I’m a big fan of muffins. They’re easy to transport, hard to screw up, and allow for endless flavor variations. Even though I adore breakfast food, I rarely give that particular meal proper respect during the week because my mornings are crazy and I don’t get hungry until around 10am. So for me breakfast has to be something that will survive in my bag for a couple of hours during my morning subway commute and grocery shopping, and I need to be able to nibble it while running around the kitchen at work. Muffins are the perfect solution. And really, who doesn’t love a good muffin?
This particular muffin is bursting with apple and cranberry – two of my favorite Autumn ingredients – and hits all the marks for a relatively nutritious breakfast on the go with protein, healthful fats and a good dose of fiber. It’s slightly sweet with a nice pop of tartness from fresh cranberries, and the crunchy streusel topping contributes a lovely textural contrast to the moist and hearty muffin base (which, by the way, doesn’t have any of that typical GF graininess because I always use Bob’s Red Mill’s excellent finely ground flours). And these muffins aren’t just great for breakfast, they also make for a delicious and satisfying afternoon snack or post-workout refuel.
Let’s talk apples for a moment. Did you know that there are upwards of 40 apple varietals in stores these days? Of course it depends on where you live, but for most people the choices now go way beyond Red Delicious, Fuji, Macintosh and Granny Smith. I’m picky about apples, particularly when it comes to texture – I find some of the standards to be mealy and grainy and that’s not what I want in an apple. I also prefer my apples with some tartness so flavor factors into my preferences as well. My favorites in no particular order are: Mutsu, Pippin, Cameo, Jonagold, Cortland, Pinata, and Pink Lady. None of them are cloyingly sweet (Pippins are the most tart of the bunch), and they’re all appropriate for both eating raw and baking/cooking so I don’t have to buy separate apples for different uses. The apple variety you use in your muffins is completely up to you, though I recommend choosing one that’s on the crisp/firm side and not too juicy so the chunks hold their shape and some texture when baked. In addition to the raw apple these muffins also get healthy doses of applesauce and apple cider, because if you’re going to make apple muffins, you should go for maximum apple-ness. (I made that up, but I think it works.)
Okay, apple discussion over. Onto the recipe…
The streusel doesn’t contain a ton of fat, so the crumb is pretty fine – you won’t have a lot of big chunks aside from any pieces of nuts that you may have left on the larger side when chopping.
Here’s the batter ready to be scooped into the muffin tin. Look at all those chunks of apple and cranberry! Use a cookie scoop or ¼ cup measure to spoon the batter into the wells.
You’re going to fill the wells pretty much to the top. See how full these are? Now bang the pan against the counter several times. Don’t be shy about it – you need to release any trapped air and make sure the fruit is tightly ensconced in the batter. Please make sure you do this BEFORE adding the streusel. Trust me on this. Even if you think you’re doing it “carefully” you’ll wind up with streusel all over the place. Don’t ask me how I know that.
Be generous with the streusel – you’ll have plenty – and press gently to make sure it adheres to the batter in each well. When you pull the muffins from the oven, set the full pan on a cooling rack and leave it for about 10 minutes to let the muffins set up. Then remove them and place them directly on the rack to cool completely. I know it’s tempting to break one open right away, but leave them alone for 20-30 minutes to cool completely or the insides may be a bit gummy. No one wants that.
That is some serious streusel.
Okay you’ve waited long enough. Let’s break one open.
Moist, fluffy, packed with fruit, and downright delicious. Now go bake some muffins!
- For Streusel
- 35 grams (¼ cup) sorghum flour
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 39 grams (¼ cup) coconut sugar or brown sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 56 grams (¾ cup) chopped walnuts or pecans (or combination)
- 22 grams (1 ½ tablespoons) chilled coconut oil or unsalted butter
- For Muffins
- 64 grams (¼ cup) unsweetened applesauce, (I use homemade)
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 90 ml (¼ cup + 2 tablespoons) apple cider or unsweetened apple juice
- 90 ml (¼ cup + 2 tablespoons) milk or dairy-free alternative
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 138 grams (1 cup) sorghum flour
- 58 grams (⅓ cup) brown rice flour
- 68 grams (⅓ cup) sweet white rice flour
- 42 grams (scant ⅓ cup) tapioca starch
- 28 grams (¼ cup) ground flax seed
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon xanthan gum
- ¼ teaspoon fine kosher or sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 117 grams (¾ cup) maple sugar (or substitute coconut or brown sugar)
- 110 grams (½ cup) chilled coconut oil or butter)
- 1 medium crisp apple (6 oz), peeled, cored and diced
- 50 grams (½ cup) fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped*
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a standard nonstick 12-muffin tin with paper muffin liners or grease with coconut oil or butter. If you’re not using liners and your pan isn’t nonstick, grease AND flour the wells.
- Make the streusel: Combine all streusel ingredients in a small bowl, rubbing the mixture between your fingers to incorporate. Set aside.
- Make the batter: Combine applesauce, eggs, apple cider, milk and vanilla in a medium bowl or 2-cup liquid measuring cup and set aside. In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together all dry ingredients (sorghum flour through maple sugar).
- Break the coconut oil or butter into the bowl in small bits, and use your fingers to rub the fat into the flour much the same way you would for a pastry crust. You want to work it in until all the fat is coated with flour and you don’t see any clumps larger than a pea.
- Start the mixer on low speed and slowly pour in the liquid ingredients, increasing the mixer speed to medium-high once all the liquid is added. The batter will be very thick! Once everything is incorporated and the batter looks uniform, turn off the mixer and use a spoon or rubber spatula to fold in the apples and cranberries.
- Bake the muffins: Divide the batter evenly among the wells of the muffin tin - I’ve found that the easiest way to do this is with a 2-ounce (¼ cup) cookie scoop. For each muffin you’ll want to scoop up a generous amount of batter that mounds out of the scoop. I’d estimate that each muffin uses 5-6 tablespoons of batter. Once all the wells are filled, tap the pan firmly on the counter several times to release any trapped air bubbles and make sure the batter really sinks in around the fruit. Scatter streusel evenly and generously over batter, pressing gently to adhere.
- Bake for 25-28 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean or with just a few crumbs clinging to it. Transfer pan to a cooling rack and cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely. The muffins should pop right out of the pan, but you can always use a small offset spatula or flat knife to wedge them out. The muffins will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of days. If you're not going to use them up that quickly, store them in the freezer, not the refrigerator. Frozen muffins will thaw on their own if left out long enough at room temperature, or you can speed it up by heating the oven or microwave (use the defrost setting in the microwave, as rapid heating on high power will make the muffins rubbery). Enjoy!