Recipe: Hearty & Healthy Apple Muffins

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Could whole wheat apple muffins made without eggs, dairy, sugar, or leavening agents possibly be any good? Well, apparently these ones were memorable enough that, many years after tasting them at the age of eight, I found myself craving them again.

An email to my mother, followed by a phone call to a family friend, revealed that the recipe originally came from Edward and Wendy Esko’s Macrobiotic Cooking for Everyone. Armed with a scan of a well-worn cookbook page, I was curious to see whether the recipe was as good as I recalled. In many ways, it was. The apple-packed muffins were juicy, as I remembered and loved them, and they had just the right amount of natural sweetness.

And yet, not being macrobiotic, I did feel the urge to enhance them a bit. The macrobiotic diet limits the use of spices, and the original recipe called for just 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon (optional). My adaptation incorporates more cinnamon, freshly grated ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Otherwise, I left things as they were, sweetening the muffins only with apple juice and keeping the dense but satisfying mix of whole wheat and whole wheat pastry flours.

These aren’t the fluffy, super sweet muffins one eats as an excuse to have dessert for breakfast. Rather, they are a genuinely wholesome, filling, and refreshing food to start the day. Filled with luscious seasonal apples, I find them a wonderful antidote to all the rich and sugary foods around us this time of year.

p.s. Having been raised around health food nuts, I was a bit skeptical of my own taste buds. Would anyone else actually like these muffins? Were they worthy of sharing? My non-hippie boyfriend says, “Everybody enjoys eating muffins in the morning, but they often leave you feeling gross, like you had a cake or a pastry. These are hearty and not overly sweet and leave you feeling like you had the best of both worlds.” Whew!

Apple Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons corn oil (or canola or safflower), plus more for greasing pan
1 3/4 cups unsweetened apple juice
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
3 apples, diced

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flours, spices, and salt. Add oil and mix well. Add juice and ginger and stir until combined. Fold in the apples.

Heat muffin pan in oven until warm. Remove pan from oven and divide batter evenly among the muffin cups. Sprinkle tops with cinnamon.

Bake until golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Adapted from Edward & Wendy Esko’s Macrobiotic Cooking for Everyone (Japan Publications, 1980)

Thanks to Edward Esko and Karen S.!

(Image: Emily Ho)