Apple Streusel Muffins

When I was a kid, apple picking was one of my favourite school field trips. I remember jumping off the yellow school bus, wearing an ill-fitting, bright-coloured pinny so everyone knew which group we were with, and running into the orchard, trees laden with bright red apples. You were allowed to fill up your bag and eat as many apples as you liked while you were there. McIntosh were my favourite, until I overdid it one year. Nothing tastes better than a sweet, crisp, just-picked apple — until you eat 6 or 7 in a row. It was not a pleasant bus ride back.

I got a crash course in apples a few years back, when I was working as a journalist for the Canadian Broadcasting Corportaion (CBC). It was a slow news day and my producer, Nathalie, sent me to a nearby apple orchard to do live reports for Homerun, the CBC Radio afternoon show in Montreal (88.5FM — a shameless plug for my CBC friends, who are awesome!) While there, I learned that McIntosh apples are not the best apples to bake with because they tend to break down pretty quickly when cooked — which makes them perfect for applesauce. Cortland apples, on the other hand, are a great apple to bake with because they do not brown when they’re cut and hold their shape really well. The Lobo variety is also great for cooking and baking. I almost always use Cortland and Lobo apples when I bake because they are a little tart and really hold up well in recipes.

This apple muffin is moist and flavoured with all the traditional autumn spices — cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. But, the best part of this muffin is the streusel topping. Don’t skip it — it’s crunchy and delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 6 apples, peeled and grated  (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup sour cream or plain Greek yoghurt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cloves

For the topping:

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cups oats
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp flax seeds (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F and line a muffin tin with paper baking cups.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, butter, sour cream, vanilla and brown sugar. Stir in the grated apples. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir together all the dry ingredients.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined.
  5. Spoon the batter into the paper-lined muffin tin.
  6. For the topping: In a small bowl, stir together all the topping ingredients. Sprinkle the topping over the muffins.
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out clean.

*Yield: 12 large muffins

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Peach & Almond Coffee Cake

One of the first cakes I ever made was a coffee cake.  A few girlfriends and I were getting together to watch the much-anticipated season premiere of Beverly Hills 90210, and I decided we needed cake!  I’m still pissed that Brenda and Dylan broke up, but the cake was delicious and made everything ok. Coffee cake is perfect for beginners because it’s pretty foolproof and forgiving. What’s great about this recipe is that it’s very versatile — you can use almost any combination of fruit and nuts you like.  I love the combination of peaches and almonds, but pecans would also be great in this streusel topping.  You can also replace the peaches with apples, cherries or mixed berries.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream or plain Greek yoghurt
  • 1/2 cup canned sliced peaches, well-drained

Streusel topping:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds

Glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2-4 tbsp milk

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 9 inch tube pan with non-stick spray.
  2. In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
  3. Make the streusel: In a small bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and almonds.  Using a pastry cutter — or your fingertips — cut in the butter until the mixture resembles large, coarse crumbs.  Set aside.
  4. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy.
  5. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until fully incorporated.
  6. Next, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the sour cream.  Mix until just combined.
  7. Spoon half the batter into the prepared pan.
  8. Arrange the peach slices on top of the batter.
  9. Spoon the remaining batter on top of the peach slices in an even layer, making sure the peaches are entirely covered.
  10. Sprinkle the streusel over the top of the batter.
  11. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in centre of cake comes out clean.
  12. Allow cake to cool completely before removing from pan and drizzling with glaze.
  13. For the glaze: whisk together the powdered sugar and the milk.  Drizzle over the cooled coffee cake.

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