Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sweet 16! Caramel Apple Muffins

Its that wonderful time of year again: the time when I get to bake with all the flavors of autumn!  Currently on my radar are caramel, ginger and apples,  so I've whipped up something combining the powers of all three!

These muffins (for its really not fair to call them a cupcake,  they don't even have frosting!)  are a little bit sweet, delightfully moist and have a wonderful spicy kick to them.  These will be a fall favorite for me this year I predict.

The first thing to do is to make some caramel sauce.  This is surprisingly easy and makes quite a bit.  You can also make this ahead of time as it will keep in the fridge for quite a while.  I used this recipe from the Food Network and had no troubles whatsoever.

Combine in a sauce pan:

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup of half & half  (not gonna lie, I used heavy cream, but only because I already had some...)
4 Tbsp. of butter
pinch of salt

Mix the ingredients gently over medium-low heat with a whisk for about 7 minutes or until it begins to thicken.

Add 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract and continue to cook for another minute or so. 

Remove from the heat and allow to cool a bit before pouring the caramel sauce into a jar.  Set aside in the fridge.

The next step is making applesauce.  I decided to make my own but you could easily use store-bought, though I would suggest one without too much added sugar.

For the applesauce you need:

4 granny smith apples
a couple strips of lemon peel
juice from about 1/2 lemon
cinnamon stick
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup water
pinch of salt

Peel the apples, core them and quarter them.   To get the strips of lemon peel, simply use a vegetable peeler on the rind of a washed lemon.

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sauce pan.  Cover.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.  They should go from this:

to this:

with a little bit of mashing with a fork.

Now we're almost ready to do the cakes themselves!  But first we'll do the crumble topping just so you have it ready when you want it :)

This topping was adapted from this awesome recipe by Bake or Break (I highly recommend these muffins!)

here's how fine I chopped my ginger
What you need:

1/2 c. flour
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. melted butter
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. chopped crystallized ginger
pinch of salt

Mix it all up in a bowl and set aside.

you want a crumbly texture

Now at last we can make the cake batter!

You need:

1/2 cup butter room temp  (1 stick)
 2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 cup applesauce
1/4 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
1/4 milk

Wow, having typed that all out now it seems like a lot of things.  Anyways,  moving on!

Sift together the flour, baking soda and spices.

In the bowl of a mixer, cream the butter and the sugars.  Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each.  Add the applesauce and vanilla and mix again, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl.  (If you decide to use plain yogurt you may want to add a little bit more vanilla.  I used 1/4 tsp. because I used vanilla yogurt.)

At this point you want to add about half of the flour mixture and mix well to combine.  Then add the yogurt and the milk and mix again.  Finally, add in the remaining flour mixture and combine well.

Distribute the batter into a prepared muffin tin filling the cups about 3/4 full.  Make a shallow dip in the tops of the the batter (I used the back side of my melon baller,  the poor thing rarely gets used for it's intended purpose.)

Into these dips, pour small spoonfuls of the caramel we made earlier.  Then cover the tops liberally with the crumbly topping mixture.

the cakes on the right side show the caramel pockets, the left has the crumb coating on top.

Pop these in the oven for 14 - 16 minutes at 400 degrees, or until a toothpick inserted in comes out clean. (unless you stick it in the caramel,  that would be miss-leading)

Allow to cool in the pan or on a wire rack.

This made 15 muffins for me but they are already quickly disappearing.

You could of course drizzle some more of that lovely caramel across the tops of these muffins to sweeten them up a tad more, but I adore them just they way they are!

In fact, I think I'll go have another one :)

Toddler approved!

Happy Baking!

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