The dust from Halloween has barely settled, and already the holiday commercials are hitting the airwaves in a full court press. Well, I guess if you can't beat 'em, might as well join 'em!
While today's recipe isn't holiday specific, it is a great one to have on hand for a festive breakfast, snack, dessert, or even neighbor gift option when company comes knocking. These Salted Caramel Apple Muffins did not last long on my kitchen counter, and my taste testers gobbled them up in multiples.
You may notice this recipes doesn't call for an exorbitant amount of butter. The Greek yogurt replaces part of butter's job here, leaving the muffins a moist and dense. The most important part butter plays in this recipe is in the greasing of the muffin tin. This allows for that beautiful brown slightly crispy texture to form on the exterior of the muffins -- you know, the part of the muffin tops that everyone likes to bite into first. You can, of course, use muffin tin liners if you like, but you'll lose that bit of browning in the bottom of the muffins.
Also, as an FYI: In the first step, I'm calling for you to bake off the diced apple pieces for a few minutes first, in order to reduce any excess moisture and allow for the batter to cling on to the pieces and distribute them easily through out the muffins.
For the caramel, if this is your first time, keep in mind that heat control is key so that you don't burn part of the sugar while the rest stays granulated.
There will be times you ask yourself, "Is this right? This doesn't look right." Don't worry, it will all come together. And never forget the old adage: If at first you don't succeed, try again. This rings especially true when working with sugar. Chances are, you have more sugar in the jar, and if not, it's a great way to meet a new neighbor (wink!).
Salted Caramel Apple Muffins
1 large crisp apple (Pink Lady, Gala, Braeburn)
4 Tbs. butter, softenedm plus more for pan
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt (or a 5.3 oz. single serve container)
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon, more as needed
1/4 tsp. ground ginger, more as needed
1/4 tsp. salt, more as needed
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Peel and dice the apple into 1/4 inch pieces, discarding the core. Spread the diced apple onto a small baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with just pinches of salt, ground cinnamon and ginger. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees F. Remove from oven and set aside.
Beat together butter and sugars in a mixing bowl, until creamy. Beat in the Greek yogurt, egg, and vanilla extract until mixture is fully combined. The texture should be like that of thick pancake batter.
3. Fold the flour, baking powder, 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ground ginger, and 1/4 salt, into the batter until just combined. Fold in the baked apples so that they are evenly distributed. The batter will be thick, feeling almost like a loose cookie dough.
Grease a standard 12 cup muffin tray with butter, fully coating the inside and just around the rim of each cup. Evenly distribute the muffin batter throughout the cups, about 2 tablespoons each. Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees F, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from oven, and allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack.
While the muffins are baking, make the caramel.
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream, room temperature
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
Coarse kosher or sea salt
Pour the sugar to a small heavy saucepan so that it is evenly spread across the bottom. Place the pan over medium-high heat, and keep a close eye on the pan. When the sugar starts to melt around the edges, gently push still granulated sugar over to the melted spots using a heatproof silicone spatula or wooden spoon. Continue gently pushing the still granulated sugar into the melted hot spots until all sugar is melted, and has turned a light shade of amber. If this is your first time, you may want to turn the heat down to low to slow down the process.
When all the sugar has melted and turned amber brown, quickly stir in 1/2 tsp. of lemon juice, followed by the heavy cream. Continue to gently stir over medium heat until the mixture has fully incorporated. The caramel sauce should bubble and simmer. This will take a couple of minutes. Turn the heat down to low, and give a stir every couple of minutes until you're ready to use the caramel sauce.
Place a sheet of wax paper under the wire rack that the muffins are cooling on to catch any drips of caramel and salt. Spoon caramel over the tops of the muffins, and sprinkle with salt as desired.
Jessica Roy is a specialty chef and caterer, food writer and chef instructor, and owner of Shiso Kitchen in Somerville, where she teaches classes. Follow her at http://blogs.lowellsun.com/yourpersonalchef.