I posted the full recipe for these muffins in anticipation of getting this post up, however, my day job then became my day and night job, neatly preventing me from doing much of anything else (as I’m sure “Prince Charming” would unhappily attest to if you asked him). I’ve decided not to let that happen anymore (well, I can’t avoid the working late and crazy hours at the moment, but I can decide I’m still going to do the things I enjoy – sleep is optional, right?) so on to the real reason you’re here reading this…
This recipe was inspired by the need to use up some pre-sliced apples that were starting to brown a bit; there weren’t very many of them so many of my normal apple based recipes just weren’t an option. So I decided to get creative and come up with something new. Unfortunately, my creativity used most of my mixing bowls and challenged my limited counter space. But don’t let that stop you from following along – I assure you these are worth all the bowls it took to make them. Grab the recipe and let’s go!
Since you don’t want to leave muffin batter sitting too long, it is best to begin this recipe with some prep work (or, if you like, by preparing the mise en place). Before we do anything else we are going to preheat our oven and prepare our pans. I find it is easiest to work with the paper liners when making muffins but feel free to grease each of those little muffin cups if it makes you happy or you just don’t like the paper liners.
Step 1: Chopping, toasting, dicing
Since I was dealing with pre-sliced apples I decided it was more trouble than it was worth to try to remove the skin, but that is a matter of personal preference. These are going into a standard size muffin so we’ll want a relatively small dice on them. Toss them with our lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg so they are well coated then set them aside (or refrigerate) for later – get used to that now, we’re about to do a whole lot of it!
The next prep piece we are going to tackle is the nuts for the streusel topping.
I didn’t have any toasted pecans on hand, so I needed to start by toasting some nuts. Just toss them into a dry skillet and put them over medium heat. We’ll need to keep these moving and pay close attention, they can go pretty quickly from nice and toasty to black and acrid.
Once our pecans are all nicely toasted we can move them to a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. A few pulses later (this was about 6) and you have some roughly chopped nuts. You could do this by hand if you wanted to, but I do love my kitchen gadgets.
Step 2: Streusel Assembly
I frequently see streusel topping instructions that have you first cut the butter into the flour, then add the other ingredients. I decided to see if I really needed to separate out that step. The answer – at least for this topping – is no.
Here we have all the streusel ingredients in one bowl. I did cut the butter into smaller pieces to make it easier to work with, but that was the extent of my “fussing” with my streusel ingredients. Now, we can grab a pastry cutter, or just use our fingers, to get this all mixed together. I opted for my fingers – some of the best precision tools in the kitchen.
A few minutes later our streusel looks like this. I stashed this in the refrigerator until I needed it so the butter component wouldn’t melt in my rather warm kitchen but a cool corner on your counter top would work just as well.
Step 3: Bowls and more bowls
Stir together the sour cream and the baking soda in a small bowl. Learn from my mistake, choose a larger bowl than this, I needed to switch up later as you’ll see. You’ll also see what the baking soda does to the sour cream a bit later. Set this aside and grab another bowl.
Let’s get the flour and baking powder whisked together. You’re just going to have to trust me, there really is baking powder in there! Now, set that bowl aside and get the bowl for your mixer (or a large mixing bowl if you’re not using a stand mixer).
In go our butter and sugar – we are going to cream these together until they are light and fluffy.
Like this – as usual, don’t forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl (and the bottom if your mixing bowl is like mine and has a raised point that the beater attachment rests on).
Let’s get the egg yolks in there – two at a time. Make sure the first two yolks are mixed in before adding the second two.
Look at that, I remembered to get a picture of the vanilla going in this time. We’re going to mix that in well too.
Now, back over to our sour cream mixture. Can you see all the air bubbles in the sour cream now? That is part of what gives these muffins their light texture. Ok, that’s enough bubble admiration. Add the caramel topping and milk to this and mix gently until it is combined.
In yet another bowl, use a hand mixer to beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar that we didn’t use in our creaming step (1/4 cup) while we continue to beat the egg whites.
Continue to beat them until the are stiff and glossy like these are. Then…you guessed it…set them aside.
Step 4: Bringing it all together.
Go find all those bowls we’ve been setting aside and make sure they are near your mixer, we’re going to start eliminating them now. First we are going to alternate adding the wet (caramel mixture) and dry (flour mixture) ingredients to the mixing bowl…
First the wet…
Then the dry…
Until both sets of ingredients are mixed in and our batter looks like this. It should be thick and pretty sticky at this point.
Now we are going to fold in our egg whites. Start with 1/3 of the egg white mixture. We’ll mix that in any way we can. There is no need to be particularly gentle we just want to lighten up the batter a bit to make it easier to fold in the rest of the egg whites. Once the first addition of egg whites is completely incorporated gently fold in the remaining egg white mixture. We do want to be careful with this second addition; we want to cause as little deflation to those egg whites as we can. If a small amount of white still shows in the batter when we are done that is perfectly acceptable.
And here we have are finished batter, nicely lightened and all ready for our apples (you didn’t think I forgot those did you?)
Dump our apples on top of the batter and gentle fold them in. Remember, we still don’t want to deflate those egg whites we so carefully added to the batter.
Step 5: Assembly line
Finally! we’re down to just two bowls – our completed batter and our streusel topping (go get that from the refrigerator if you haven’t already). Time to get it all in the pans and the pans into the oven.
Fill each muffin tin about 2/3 full. (These are a little fuller than that. Again, I ask you to learn from my mistake – 2/3 full is the way to go.) This batter is thick enough to use a cookie scoop to portion it out. The cookie scoop makes it quicker, easier and cleaner to fill the muffin cups.
Sprinkle the streusel topping over the batter in each cup. We’ll want to get enough on there to cover the entire top of the batter.
Let’s pop our pans into the preheated oven and find something else to occupy the next 16 to 18 minutes while these fill the house with a wonderful caramel apple aroma. I would start at 16 minutes, there are few things worse than an over cooked muffin. Before you remove them from the oven, make sure that a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the muffins comes out with a few moist crumbs on it – if we don’t want them over cooked, we also don’t want raw batter in the middle (although the batter was pretty tasty – I never have gotten over the joy of licking the beaters)
Step 6: Relax and enjoy
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure all those bowls can wait until later to be washed…much later. But these muffins just cannot wait to be eaten.
The butter is entirely optional – the muffins are moist enough to not need it, but I liked the slightly salty creaminess with the sweetness of the muffins. I think it is safe to say that I will never again have to worry or wonder about what I’m going to do with just a little bit of apples that are a smidge past their prime.