Sunday, August 28, 2011

Applesauce and Some Yummy Muffins

Yesterday Hurricane Irene pounded the eastern part of the US including the coastal region of North Carolina (the state in which I live).  I called my mom who lives a little over an hour from the beach to see what the weather was like and was told that it was windy, raining, and shingles were coming off the garage.  I felt bad for the people battling the storm, but I have to tell you that there was also a feeling of excitement that came over me.  My excitement was because, due to Irene, it was beautiful at my home in Charlotte.  The air was crisp, a slight wind was blowing, and it was sunny but not at all hot outside.  What does this type of weather sound like?  Yep, fall! 

Fall is my all-time favorite season, and while I was smart enough to recognize that the weather was a result of the storm miles and miles away and not a true changing of the seasons, it was still great to think that in a few weeks that type of weather would be here to stay.  To further my excitement, the farmer's market had a variety of summer vegetables along with winter squash, garlic, and apples which is a tell-tale sign that fall is almost here. 

Apples my mom gave me-  I am not sure of the variety
To celebrate the weather, I found myself in the kitchen shuffling through the cabinets trying to determine what type of "fall" treat I could make.  I decided on muffins made with applesauce and topped with a cream cheese-brown sugar frosting.  Before I get to that though, I am going to quickly show you how I make the applesauce that I used in the muffins.  

Several weeks ago, my parents' apples were ready to be picked.  My dad gave me two grocery bags which amounted to about 15 pounds of apples.  I decided to make applesauce.  We like applesauce with pork and roasts as well as in baking recipes in place of some of the oil.  When I got the apples, I started by peeling, coring and quartering them.  I put them in a bowl of water mixed with lemon juice to keep them from turning brown as I worked. 

Apples being prepped for sauce
Once they were all quartered, I put them in a large pot with just enough water to prevent them from sticking to the bottom.  They cooked until they were soft and easy to mash with a spoon.  Then I pureed them in my food processor until fairly smooth with some small chunks.  You could also use a food mill, but I think I told you before that I don't have one.  So sad.  Anyway, I then sweetened them to my liking using granulated sugar.  The apples I had were pretty tart (if anyone knows what type they are, please tell me), so I had to use a good amount of sugar.  If your apples are sweeter you can get away with less or even none at all.  

I ladled the sauce into jars, but when I had ladled about half of it, I spiced the remaining sauce with cinnamon so that I would have both spiced and unspiced sauce in the cupboard.  I will use the unspiced in baking recipes, and the spiced we will eat straight.  

Four unspiced pints and three spiced
The sauce was processed in a boiling water bath and has been in the cupboard waiting to be used for several weeks. 

So when the weather became so fall-like yesterday, I got in the mood for apples.  I remembered the applesauce, and decided to make the muffins.  These muffins are the perfect fall treat.  They are spicy, moist, a little nutty (like me), and are topped with a sweet creamy frosting.  They are really in between a muffin and a cupcake and could easily pass for either. To begin, you mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, cream some of the butter and sugar in a mixer, and measure out 1 1/2 cups applesauce (you can use store-bought if you don't have homemade). 

Yummy moist muffin being eaten by me
Once the ingredients are mixed together, you add the nuts, and spoon the batter into paper lined muffin tins.  The recipe will make 18 muffins, so if you have two tins, that is best.  If not, bake some, cool the pan, and bake the rest.

Unbaked muffins
Muffins cooling
While the muffins (cupcakes) cool, make the cream cheese icing.  The tricky part is keeping yourself from eating them warm from the oven or eating the icing by the spoonful.  If you make it to the point at which you can actually frost the muffins, pat yourself on the back and prepare yourself for the next struggle which will be keeping yourself out of the kitchen so that they last you a couple of days.  They are great for breakfast, a snack or dessert. 

Applesauce (slightly adapted from the Ball Complete Book)
makes 7-8 pints

12 pounds of apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
                  (in bowl of water with lemon juice to prevent browning)
water to prevent scorching
2 cups granulated sugar (you can use more or less to suit your taste)
4 tbsp bottled lemon juice
4 tsp cinnamon (if you want to spice the entire batch) or 2 tsp to spice half

Combine the apples with enough water to coat the bottom of a large pot.  Bring to a boil on medium-high heat.  Boil until apples are softened and easily mashed with a wooden spoon, 10-20 minutes.  Let cool slightly.  Place apples in a food processor and process until relatively smooth with just a few small chunks.  Return the puree to the pot and sweeten with sugar as desired.  The apples I had took 2 cups, but you can use as much or little as you like.  Add lemon juice and spices (if using) and bring back to a boil.  Ladle sauce into hot sterilized pint jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles, adjust headspace, and wipe rims.  Top each jar with a sterilized lid and ring and process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.  Leave in canner 5 minutes after processing time.  Remove jars to a towel to rest for 24 hours.

Applesauce Muffins (slightly adapted from Martha Stewart Living)
makes 18 muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups homemade or store-bought applesauce (I used homemade)
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 18 muffin cups with paper or foil liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, spices, baking soda, and salt and whisk to blend.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, place 1 stick of butter, 1 cup granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup brown sugar.  Mix until blended and creamy.  Add eggs to the butter mixture one at a time, mixing on low speed to combine.  Add applesauce and flour mixture and mix until just combined.  Fold in walnuts.  

Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling them 3/4 of the way.  Bake 18-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.  Allow muffins to cool on a wire rack.  

While cooling, mix the remaining stick of butter, cream cheese, and 1 cup brown sugar until smooth.  Once the muffins are cool, frost with the cream cheese icing.  You will probably have extra frosting leftover.  Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. 


  1. For the applesauce, I use my crockpot and an immersion blender. I have a food mill, that attaches to the kitchen-aide, but I have found that is more work than is needed for this particular recipe. Going to can this next, thanks!

  2. Loved your post!! And the pictures looked so appetizing that i can't wait to start with some baking!! As i write my brother is on his way to the market to get the ingredients needed