Baking on Saturday afternoons has become a weekly ritual. After working on my computer from my couch all week, I like to be up on my feet on the days in between. Reaching high for bags of flour, plucking spices from the rack, grabbing my camera and hopping up onto the chair for an overhead shot, trying not to step on Cookie on the way down—it’s a dance of sorts.
I’m getting steadier in my steps and also in my substitutions. Following recipes to a T is not my forté. I find a concept I like and a recipe that seems prime for adaptation, and switch things up as I go along. I’m learning what to swap for what, what can be added freely and what must be compensated by a reduction in another ingredient.
A few weekends ago, I got to thinking about those glorious gala apples in my fridge and how badly I wanted to bake with them. I decided to make apple muffins—I envisioned hearty, moist oatmeal muffins studded with red-skinned apple bits and flecked with cinnamon. I skipped a trip to the UPS store and stayed home to bake.
I searched through my evernote account and came across this oatmeal blueberry muffin recipe by Joy the Baker. Her recipe called for apple sauce, which seemed like a perfect match for apple muffins. Joy called them “surprisingly moist and delicious”, and from a girl with “the utmost respect and admiration for butter and fat”, I knew I’d found a winner. Joy never steers me wrong.
I dialed up Ella Fitzgerald on my old iPod and commenced my Saturday baking ritual. I was out of regular milk so I couldn’t make buttermilk, but I did have leftover coconut milk. I squeezed lemon juice into the coconut milk like I would for buttermilk and it seemed to have a similar reaction.
It was a game day; I looked out the window and watched traffic build on Boyd Street. I traded the brown sugar for Muscovado sugar, which I had picked up the weekend before at West Side Market in Cleveland. I chopped apples while empathizing with Ella’s sad tomato, Hannah the busted Valentine. I sprinkled cardamom and ginger into the batter; slightly exotic spices seemed like a good match for coconut.
I divvied up the batter into my muffin tin as I noticed a steady stream of crimson-clad OU fans walking toward Campus Corner and the stadium. Game time approaching, it was time to sell parking. I set the timer and Cookie and I skipped downstairs. Twenty minutes later, I went upstairs and brought warm muffins down to my friends. They got thumbs up and approvals all around.
I found that the muffins tasted even better the next day. They’re pretty big muffins—not jumbo-sized like the processed muffin monstrosities you find at coffee shops—but big enough to eat for breakfast with peanut butter, coconut butter or apple butter. Mmm, butter.
I know that your kitchen may not be stocked with coconut milk, coconut oil and Muscovado sugar, so feel free to substitute with the ingredients in parentheses. But please, dance along to Ms. Fitzgerald’s sweet jazz as you bake. It’s an experience.
- 1¼ cups whole wheat flour
- 1¼ cups old-fashioned oats
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon cardamom
- ⅛ teaspoon ginger
- 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
- ½ cup light coconut milk with the juice of half a lemon (or low fat buttermilk)
- ½ cup packed muscovado sugar (or brown sugar)
- 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil (or vegetable/canola oil)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 small Gala apples, chopped into small pieces
- turbinado (raw) sugar and nutmeg, for sprinkling on top
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Line a 12 cup muffin tin with muffin wrappers or spray with nonstick cooking spray. My non-stick muffin tin works so well I didn't need either.
- In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cardamom and ginger.
- In a medium bowl combine applesauce, buttermilk, sugar, oil, egg and vanilla extract.
- Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in your applesauce mixture. Stir until just moist.
- Fold in the chopped apples. Fill muffin cups ⅔ to ¾ full.
- Sprinkle raw sugar and a light dusting of nutmeg on top of the muffins.
- Bake for 16-18 minutes. Since these muffins contain fresh fruit, they will spoil more quickly than regular muffins. Try storing them in the refrigerator if you don't intend to finish them within a day or two, or store them in the freezer for longer-term storage.