Chef's Hat: Experience the wonder of apples

Apples liven up dull muffins by adding texture, flavor and a bit of sweetness.

Photo Contributed / Donna Evans

There are thousands of varieties of apples available worldwide, and local stores often carry a dozen or more types.

Apples come in various sizes and can be a bit on the sour side or quite sweet. They can be soft or firm and crunchy. Now is a great time to buy Minnesota apples as they are bursting with flavor.

Apples are also a great source of fiber and chock-full of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, phosphorus and potassium.

When eating apples, the choice of sour, sweet, soft or crunchy comes down to personal preference. But when baking, it is important to pick the right variety of apple as you want an apple that will hold up and not turn to mush, and end up being tasteless when cooked.

One of the traditional go-to baking apples is the Granny Smith. But there are several other choices that have proven their value and will hold up well under heat.


Some common apple varieties. Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

  • Jonagold: This apple is sweet and has a touch of honey flavor. It holds up extremely well when cooked in pies, muffins, cobblers or when used as an apple dumpling. They do not store well so they should be used early in the season.
  • Honeycrisp: This variety was developed in Minnesota, and they are fantastic eating apples. Honeycrisp are crunchy and have a honey-sweet, but slightly tart flavor. They are great for baking and in applesauce.
  • Braeburn: Braeburns are crispy and have a concentrated-type apple flavor. They bake up very juicy without turning into mush. They do have somewhat of an intense flavor. The flavor of this apple combines well with cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • Pink Lady: Pink Lady is an all-time favorite of many people. It has a delicate balance of both sweet and tart flavors. This is another great apple to use in baking and combines well with cinnamon and ginger.

Apples liven up dull muffins by adding texture, flavor and a bit of sweetness. However, muffins can become dry, lifeless and leathery in texture. For perfect muffins, remember the following tips.

  • Don’t over mix the batter. Mix just until the ingredients are combined.
  • Use an ice cream scoop to fill the muffin tins. This will help to ensure there is an even amount of batter in each tin so they bake evenly.
  • Don’t over bake the muffins. Too much heat will result in a dry, hard to chew muffin. Bake the muffins just until a fork inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.
  • Let the muffins sit in the muffin pan for 10 minutes before removing them from the tin.
  • For extra flavor, top the muffin with a streusel topping.
  • Use cold butter (not warm or room temperature) in the streusel.

Forget the dry wheat toast or that old bagel. Instead, whip up a batch of muffins and change an ordinary breakfast into an appetizing delight and a mood enhancing meal to start your day.
Just remember to make a double batch as these muffins will disappear quickly. Happy Eating!

Cinnamon Apple Banana Muffins

Use Honeycrisp or Pink Lady apples to bake Cinnamon Apple Banana Muffins. Contributed / Donna Evans

  • 3 bananas (large and very ripe)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 apples, baking variety such as Honeycrisp or Pink Lady
  • 1 tablespoon applesauce
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • Brown Sugar Streusel Topping

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place paper muffin liners in a muffin pan or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Melt the butter and set aside. Place the bananas in a large bowl and mash them. Add the butter and stir until well combined.


Peel and chop the apples. Add them to the banana mixture and stir just until combined. Add the eggs and stir until slightly mixed. Add the vanilla, applesauce and sugar and mix thoroughly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and flour. Add to the banana mixture and mix just until the dry ingredients are combined. The batter will be lumpy. Use an ice cream scoop or large spoon and ladle the batter into the prepared muffin tins.

Place tins into the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, remove and place ample amounts of the streusel topping on top of each muffin. Return to the oven and cook an additional 15 to 20 minutes, just until a fork inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Brown Sugar Streusel Topping

  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar (packed)
  • ½ cup flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

This can be made ahead of time and placed in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium sized bowl and mix well.

Cut the butter into chunks. Cut butter into the dry mixture using a pastry cutter or a pair of butter knives. Continue cutting the butter into the mixture until the pieces are small, similar to pea-sized crumbles.

Donna Evans is a correspondent for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal.


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