Saturday, July 27, 2013

Caramelized Apple Spice Muffins (+ A New Contest!)

(UPDATE, 7.31.2013: Congratulations to commenter #14, Melvin Teal! This RNG site chose you as the winner! Please message us on Facebook with your address or leave a comment on this post-- we moderate  comments and will not publish it, of course. Thanks to all who participated -- we're looking forward to the next TCV contest coming up soon!)

Our buddy Chris at Whole Foods in Memphis gave us a box full of different kinds of new Whole Foods brand spice grinders and mixes to try out, and it's been quite entertaining to dream up a few creative ways to use them in some new recipes this week. These muffins feature the Winter Baking spice mix, which includes sugar, cinnamon, lemon zest, orange zest, allspice berries, cloves, vanilla bean, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Contrary as usual, I decided to use this one in the dead of summer -- you know, why not? And wow, we loved the result -- a nice subtle, warm spiced flavor really complements this light apple muffin. We used a combination of caramelized apples, cinnamon apple sauce, and apple butter to get a complex and layered apple flavor going. (Coming up next, we're going to build a savory recipe with two other spice grinders that have us in brainstorming mode today.)

Caramelized Apple Spice Muffins

1 tablespoon olive oil margarine
2 apples (peeled; finely diced or shredded)
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of sea salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup applesauce
2 tablespoons apple butter
1 egg (beaten)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup flour (we used half all-purpose and half whole wheat pastry flour)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon crystallized ginger
15 turns of the Whole Foods Winter Baking spice grinder

Crunchy Topping (optional):

1/4 cup walnuts (chopped)
15 turns of the Whole Foods Winter Baking spice grinder
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
a pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil margarine

In a medium-sized pot over medium heat, melt the margarine and then add the apples. Stir to combine and then add brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Stir occasionally and add a tablespoon of water once or twice if pan gets too dry. Once apples are caramelized after about 15 minutes, remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients: oil, applesauce, apple butter, egg, and vanilla. Set aside. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Add dry mixture to wet mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in the apples and the crystallized ginger. Using a spring-loaded scoop, scoop a level amount of muffin mixture into pan lined with muffin cups. (Optional step before baking for a crunchy top: mix together the Crunchy Topping ingredients and spoon it on top of each muffin; finish with a 1/2-teaspoon-sized slice of margarine.) Bake for 25 minutes or until tops are golden brown. (Makes 9 muffins.)

NEW CONTEST: Want to try some of the new Whole Foods spice mixes and grinders? You're in luck! We reserved a few for one of you to try in your own kitchen: Citrus, French Soup, Bouquet Garni, and Crystal Pools, a sea salt, lavender, lovage, chamomile, lime leaf, cornflower petal, and tarragon blend. We will mail all 4 out to one winner who lives in the U.S. To be in the running, comment below about how you would use one or more of the spices mentioned in this post, and we'll select (by random number generator on Wednesday evening, 8/1/13) one winner to receive the four products! We moderate comments, so don't be alarmed if yours doesn't show up right away -- it will be posted as soon as we check in.