This weekend, I attended my second Atlanta wedding. It seems pretty amazing to me that we’ve lived here a little over a year and have already made friends so close we’re being invited to witness these important milestones. For this particular wedding, the bride and groom scrapped the idea of a fancy cake and asked their friends to make homemade pies for the reception. Since two of my closest Atlanta friends enjoy baking as much as I do, we decided to work together.
We made apple crumble pies and pecans pies, knocked back a few pumpkin ales, and tried our best to pretend that fall has arrived…even though afternoon temperatures are still in the mid-80s. We nibbled on dough scraps and apple slices, laughed a lot, and had the kind of good, challenging conversation that only seems to happen when everyone’s got a task in front of them.
In my experience, conversing in the kitchen is a bit like talking in the car. As long as you’re looking at the road (or, in this case, your cutting board), you’re more inclined to say things that you might otherwise keep to yourself. Maybe it’s because a moving car allows no escape, or maybe it’s because cooking is so comforting and intimate. Perhaps it’s simply because–in both scenarios–you don’t have to look the other person in the eye. Either way, I find that the best conversations happen in the kitchen. This Friday was no exception.
I was assigned to peel apples, which was the perfect amount of mindless and methodical to lull me into spilling my guts to my girls. I got so carried away chatting that I peeled far more apples than we actually needed. So I went home lighter in spirit, but weighed down by a Ziploc bag full of whole, peeled apples. The bare fruits languished in the fridge for a few days until I tried to eat one. A single bite and I could tell they were starting to go.
I’m my mother’s daughter. Therefore, the final destination of these poor, naked apples was not the garbage disposal, but a baking experiment! I considered loaves of spiced apple bread, but “quick” breads take forever to bake and I always struggle to know what “done” looks like in a loaf pan. Muffins seemed like a good compromise.
I also knew that if Anthony was going to eat my experimental muffins, they would need to be healthy enough for him to grab one for breakfast or snack. I combed books and the internet for low-fat and low-sugar muffin recipes, and found a few that seemed promising. Based on what I had in the pantry, I combined aspects I liked from each recipe and made a double batch. (Daring, I know, but I had a lot of peeled apples!). The result was surprisingly good: flavorful, moist, lightly sweet muffins that are tasty enough to entice, but healthy enough to leave you feeling (mostly) guilt-free.
After a few days, only eight of the twenty-four muffins I baked are still standing. I guess I’ll take that as a “thumbs up” from my discerning (and hungry!) husband.
The moisture and flavor of these muffins comes from grated apple. You can use any kind you like—I used a mix of Granny Smith and Gala. Feel free to peel the apples before you grate, or not. It doesn’t matter.
I would not recommend using Greek yogurt for this recipe. The high protein content in Greek yogurt tends to make baked goods tough, particularly ones like this that don’t have lots of sugar and fat to tenderize them.
Apple-Oat Muffins with Cranberries & Pecans
Makes 12 muffins.
2 cups grated apple (about 2 medium-large apples)
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2/3 cup toasted pecans, chopped
2/3 cup dried cranberries (or raisins)
1 cup plain yogurt
¼ cup milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat the oven to 375 degrees, and move the oven rack to the middle position.
Take a small handful of grated apple, squeeze it over the sink until most of the liquid is gone, and then place it in a clean bowl. Repeat with the rest of the grated apple.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add spices and stir to incorporate, then add the pecans and dried cranberries and stir again.
In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Add the grated apple, and stir until well combined. Pour dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir until just incorporated.
Divide the batter evenly into a 12-cup muffin tin coated with nonstick cooking spray. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Allow muffins to cool for 5 minutes before removing them from the tins.
Enjoy warm, or allow to cool completely and store in tupperware or ziploc bags for up to a week.