Creativity is not my strong-suit. I know, as a baker, surely I’m really creative, right? Wrong. My favourite part of baking wedding cakes is the baking, not the frosting and decoration – that’s the part where I stress and fidget because I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing! But baking, that’s the easy part!
So when, after years of baking I get sick of the same old recipes, and Pinterest fails to impress me, I force myself to be creative – I say creative, it’s more like using my mental capacities to think rather than create. So, I pick a baked good, either a cake, muffins, slice or tart (etc.), and consider some basic, golden flavours. In this instance I chose muffins – simple, quick, crowd-pleasers. Similarly crowd-pleasing is apple and cinnamon muffins. Great – that’s a good place to start. But apple and cinnamon is boring – don’t get me wrong, it’s classic. But that’s the issue, it’s overdone because it’s classic. So then, get thinking – what else works with apple? How can I make this slightly more exciting? And I go through the motions until I find a combination I’m happy with that will both work and be tasty.
And that’s how we get here, to Caramel Apple Muffins. The thought is simple, but the result is brilliant!
Caramel Apple Muffins
250g self-raising flour
65g caster sugar
65g brown sugar
3 apples, peeled, cored and roughly diced
120ml vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
For the caramel:
1/2 cup brown sugar
- Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced and line a 12-hole muffin tray with small muffin cases, or 6-8 holes with larger muffin cases. Set aside.
- Start with the apples: place chopped pieces into a medium saucepan with about 1/4 cup of water. Simmer over medium heat, stirring regularly to prevent sticking. Cook until the apples are soft, but not mushy. Set aside to cool.
- Now make the caramel: melt the butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally until sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool.
- Sift flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugars and stir well with a spatula or large spoon.
- Combine oil, egg and buttermilk in a large jug, and pour into the dry ingredients. Stir carefully until the mixture begins to come together – stop mixing! Add the apples and stir until the apples are just combined. You still want some floury bits in the mixture at this point. The key with muffins is not to over mix the batter – you don’t want it to look smooth like a cake batter, but lumpy and floury instead. I know it sounds strange, but believe me, it’s what you want for muffins!
- Finally add the caramel, giving the mixture about 3 stirs, just to distribute the caramel – again, make sure the mixture isn’t too well combined.
- Spoon into small muffin cases and bake for 15 minutes or until golden and springy to the touch.
- You can use whatever apples you like, but the best ones are cooking apples like Granny Smith, Jonathan or Macintosh apples.
- I’ve used a very basic caramel sauce method. If you’d like to make a thicker, richer caramel sauce, try this recipe.
- When it comes to mixing muffins, you don’t want a smooth, well combined batter. Instead, you want a lumpy, floury, fairly ugly mixture! So it’s best to limit mixing as much as possible, and as Nigella says, don’t worry if there are floury clumps as you spoon the mixture into the cases – it will bake fine.