Apple Cinnamon Muffins

The past few weeks have been a haze of grading papers, tough conversations, and long walks beneath autumn streaked trees. I was at the doctor's office recently and received discouraging news, the words painting a picture of a long road ahead. I am fine right now—healthy, even—but it might not be that way forever.

We all are faced with the unknown that is our future. None of us know how much time we have left. It is something that we all grapple with, in some way or another, at some point in our lives. It is easier for us to push aside the unknown as a problem for another day. We make plans when the future is not promised: this is our paradox. There are too many variables in the future, too many unknowns, too many directions the story could go. The unpredictable nature of the future is what allows us the freedom to distance ourselves from it. 

It feels different, though, when you are given a glimpse of that future. When you know, with some semblance of certainty, what type of elements that future will hold. Instead of feeling like a source of relief, the knowledge becomes a chain. I feel shackled to a fate I did not imagine for myself, but now carries my name. The chain is still new to me, which is why it weighs so heavily on my mind right now. I know the significance will fade over time, as all things do. Soon this knowledge will be absorbed into the narrative of my life; it will become just another part of me. 

At the moment, I am in the middle of the adjustment period, coming to terms with what has changed and what has not. My day-to-day life is identical, but I now see the world with a new pair of eyes. I have had the tough conversations—with myself, with the man I have been dating for six years. I have confronted the idea of the family I imagined for myself through this altered lens. I don't have all the answers to the difficult questions life has posed. I am not sure the questions even have answers. 

I have spent some time in the kitchen lately, using baking as an outlet for equal parts thought and distraction. With my attention elsewhere, the cakes and cookies emerge from the oven inedible. The recipes are scattered, as I skip over important steps and fumble over ingredient amounts. Fortunately, it is the methodical, scripted process that I need right now—the swift leveling of a cup of flour, the tension of stirring a thick batter with a wooden spoon—and not the finished product. 

I wondered whether I should share this here, whether I should keep my thoughts and feelings to myself and tell you a happy story about walking beneath autumn streaked trees instead of the reality of the tough conversations. But then I reminded myself these two stories are intertwined: a cause and effect, a circular chain of events that has evolved from the last few weeks. Writing is a source of therapy, the release of feeling into words, a way to share the joy and pain of our lives.

A few days ago, I pulled a pan of these sweet, cinnamon-scented muffins from the oven. When I took my first bite, I was surprised to find I had created something truly delightful. After weeks of tossing pan after pan into the bin, it felt wonderful—a tremendous relief—that something had come out of the oven right. I would like to believe these muffins represent more than the sum of their parts, that in some way they speak for a positive change in me. 

May these muffins represent only joy for you, dear friends. Enjoy.

Apple Cinnamon Muffins are a simple breakfast staple scented with warm spices. Diced apples are sautéed in butter and sugar until softened. The apples are folded into a spiced batter, topped with a thin apple slice, and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar before baking. The exposed apple slice turns chewy, like a dried apple, which contrasts nicely against the tender crumb of the muffin. Serve for breakfast or an afternoon snack alongside a hot cup of coffee or tea.  

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Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Yields 6 large or 12 standard sized muffin

Apple Muffins
1/4 cup (50 grams) melted butter, divided
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons boiled cider, optional
2 medium apples (170 grams), peeled and diced
1/2 cup (100 grams) brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (180 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (177 ml) milk

Cinnamon Sugar Topping
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Thinly cut apple slices, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

In a frying pan, combine 1 tablespoon butter, granulated sugar, boiled cider, and diced apples. Sautée over medium heat until apples have softened, about 5-8 minutes. Set aside.

For the apple muffins, stir the remaining melted butter and brown sugar until uniform in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the egg and vanilla. Gradually add the dry ingredients (cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, salt, all-purpose flour) alternatively with the milk and stir until smooth. Stir in the sautéed apples. Set aside.

For the cinnamon sugar topping, stir together the sugar and cinnamon  in a small bowl. Set aside.

Divide batter evenly between liners, filling each approximately 3/4 full of batter. Top each with a thinly cut apple slice. Sprinkle evenly with cinnamon sugar topping. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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Kristin Rosenau

Photographer, writer, and baker of all things sweet.

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