Monday, October 12, 2009

Almost-healthy Apple Muffins

Whole wheat apple muffin

I mentioned recently that one of my strategies for using up a bunch of apples is to make muffins. Well, I have a confession to make: it's not actually a very good strategy, namely because making muffins doesn't really get you through that many apples. After all, there's only so much apple that you can pack into muffins without your muffins falling apart.

Apple pile

Yet this notion persists in my head (and I'm sure that it's completely in my head) that making muffins is a good way to use up apples. Not only good, but "better" for you than making something like a pie, which would of course use up even more apples than these muffins do. And it's silly, isn't it? A fruit pie, at least the way I make my fruit pies, isn't terribly unhealthy as far as desserts go. Oh, there's the crust, but it's not so bad; and the rest of the pie is simply fruit--maybe with some seasonings, but quite little added sugar or fat.

Muffins, on the other hand... Well, let's face it: they're essentially little bits of cake. We can tweak the ingredients all we want in various efforts to turn them into something healthy, but at heart they're bits of cake. Perhaps that's why I love them so.

Muffins cooling

That said, while these muffins are still, you know, muffins, they do have a couple of saving graces. First, they contain whole wheat flour. Now, whole wheat flour alone does not a health food make, but it does bump up the nutrition value at least a little bit. At least you're getting some vitamins and fiber along with your fat and sugar. The apples help with that, too.

Peeling apples

Second, thanks to their being deliciously dark and moist, they keep better than any other muffins I've made. Most muffins lose a lot of their luster by the second day, but these keep for three or four (or five) days, meaning that you can space out your indulgence over several days. That is, you can try to space it out.

Let me just say right now that I take no responsibility for what happens to your willpower after you taste these muffins. I typically think of whole wheat baked goods as heavy, perhaps tough, and not always very pleasant to eat. These muffins have blown away that particular notion. Honestly, I tend to forget that they have any whole wheat flour in them at all, and I bet you will, too. Of course, that assumes that you make them, but really, why wouldn't you?

Muffins cooling

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Makes 12 muffins


  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 generous tablespoon cinnamon (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed, divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk
  • 2 large apples, peeled (if desired), cored, and chopped


  1. Place an oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 450F/230C. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners, or grease and flour the cups.
  2. Whisk together the flours, the baking powder and soda, the salt, and the spices; set the mixture aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the softened butter until it is smooth and creamy. Add the granulated sugar and 1/4 cup of brown sugar, and beat until the mixture is fluffy.
  4. Add the egg and beat well to combine, scraping down the bowl as needed.
  5. Stir in the buttermilk. If you over-mix it, the mixture might curdle, but I haven't found that to be a problem for the finished muffins.
  6. Gently stir in the dry ingredients until just combined, then fold in the chopped apples. The batter will be rather stiff, almost more like a very sticky dough.
  7. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. The cups will look like they have too much in them, but the batter should be stiff enough to hold its shape, and the muffins don't rise very much. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar over the top of the muffins.
  8. Bake at 450F/230C for 10 minutes, then decrease the oven temperature to 400F/205C and bake for a further 15-20 minutes. The muffins are done when a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean.
  9. Cool the muffins in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack and let cool completely.


  • If you happen to have whole wheat pastry flour on hand, using 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour rather than the combination of all-purpose and regular whole wheat works fine. The resulting muffins are more delicate and might have less rise to them.
  • Batter tip: a spring-action ice cream scoop makes it easy to portion batter evenly.


Bee said...

Your rationalizations sound very much like my own! If a recipe has fruit in it, and especially if it has whole-wheat flour or oatmeal to boot, I make all sorts of claims for its nutritional value.

Yesterday I bought four bags of organic cox apples -- mostly to make the apple butter -- but now I'm going to make some of these, too. We are having such gorgeous crisp autumn days . . . and the apple seems like the perfect food to set them off. I've already made two apple pies this week -- all that apple is sure to be healthy, right?

I shall report back later.

p.s. Gorgeous pictures.

Anne said...

Exactly! Apple crisp with oatmeal topping is almost a health food.

Four bags of apples! You really are on an apple kick, aren't you. I am going to make an apple pie before the end of October, but I have yet to find the kind of apples I'd like to use. My favorite cooking apples, Gravensteins, went out of season at the end of August. I tried some Bellflowers for applesauce this weekend, and they were rather bland. I quite liked cooking with the Bramleys I was getting in my CSA share, but this week we're getting Galas and/or Fujis. Perhaps I'll ask around at the farmer's market.

Bee said...

I made the apple butter and the muffins yesterday. The muffins were great! My kids were loving these as an afternoon snack, and then again this morning for breakfast. As you say, they stay moist much longer than your standard muffin.

I'm posting my favorite apple pie recipe tomorrow. Still not over apples . . .

p.s. How is your mouth? I tried to comment on the chocolate pudding yesterday and my Internet kicked out.

Anne said...

So glad you and your girls are enjoying the apples, Bee. My mouth is feeling great! I'm still holding off on sharp things like tortilla chips, but otherwise things seem to be more or less back to normal.

Anonymous said...

Hi - just wanted to say this recipe is spot on. It made exactly 12 and they look just like your photo ... oh and did I say they are absolutely delicious? Made them Sunday, today is Wednesday and they are still moist and I think they're getting better each day. Thanks!