Maple Apple Muffins
I have a whole theory about muffins: They are sometimes nutritious (raisin bran!) and other times pure indulgence (chocolate chip!) but they are always perfect with a cup of tea or coffee. And tea or coffee goes hand-in-hand with good conversation. There’s nothing like a heartfelt chat with a girlfriend over tea and freshly baked muffins. I have vivid memories of my mother pulling fresh carrot ginger muffins from the oven just as a friend knocked on the door, always enjoyed sitting with them for a few moments with my glass of milk, enjoying a nice buttered chunk of muffin myself.
It might be a surprise when I tell you that muffins are tremendously important to a novel about a knitting club. But they are. You see, in my first novel The Friday Night Knitting Club – which is a story about a group of women of different backgrounds, different ages, and different personalities coming together at a little yarn shop on Manhattan’s Upper West Side – there is a tweener character named Dakota who loves to fool around in the kitchen. And one of the things she enjoys doing most of all is making goodies for her mother’s friends when they meet to knit (and not knit) on Friday nights. The food is crucial because sharing food is the first act that binds the club together: The guilty pleasure and the camaraderie that grows. Dakota loves baking so much that her mother nicknames her ‘muffingirl’ and it becomes a special term of endearment: Dakota is and always will be Georgia’s muffingirl. I even put a recipe for Dakota’s muffins in the back of the novel. The great surprise for me has been to learn just how many book clubs bake and enjoy those muffins, which I hear about often during conversations with the book clubs I telephone almost daily.
Knit Two, the new sequel to The Friday Night Knitting Club, is set five years later and all of the characters are back, still sharing the challenges and joys of life and love and, of course, knitting. Dakota is now a college student. And yet it turns out that baking was more than a passing fad. It remains her passion. She continues to feel most at home when she’s in the kitchen and once again, she is making muffins for the women who are now her friends. And so it seemed only appropriate to create a new muffin recipe for you, and for the book clubs. My goal was to use common ingredients that are easy to find or that you already have on hand. There were a lot of variations – and I had some wonderful help in the kitchen from friends, as well as a husband and nephews, who volunteered to chop and stir and offer up their stomachs to be testers. Trust me, a lot of “testing” went on. All in the name of research!
This recipe has maple syrup to add some depth, and apples because I think every muffin needs a bit of fruit for brightness. It’s a moist muffin, not too sweet, easy to make, easy to bake, and always just right to share over a quiet moment with a friend. Enjoy!
Maple Apple Muffins
For the batter:
1 3/4 cups whole wheat or gluten-free flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1/3 cup maple syrup (Be sure to use real maple syrup, not artificial pancake syrup.)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 1/2 cups peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped Granny Smith apples (3-4 apples)
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
For the garnish (optional):
Brown sugar and cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with paper baking cups.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
- Beat the eggs in a separate bowl. Add the oil, applesauce, maple syrup, and vanilla, and stir. Mix in the brown sugar.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and combine. Stir in the apples. Add nuts if desired.
- Pour batter into muffin cups, filling to the top. An optional garnish makes things look even sweeter: place two apple slices on the top of each unbaked muffin, plus a sprinkle of brown sugar and cinnamon.
- Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until muffins are set and lightly brown on top. Remove the muffins from the baking pan and cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!
Yield: 12-15 muffins