Apple-cinnamon muffins for the muffin throwdown!

Spicy and not-too-sweet with a crunchy oat crumb topping, these fruity babies were a hit at the throwdown - we tied!

Spicy and not-too-sweet with a crunchy oat crumb topping, these fruity babies were a hit at the throwdown - we tied!

After many trials and turbulations with blueberry muffins, the big day finally arrived! I really thought I could master something as basic as a blueberry muffin, but obviously I cannot – although I swear I will, someday – and so the day before the throwdown I decided to go with something completely different. No, not the delicious chocolate chip muffin; I was both strongly against the idea of a chocolate chip anything for breakfast and I also suspected Renee might make them – and I preferred baking something different. Enter the apple-cinnamon muffin! After all, what screams breakfast more than the happy marriage of apples and cinnamon? Well, maybe bacon and eggs (I wasn’t going to go that far … although I did experiment with cornbread-sausage muffins, unsuccessfully: a greasy mess later, I was back to working on fruit-only versions…) or pancakes and maple syrup are a bit more commonplace, but you get the idea.

The big draw of this type of muffin was that it lent itself very naturally to a crumb topping, which was so popular with the chocolate-chip muffins. Also, I was happy with the fluffiness of my second batch of blueberry muffins and thought the distribution of apple pieces, rather than a middle layer of fruit I had attempted, would give the muffin cake stability and body.

However, I’m a competitive person, and I knew I needed more than just a good texture to have even a chance to win. Now, I know my audience, and I decided to give them what they wanted so I could win. They are 100% men: men who like butter, sugar, fat, and chocolate … well, and steak and potatoes, but they’re not getting that in a muffin. Game on! Therefore, I tweaked the original Joy of Cooking muffin recipe to use butter instead of the plain yogurt and use more sugar – a lot more sugar, and brown sugar at that – as well as drawing inspiration from a recipe by Emeril Lagasse. The result? A soft, rich-tasting, well-spiced muffin with a crispy crumb top.

Oh – and Renee’s muffin choice? Chocolate-chip. I knew it! But … though I love her cooking dearly, if I do say so myself both this muffin and my chocolate-chip muffin would have beaten hers. Boo-yah! However, since she played to the audience as well – who can resist chocolate, after all – we ended up tying, again. So close! Well, there will be more throwdowns, I’m sure of it….

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • >1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs, free-range if possible
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat buttermilk or skim milk with dash lemon juice
  • 4 Tbsp melted unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup apples, peeled and chopped to a small-medium dice (I prefer gala or pink lady)
  • 2 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp oats (quick oats are fine)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp light brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan or line with muffin wrappers. Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Whisk together the eggs and milk in a second, smaller bowl, then add the melted butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix together until just combined. Fill each muffin cup 2/3 of the way full. To make the crumb topping, mix together the flour, oats, sugar, and cinnamon, then cut in the butter using a pastry blender or two sharp forks. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon on the top of each muffin. Bake for ~25 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove the muffins and cool them completely in rack.

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