Whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, ginger, and nutmeg. In another bowl, combine eggs, brown sugar, crème fraîche, and vanilla. Add the melted butter, pouring in a slow and steady stream, while whisking vigorously to emulsify the mixture.
Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and gently fold until the liquid is just barely combined, being careful not to over-mix. (A few lumps are okay.) Stir in the chopped apples. Fill each muffin well all the way to the top with batter; set aside while preparing the streusel.
For the streusel, add the flour, brown sugar, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Pour in the melted butter and gently stir with a fork until well combined and small pebble-sized pieces remain throughout.
Top each filled well with a heaping tablespoon of streusel, lightly pressing it into the batter. (A round cookie cutter placed over the cup helps keep the mess to a minimum.) Bake muffins for 18 to 22 minutes, until tops are golden and a toothpick comes out clean. Leave the muffins in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.
The muffins can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days. The batter can be made in advance and held in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or frozen for 2 weeks (thaw overnight in the fridge before using.)
- Ideal baking apples will hold their shape when cooked and include golden delicious, mcintosh, pink lady, braeburn, and honey gold.
- To get the most "apple" out of your apples, vary the size of the pieces — the finer chopped apples melt into the batter while the larger diced apples keep their shape, revealing sweet morsels in every bite.
(Images: Nealey Dozier)