These muffins make me want to cozy up in front of a crackling fire, coffee cup in hand, with no immediate plans in my future. This is notable, because most muffins make me want to brush my teeth and drink a gallon of water to offset all of the sugary cake I just ate for breakfast. Sugary cake that, disguised as a passable breakfast food, is going to make me feel nothing but remorse as the day unfolds before me.
To anyone who has been reading this site for even a short amount of time, it should be obvious that I am no stranger to the joys of sugar. However, longtime readers will also know that I am a stickler when it comes to how much sugar I like in my treats, and when I like those treats to enter my day. Whereas there was once a time (age 25) when I could spend the morning grazing on sweet, sticky muffins and never encounter a hint of unpleasantness, I am now fully enmeshed in a different time of life (age 35), when eating traditional muffins for breakfast causes me to suffer a double-punch of migraine plus malaise. The process of aging is so cruel.
These muffins are a perfect example of how my tastes have changed over the years, and how I have gently altered my cooking habits to suit those tastes. Chunks of apple are folded into a lightly maple-sweetened batter that has been plumped up with creamy ricotta cheese and a scoop of whole wheat flour. A sprinkling of cinnamon sugar dusts the top of each muffin, and a crunchy pecan half completes the package. Perfectly toothsome, delicately sweetened, and studded with little surprises of apple in every bite, it’s the perfect muffin to start your day off right, with no lingering regrets.
Last Year: Salsa Roja
Apple Maple Ricotta Muffins Recipe
1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup pure maple syrup (preferably grade B)
2/3 cup milk
1 large egg
½ cup ricotta cheese
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large tart or semi-tart apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch chunks (you should end up with about 1 ½ cups chopped apple pieces)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
heaping ½ teaspoon cinnamon
12 pecan halves
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease the cups of a 12-cup muffin tin, or line the tin with muffin papers.
In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, milk, egg, ricotta, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Stir the apple chunks into the liquid mixture.
Gently stir and fold the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing only until the two are just combined (the batter should still appear slightly lumpy). Over-mixing the batter will result in a tough and chewy muffin.
Evenly divide the matter amongst the 12 muffin cups. Mix together the granulated sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle the top of each muffin with a dusting of cinnamon sugar (you don’t need to use all of the cinnamon sugar; you may have some left over). Place a pecan half on top of each muffin. Bake in the center of the oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until the tops of the muffins are rounded and a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin emerges with just a few moist crumbs attached.
Remove from oven, and allow muffins to cool in tin for at least 10 minutes. Remove muffins to a wire rack to further cool. Best when eaten only slightly warm, or at room temperature.
Makes 12 muffins.