Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Apple Surprise Muffins

Awhile ago I got an email from a friend that I used to live with and she said that she remembered coming home after class to find that I had been baking weird and random muffins again, which reminded me that I did used to experiment with muffins a lot more. These days I seem to be obsessed with biscuits but muffins are so great for sharing, and a batch doesn't make too many so they are consumed quickly (and not left lying around, tempting me to eat more of them).Though half my muffin recipes are probably closer to cupcakes, I still intend to revisit them all until I have them immortalised on the internet. However, for today I am going with a brand new recipe in my attempt to create true muffins - as in healthy, bread-like muffins without loads of fat and sugar.

Of course, I can never just keep it simple and when it comes to muffins I love to spice them up with a surprise in the middle. This began with the chocolate surprise muffins that my friend's mum always used to make, out of the Alison Holst 'More Marvellous Muffins' cookbook. I have since take this idea and gone a bit wild, like making banana muffins into banoffie muffins and creating a peanut butter and jam muffin. I tried using chocolate sauce as the surprise once but it was too runny and just spread through the mixture, pooled at the bottom and made a huge mess! Today's surprise is a bit of a long story.

You see, ages ago I read (on a food blog, of course) about a spread made out of a type of biscuit that I love. I have seen other blog posts about it since, it seems to be the new fad amongst the kitchen-obsessed. In America it is called Biscoff and in Europe they are Speculoos. Speculoos are a traditional spiced biscuit, like gingerbread but with different spices, and I first tasted one here in Ireland. It is the type of biscuit that they wrap individually and serve you with your coffee at nice bars and cafes. Here they label them 'caramelised biscuits', which does not come anywhere near indicating how delicious they are. I was so taken by them that I immediately looked them up, found out what they were and what they were based on and then adapted a traditional recipe into my own recipe for Christmas cookies. Now they have made the biscuits into a spread and when I had the chance to go to Belgium I managed to pick up a jar of it.

I have been holding onto this for months now, trying to find the best use for it and refraining from eating it all on toast. I considered using it in a frosting, but it is already so sweet on it's own. You could use it as a base for biscuits, in place of some of the butter, and then you would have home-made biscuits that taste just like the commercial ones! But that's not very inventive. I love mixing apple with cinnamon so I have been thinking for awhile of combining this with apple, like as the filling for a layer cake. So finally I have decided on muffins, because they are so shareable (apple cake will come later this month instead, and it will have caramel frosting). Of course, the following recipe could be left plain without a surprise in the middle and still go down a treat, and be healthier. Though if, like me, you absolutely must add something to it there are first of all other options for a surprise filling, like caramel or cream cheese (or cream cheese that you have flavoured with something nice) or a thick custard. Another great idea would be chunks of white chocolate or chewy fudge or toffee. Happy baking, and I hope that your muffins rise nicely (mine often don't, I have the bad habit of likeing to mix things too much!).

Apple Muffins

2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup finely chopped apple (2 small eating apples)
1 egg
1/4 cup oil or butter
1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and grease or line muffin tins. This recipe made me 10 muffins but I think I put too much mixture in each. It should make 12.

Combine all the dry ingredients, sifting the flour and baking powder. I used soft brown sugar but any sort would be fine. Make sure that the apple is chopped up nice and small and then toss that through the flour.

Combine the wet ingredients and lightly whisk (if you are using butter, melt it first).Then pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and gently fold in until the two mixtures are just combined - you should be able to see flour still, but have no major pockets of dry ingredients.

Place a spoonful of mixture in each muffin hole, so that the hole is about half full. Place a spoonful of the 'surprise' inside, if you are making surprise muffins that is. Then top the muffin off with a bit more mixture so that the tin is about 3/4 full.

Bake the muffins at 180 degrees for 20 minutes and then remove from the oven and let them cool about 5 minutes inside the tin. Then take them out so that they can continue cooling (if you leave them in the tin too long they might get a bit soggy).

The verdict for the apple muffins: amazing. Especially after being re-heated in the microwave. But I reckon that came largely from the surprise in the middle. I reckoned that the muffin itself was not sweet enough but that would just be my sweet-tooth taking over again. I think I over-mixed them a little, they weren't quite as light and airy as they should have been, but nobody else notices these things. I don't know what I will do without my speculoos spread, it made such an amazing surprise. Look out next week for more surprise muffins - this time the classic chocolate ones!

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