Oh hi there! I feel like I've been lagging behind on my posting again, but life has gotten in the way, as it always does. Nothing serious has happened, so there's no reason to be alarmed, but just lots of silly things. Silly things like spending an awesome Saturday afternoon getting lost in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of my all time favorite places ever, only to end the day's adventure with a really, really, really disappointing meal at a Greek restaurant. It looked promising, as the appetizers that were ordered were so delicious, but I realized when I got my entree that I've actually had better much better food off a food truck (I LOVE food trucks, by the way)...my food was just awful. Then, on Sunday I drove myself into an Italian food coma by eating way too many fried calamari and slices of grandma pizza and other appetizers, in addition to an enormous bowl of prosciutto and shrimp pasta (a bowl so enormous that it could probably have fed two and a half people. Ok, I obviously didn't eat the whole bowl. I was hardly able to make a dent in it). I don't normally follow such excessive means of eating, but this was a birthday celebration, so it felt appropriate. Following this massive meal came a much needed nap, and then the finale of Breaking Bad, my all time favorite show. I won't discuss the episode, in order to avoid ruining it for those who haven't seen it yet (...do these people even exist?), but I will say that I am certainly going to be feeling a major void in my Sunday nights from now on. I'm sure that once The Walking Dead comes back on, I'll feel a little bit better, but only a little bit. Breaking Bad just cannot be replaced. Monday was boring and nothing exciting happened. Then Tuesday, I had jury selection. Let's just say that it was as dreadful as I thought it would be, the trial itself could have been interesting, but I just got a major headache at the end and wanted to go home. Fortunately, I wasn't selected and am officially exempt from further jury duty service for the next six years. Hooray!
The events I just described aren't major (maybe jury duty is), and I consider them to be somewhat silly excuses for not staying on top of things around here. The truth is, I really have been a bit busy in more serious respects. I've been trying to find a full time job (my first "real" job) in an architectural or other creative type of setting, and I'll be perfectly honest and say that it's been toughhh. I've written more cover letters than I can keep track of, I'm checking my email constantly, and have been working on tweaks for my portfolio in whatever spare moments I have. The process sucks, and I'm doing my best to keep positive by exercising and baking as often as possible (oh, the irony...) in order to get my mind focused on other things for short periods of time. Fortunately, the new season has arrived, and I've fully embraced the changes that come with it, especially for those changes that will get to take place in my kitchen. There's a big jug of cider in my fridge, I've already started planning my first ever apple picking expedition, and I've started pulling out all my scarves and sweaters. I'm ready for baking tons of fall goods, despite the unusually warm weather right now (temperatures were near 80 degrees yesterday). Regardless of the weird weather, my cravings for warm spiced flavors are only growing as the days go by.
I think fall might be my favorite season for baking. For me, there's just nothing that can beat the smell of a freshly baked apple pie, or the warmth that comes with eating anything that's been doused with cinnamon and nutmeg and all other sorts of deliciously fragrant spices. Apple cider is something else that I can't seem to get enough of once fall arrives, which is surprising because I don't really like apples on their own all that much. When they're transformed into other dishes, I absolutely love them, so it's no shocker that I happen to enjoy baking with real apple cider. Having made a batch of Glazed Apple Cider Doughnuts last fall, I knew I wanted to go ahead and use cider again this year. I was feeling particularly lazy last Sunday afternoon, and I knew that whatever I decided to make with my cider had to be something simple, and doughnut muffins fit the bill perfectly.
Doughnut muffins are really fantastic little treats to make. They're perfect for those occasions where you are craving little doughnut holes/Munchkins/whatever you want to call them and muffins (wait, you mean you don't get those cravings...?). They're exactly the thing to make when you're in that ambivalent state of being. Muffin? Or doughnut? The easiest solution is to simply make both at once and be done. I find it so bizarre that these little mini muffins actually manage to have a real doughnut-like texture to them, yet not bizarre enough to make me think twice about making them. You'll think that you're eating real doughnut holes, except that these are baked, and require so much less work. They have the flavor of hardcore doughnuts with the simplicity of muffins. They're really the best of both worlds. These muffins are baked, then brushed with warm melted butter and rolled around in lots of cinnamon sugar. The cinnamon sugar is what really takes these doughnut muffins to a whole other level of imitation doughnut perfection. An apple cider or vanilla glaze would also be a great alternative, if you're more of a glaze person than a cinnamon sugar person. For me, the more cinnamon sugar that's in a recipe, the better, especially when it's being paired with fresh apples and cider, right?
These doughnut muffins are a cinch to prepare. I chose to mix them up in my stand mixer, but you could easily get away with making this with a hand mixer, or even with nothing more than a wooden spoon. Do a little bit of planning ahead when you choose to make this recipe, as you will need about a half hour to reduce the apple cider and then let it cool. These muffins are loaded with freshly grated apples, as well as loaded with deep flavor from the brown sugar and all the spices. These little doughnut muffins are moist and fluffy, have a hint of apple flavor, are definitely doughnut-y, and are a fantastic way to welcome the new season (should it decide to actually feel like fall anytime soon...). They're loaded with chunks of apple, warm spiced flavors, and an uncanny doughnut texture. Their cinnamon sugar topping brings these donut muffins to a whole other level, one that I highly recommend you go about experiencing yourself. You'll be glad you did once you pull them out of the oven and begin rolling them in butter and sugar, as the smells in your kitchen will be simply amazing. I am officially welcoming the arrival of fall with these little guys, and I hope to be back really really soon with a new post. I gotta get back in the swing of things! Enjoy!
Mini Apple Cider Doughnut Muffins
recipe adapted from King Arthur
For the Muffins
1 cup apple cider
3 whole cloves
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
2 small apples, peeled and grated
For the Cinnamon Sugar Topping
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Lightly grease mini muffin tins with non-stick spray.
In a small saucepan set over medium heat, combine the apple cider and whole cloves. Cook the cider until it reduces to 1/4 cup, about 20 minutes. Discard the cloves, and allow the cider to cool.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and set aside.
In the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, vegetable oil, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until smooth and fluffy, about five minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure to mix completely before adding the next egg. Beat in the vanilla extract.
In a measuring cup, whisk together the reduced cider and milk. Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture alternating with the milk mixture, making sure to begin and end with the flour. Make sure all the ingredients are well incorporated, but take care not to overmix. Stir in the grated apples.
Divide the finished batter evenly among the greased muffin cups (I used a small cookie scoop to ensure uniformity). Bake the mini muffins in the preheated oven for about ten minutes, until they're a pale golden brown and nicely domed. Set the mini muffin tins on a wire rack and allow them to cool on a wire rack for a few minutes.
While the muffins are cooling, stir together the granulated sugar and cinnamon to make the cinnamon sugar topping. When the muffins are cool enough to handle, use a pastry brush to brush them all over with melted butter. Dip the buttered muffins into a bowl of cinnamon sugar, and toss to coat evenly. I found this easiest to do while wearing plastic gloves, and reserving one hand for buttering the muffins, and the other for tossing them in sugar. Repeat with the remaining muffins, and enjoy!
Makes about 3 1/2 dozen mini muffins