Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Perfect Muffin

It was an unlikely spot to find the perfect muffin. But it was: The perfect muffin. And we found it in a tiny store-front bakery on the relaxed, touristy Sanibel Island, Florida. This little vacation to stay in the sunny home of some dear friends is the reason I haven’t posted for so long. And then there’s been the recent illness in our family. But we’re back on track. And in order to help cure my sick husband, I went about recreating the perfect muffin that we’d tasted in the Florida sun.

So what made it perfect? In many ways, it was what it was not that made it perfect. It was not a mega-muffin – like those large rounds of sickeningly sweet blueberry or chocolate chip cake that are sold in oversized muffin papers at wholesale stores. (Why don’t they just label them more appropriately as “Unfrosted-prepared-cake-mix” and merchandize mega-tubs of frosting near them?)

The perfect muffin from the Island Bakery was dense but not heavy and had a very tender crumb. Since it was fresh from the oven, the edges were still a bit crispy. Buttery rich aroma wafted up as I took a bite. The muffin was of the Apple Cinnamon variety but it was not too sweet. In fact, it wasn’t very sweet at all; if it were, it would be a cupcake. Only the top was sugary it was smothered in perfectly cooked apples that roasted in the oven to a golden, caramel color. Speaking of caramel, that’s what the sugar that was sprinkled liberally on top did. And the namesake cinnamon? It wasn’t speckled throughout, instead it appeared in little surprise swirls that were ribboned through each bite.

I’m pleased to recount, we got a fairly close reproduction from my own kitchen. I began the muffin making by searching through some old-fashioned basic muffin recipes. Several called for only a few tablespoons of sugar but used oil as the fat. In my recipe, I kept the small amount of sugar but used butter to add richness and wonderful aroma. I also decreased the salt. Making the apple topping wasn’t difficult; making it turn golden instead of into chunky applesauce was. So when in doubt, add more butter. And making those cinnamon ribbons was also a bit of a trick. But my three-year old and I managed with the help of her sister’s baby spoon.

Sugared Apple Cinnamon Muffins
These MUST be eaten warm. If there are leftovers, warm gently before eating.

3 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 tablespoon cold butter
2 cups sifted flour
¼ teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
¼ cup melted butter
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1-2 tablespoons sugar

To make the topping, combine apples and sugar in a saucepan and cook until the apples are tender. Using a wooden spoon, push the apples to the side of the pan and drop in the butter. Melt the butter until it begins to brown. Quickly toss the apples (which will have become slightly golden and crusty as the butter browned) with the butter. Remove from heat.

Sift together the dry ingredients and make a well in the flour mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and milk; continue whisking while adding the melted butter in slow steady stream. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients just until moistened. Divide the batter among 12 muffin cups using a scooper. Sprinkle the muffins liberally with cinnamon and then using a small spoon, make an ‘X’ in each cup to produce ribbons of cinnamon. Top the cinnamon with about a tablespoon of the apple mixture. Sprinkle muffins liberally with sugar. Bake at 400° for 20-25 minutes.


sherrie said...

Hey girl....I love your blog! Hope all is well with you.

Tootie said...

I live at Sanibel and have never tried these muffins! I must make a run over to Tahitian Gardens and get one. Thanks for the tip. I'm also taking your recipe to try. Thanks! :-)

mommamia said...

So I'm reading your blog and copying down your recipe ...instead of getting my props and talking points ready for tomorrow's Fox spot. You are now officially Teaspoon's dessert recipe developer!! :)