The weather in January was so mild that I started to unpack my summer clothes. However, the recent blustery weather and freak snow showers from the tail winds of storm Ciara brought memories of snow chaos in the same period in 2018.
It is a reminder that from a meteorological perspective, it is still winter until the end of February and sometimes the household needs to cosy together and get a little extra lift.
These apple and pecan muffins, pulled together from store cupboard ingredients, might be the answer. The classic combination of apple, cinnamon and pecan is homely and comforting. Washed down with a good coffee, these muffins can give you sustenance to brave the inclement weather.
American-style muffins have a light, moist, coarse texture quite unlike traditional cupcakes. The quick and easy baking method is also quite different, with the wet ingredients simply being mixed into the dry. There is no bicep-building creaming together of butter and sugar required here. The less the final muffin batter is mixed, the lighter the muffins will be.
This no-stress mix also makes them a very realistic proposition for breakfast baking, while still wearing pyjamas and keeping little ones entertained. For breakfast muffins, I often like to use wholemeal flour mixed with plain flour. Wholemeal flour contains more fibre than white flour, and a much greater range of nutrients such as iron, calcium and B vitamins. It also gives the muffins a more complex nutty flavour which works brilliantly with the apple and pecan.
Swap in or add whatever fruit you like into these muffins, but if you use berries (blueberries, raspberries or blackberries), tossing them in flour until lightly coated will stop them diving to the bottom of the mixture.
The pecan topping isn’t essential but it does add a very pleasing crunch to the otherwise light muffin. Muffins are best eaten on the day they are baked. But, if you want to get ahead, it is best to weigh out the ingredients in advance and mix and bake the muffins just before you want to eat them.
I also find that making the batter two to three days in advance works very well and the muffins will still rise. The recipe will make six large muffins (made in cafe style tulip cases) or 12 small ones.
APPLE AND PECAN MUFFINS
Makes six large or 12 small
150g soft brown sugar
150ml natural yogurt
1 egg, lightly whisked
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour (or 125g plain flour and 125g wholemeal flour)
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda (bread soda)
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1 large dessert apple (or 2 medium)
25g pecan nuts
10g soft brown sugar
1 Pre-heat an oven to 180 degrees, fan, or equivalent. Fill a six-hole muffin tray with tulip-size muffin cases (or a 12-hole muffin tray with muffin cases).
2 In a small saucepan over a medium heat melt the butter and add the 150g sugar, stirring until fully combined. Remove from the heat and transfer into a mixing bowl. Allow to cool slightly.
3 Stir in the yogurt, followed by the lightly whisked egg. Add the vanilla extract.
4 Sieve together the flour, bread soda and cinnamon and combine into the wet mixture. Allow the batter to sit for five minutes while you prepare the apples.
5 Peel, quarter and core the apples. Cut the apple into small pieces (a little smaller than dice size). Fold the apple pieces evenly through the batter.
6 Spoon the batter into large tulip cases (fill to at least two-thirds full).
7 For the crunchy tops, chop the pecans and toss together with the 10g brown sugar in a bowl and sprinkle over the top surface of the muffins.
8 Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes for larger muffins. As a cooking guide, they should quickly rise in the first 15 minutes, and then need another 8-10 minutes cooking time after (depending on size) to become golden on the surface and fully cooked on the inside. You can test whether a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
For lower fat muffins, replace a quarter of the butter with the grated
flesh of two extra apples (to retain the moisture). Eat same day.