It's wonderful to be back home, sleeping in our comfy, familiar bed, cooking in my own little kitchen. We spent last week in New York where I studied French cooking at The Culinary Institute of America, located in Hyde Park. My husband, Scott spent three days at a food photography and styling workshop in New York City.
After being cooped up all last week in the classroom, (not that I minded it one bit) it's also great to spend time outdoors, enjoy some fresh air and wear off some of the abundance of butter and cream that I consumed while studying French cooking. The cuisine of France is not exactly lean or light and of course, I HAD to sample everything! ;)
I took a long bike ride today on the greenway near our home. The sky was a clear, deep, Carolina blue (that's what we call it here - we think that's what God probably meant for it to be called), the air was fresh and cool and I was sailing along, mindful of the path before me, when something caught my eye. I looked up ahead of me and saw the most magnificent sight ...............
............ I happened to be there at just the perfect moment ........... the moment when the wind gently stirred the treetops causing a shower of brilliant colored leaves to begin fluttering through the crystal clear air about twenty yards ahead of me. As they danced and twirled silently in their final glory towards earth, a shaft of sun broke through an opening in the trees. The leaves suddenly began to glimmer and glisten and sparkle like a thousand slivers of dazzling jewels in all shades of yellow, orange and red. The sight was so beautiful it took my breath away. I'm surprised I didn't fall off my bike as I rode spellbound staring at the shimmering performance. I spent the rest of the ride in awe, silently praising our great Creator who, in His kindness, delights us in spectacles like this ............. right in the midst of everyday life.
I guess you can tell ........... I love Fall! I adore the cool crisp weather, the gorgeous scenery............ oh, and the culinary flavors .......... They're amazing and so unique to the season .......... warm spices, crisp apples and pears, squash of every shape, color and size, roasted beets, apple cider, soups and chilies, gingersnaps, pecans, turkey ..............I love it all!
After seeing such a glorious spectacle on my bike ride, I came home with the urge to bake ........... to bake something that reflected what I had just witnessed. I had a big bag of Gala apples and muffins sounded perfect. I took an old faithful, never-fail muffin recipe, added apples and apple-pie-spice, a oatmeal crumb topping and a drizzle of caramel icing.
The aroma as these little gems baked was intoxicating and my chief taste tester (aka husband, aka mouse) concurred that these muffins are moist, tender, full of flavor ......... "perftect" ......... he did have to try two of them, just to make sure .......... but it was for you ............. he was looking out for you, at least that was his excuse.............. And me? Well ............ I tried two also, (for you, of course).
We ate them for dessert but they'd be wonderful for breakfast, a Fall brunch, a midmorning picker-upper, an after school snack, a midnight treat .......... really any time of the day or night!
P.S. Check back for a post by the photographer, highlighting some of the tips and tricks he learned at his workshop.
Apple Pie Muffins w/ Oatmeal Crumble & Caramel Drizzle
Ingredients for the muffins:
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1 large egg
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon apple pie spice*
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup milk
½ cup greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ cups peeled, cored and diced apple (¼ inch pieces) 1 large apple works perfect.
Ingredients for the crumble:
½ stick butter, 2 ounces or 4 tablespoons, melted
½ cup all purpose flour
⅓ cup brown sugar
½ cup oatmeal
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
a pinch of salt
Ingredients for the drizzle:
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar
1. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with baking spray or line with cupcake papers. (I like to use the grease-proof cupcake papers and spray them lightly with baking spray).
2. Prepare the crumble by placing flour, brown sugar, oatmeal, sesame seeds and salt in a medium size bowl. Mix to combine with fork. Add melted butter and continue to stir with a fork until big crumbs form. If mixture is too wet to form crumbs, just add a bit more flour and stir again with fork. Set aside.
3. Beat butter and sugar. Add egg and beat well.
4. Combine milk and Greek yogurt. Combine dry ingredients and add alternately with milk/yogurt mixture beating, or stirring just until combined**. Gently fold in apples.
5. Divide into the twelve prepared muffin cups.
6. Divide crumb mixture over batter.
7. Bake for 5 minutes at 400˚F then reduce heat to 350 and continue to bake another 10 to 15 minutes until springy when gently touched on top. Let muffins sit in pan for 5 minutes, then remove to cooling rack.
8. While muffins are cooling, prepare drizzle; combine brown sugar, butter and milk in a medium size microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds, stir well and return to microwave for another 30 seconds. Add vanilla. While stirring add powdered sugar and mix until smooth and creamy. Mixture should drizzle easily but should not be super 'runny". Add a bit more milk or powdered sugar to adjust thickness.
9. Drizzle icing randomly over muffin tops. Allow to cool and enjoy!
*If you don't have apple pie spice but you have pumpkin pie spice, by all means use the pumpkin and call them Pumpkin Pie Apple Muffins w/ Oatmeal Crumble. :)
** I usually beat the sugar and eggs with my stand mixer until light and fluffy and then add the milk/yogurt mixture and the dry ingredients by hand. With muffins, you don't want to over mix them or they become tough and dry.