Muffins are my comfort food. So this week as the temperatures dipped into the teens and the snow finally came rolling in (it’s still a blur of white outside the window), I decided to play around with the ingredients of an apple muffin recipe I’ve had since high school.

The original recipe calls for mixing in the buttermilk and apples separately just before turning out the batter into the muffin cups. Recalling an oatmeal cookie recipe that keeps the raisins soft by marinating them in whisked eggs and almond extract, I thought I’d try letting my apple dices take a dip. I wanted them to bathe in flavor so I mixed in the cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon zest too.

I wasn’t done experimenting. I wanted to keep the calories and fat to a minimum in these snowy day treats, so I used Land ‘O Lake Light butter that nixes half the fat of the good stuff (my take: using it in baking is fine, but it’s too stiff for spreading and using in frosting as you would regular butter).

Now for the sugar. I cut part of it, and then replaced it with something I found at my local natural foods grocer, Mustard Seed Market. Coconut sugar. I love the flavor of real coconut anyway. I’m not convinced that there’s any real health benefits from the coconut sugar, the brand is Madhava and it’s organic. It still has 15 calories per teaspoon just like your average table sugar. But what intrigued me was the flavor: kinda a cross between molasses and shredded coconut, the package calls it “a caramelized maple flavor.”

You don’t have to use light butter or coconut sugar in your muffins, but please, do soak the apples!

Recipe

Prep time: 15 minutes

Servings: 16 regular-sized muffins

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

2/3 cup white sugar

1 egg

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups diced apple

1 cup flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or almonds

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)

3 tablespoons ground flax (optional)

Oatmeal

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Peel and dice the apples and then soak them in the buttermilk, cinnamon, and nutmeg (if using) for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, cream the sugar with the butter until it’s light and airy.
  4. Add the egg and mix well.
  5. In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients.
  6. Gently stir the dry ingredients in with the creamed mixture, then add the buttermilk-soaked apples and nuts.
  7. Divide batter in 16 regular-sized muffin cups and top with a few oatmeal pieces.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes or until just browned.
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