Apple Muffins with Apple Butter
Moist apple muffins are even better when spread with homemade apple butter, fragrant with warm spices. The syrup left over from baking the apples is delicious drizzled onto French toast.
For the apple butter:
- 7 apples, preferably Gala or Braeburn, stemmed
- 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 1/2 cups (11 oz./310 g) firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) white wine
- 1 1/2 tsp. brandy
- 1/4 tsp. salt
For the muffins:
- 1 1/2 cups (6 oz./185 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (7 oz./220 g) firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) buttermilk
- 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) canola or vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup (3 fl. oz./80 ml) milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 apple, peeled and grated
To make the apple butter, preheat an oven to 450°F (230°C).
In an 8-inch (20-cm) square baking pan, arrange the whole, unpeeled apples in a single layer and add the vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, brown sugar, white wine, brandy and salt. Cover the apples with parchment paper, then cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil.
Bake for 2 hours, then reduce the oven temperature to 250°F (120°C) and continue to bake for 3 hours more. Discard the vanilla bean and cinnamon stick. Spoon the syrup from the pan and set aside for another use. Push the apples through a coarse-mesh sieve or ricer into a bowl. Set aside. Any apple butter you don’t use immediately will keep for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
To make the muffins, increase the oven temperature to 375°F (190°C). Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Add the buttermilk, oil, milk and vanilla extract. Stir until well combined, then fold in the grated apple just until evenly distributed. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, using about 1/4 cup for each muffin.
Bake the muffins until they are slightly cracked on top and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes, then turn the muffins out onto the rack and let cool completely before serving with the apple butter alongside. Makes 12 muffins.
Jason French, Chef/Owner, Ned Ludd, Portland, OR.