In my experience, things never go as they “should.” They go as they will. They never go as you imagine them – in fact I’m 100% convinced that once I imagine something going in a specific way, it will inevitably NOT end up that way….almost because I could imagine it to be so. Instead, things seem to go better than I imagined. Not always at first; in fact typically only after a period of measured angst, uncertainty, preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. But it always seems to work out – as it will – and as I would want it to be (whether I knew it or not) in the end.
I’ve been in one of these periods of limbo lately; somewhere between the way I imagine things working out, knowing that they won’t work out that way, and trying not to imagine a next-best-case scenario. Trying not to think about it at all, actually, in fear that I may accidentally imagine away all the best case scenarios (as if a worst case scenario is the punishment for pondering mind fully.)
This truly has been a strategy in these first weeks of the year, as I’ve followed suit with all of you, looking at life/work/play/myself with somewhat of a clean slate. I’ve thought a lot about best case scenarios, and how the less I struggle with the possible bad, the more the infinite good seems to fall into my lap. Just exactly one year ago this week, I stopped torturing myself with where to live, what to do next. As soon as I stopped writhing with anxiety about whether I was making a wrong decision, the right one appeared. Conversely, as I was working on this delicious project, I didn’t think at all about the potential bad –is there really a potential bad when your work is cookies? Instead, I knew that our formula, our approach, could only get BETTER. And now, having this gem out to you all so you can teach me how you want to use it in your adventures, pursuits, and explorations is THE BEST. These Apple + Pecan Crumble Muffins came about in a similar way.
My little brother has a penchant for choosing excellent gifts. For the holidays, he sent me this absolutely beautiful book by Diana Henry filled with warming winter recipes inspired by some of the most iconic and inspiring winter landscapes in the world. Reading through them, cozied up while the snow fell outside was better than reading a novel with regards to warming the soul, and every other page ended up with a colorful sticky tab so I could return to it later. The Sour Cream Apple Pie Muffins were the first thing I opened to when I woke up early to make us breakfast the other morning.
Admittedly, I cringed a bit when I read through the directions. There is a specific method for mixing muffins and cakes; a technique whose details you learn in culinary school but might not pick up on otherwise. It’s called “folding” because you literally fold dry ingredients into a wet mix so that you don’t have any limps in your muffins or cupcakes. This method also keeps the crumb of the muffins light and crumby ( instead of hockey puck like.) the mood to mix these muffins was NOT like this and skepticism grew in me as I prepared my ingredients. Bitter, brown sugar, pecans, apples…was there really a worst case scenario here?
That first batch was pretty spectacular. The boys woke up to caramelizing sugar smells, and we slathered apple butter on the warm muffins, cozied up to our dining room table – waking slowly – as the grey morning turned orange then pink then blue. The next batches have been even better as I’ve made the recipe my own. Though I’ve modified the ingredients a great deal, I haven’t changed the method for mixing. As it turns out, this wayward journey was one worth taking. (Again, as they always are if we keep our minds open.)
So – these muffins. My culinary professors would scold me in saying to mix the wet ingredients into the dry. You could use a bowl and spatula to mix them up (which is excellent for early mornings when you don’t want to wake the whole house!) but you could also use a food processor fitted with the dough blade which would be quick, and you then don’t have to attend to the dry ingredients that will inevitable be unmixed at the bottom of the bowl. I swapped out full fat greek yogurt for the sour cream in the original recipe. Whatever you do, don’t try to skimp on the fat in the yogurt; your muffins will end up more like hockey pucks. My recipe also contains some whole grain wheat flour; I imagine that spelt, or rye would also be pretty excellent.
Unlike other muffins you’ve made, you aren’t going to be able to pour this batter into the muffin cups, instead I use a small ice cream scoop or spoon and put a dollop of batter into the bottom of the cup, I flatten it with the back of the spoon, sprinkle a bit of pecan sugar on top, then dollop more batter on top, and finish with a sprinkle of pecans. We’ve been baking these in muffin cups because they’re more portable this way, but you could absolutely bake the entire batch in a loaf pan and have apple + pecan crumble bread; just line the loaf pan with parchment and bake for a bit longer, roughly 50-60 minutes depending on your oven.
I hope these find their way into your regular breakfast rotation, as they have for us. As usual, I can’t wait to hear how you’ve been mixing them up and making the, your own, though I’m not even going to imagine it as that might (*might*) detract from all of the best possible outcomes. More soon, -xo L
- 1 1/4 cups raw pecans, chopped coarsely
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground cinnamon
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 9 oz chopped fresh apple (roughly 1 1/2 medium apples)
- 1 cup 2% greek yogurt (not non-fat)
- 4 tablespoons whole milk
- 1 egg, beaten
- Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line the cups of a muffin tin w/paper liners (roughly 14-16 muffins.)
- Mix together the nuts, sugar and spice in a small bowl. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, and baking powder. With your fingers, rub in the butter until the mixture looks like coarse sand. With a rubber spatula, mix in the sugar, salt and apples until well combined. Lastly, in a large bowl, whisk together the milk, yogurt and egg. Now, you'll combine the dry and wet mixes.
- In the large bowl containing the yogurt mixture, add 1/3 of the apple mix, stirring with a spatula until just combined. Then, add another 1/3 of the apple mix, again mixing until just combined. Repeat with the last 1/3 of the mix, stirring until the batter doesn't have any dry patches and is combined but not over mixed.
- Now, you'll layer the batter and pecan sugar into each muffin cup. Scoop a heaping tablespoon into the bottom of each muffin cup. Divide the pecan + sugar mixture in half, and sprinkle one half into each muffin cup. Then, cover with the remaining batter. Lastly, sprinkle the remaining pecan sugar over the muffins.
- Bake until a skewer inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean, roughly 20 minutes. Allow to cool in the muffin tin for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack. Serve while warm with the almond butter, apple butter, salted butter...whatever you like!