Harvest Apple Chai Muffins
Autumn is my season, and back home in the Wisconsin, it’s the most splendid season of all.
One of the traditions I miss most is driving north along country roads to the rolling, tree-dotted hills of The Little Farmer Orchard in Pipe. Rows and rows of apple trees as far as the eye can see. Twisted branches stretching skyward like gnarly fingers, each drooping slightly under the weight of juicy, white-fleshed Cortlands. A dazzling display of autumnal beauty.
Memories of these orchard afternoons are always on my mind come October. An apple-y sweet does nicely to satisfy some of the nostalgic longings. Traditionally this is an apple crisp with vanilla and lots of walnuts, but this year I dreamed up a spiced multi-grain apple muffin instead. (There’s still plenty of apple season to bake a tray of that crisp.)
You might expect a muffin made with four whole grain flours to be heavy and dry, but not these! Olive oil + an egg offer lift and body, while a one-two punch of dairy from yogurt and milk + tender chunks of fresh apple in the batter keep them extra fluffy and moist.
Flavored with an extra peppery homemade chai spice (cardamom, cloves, allspice, peppercorns, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg — swoon) + thin slices of apple with a kiss of cinnamon sugar on the tops really drive home the fall-ness (and helps me get away with using way less sugar than most recipes).
If you don’t have all of the flours, or need to cater to alternative dietary restrictions, don’t worry; I have plenty of substitution suggestions in the recipe’s HGN Notes below.
What’s in it for me?
At only 95 calories, one medium apple eaten with the skin provides about 15% of your daily need of vitamin C and nearly 20% of the DV of fiber. Apples are also a source of antioxidant polyphenols that have been linked to a reduced risk of some cancers and heart disease, including anthoxanthin pigments + the flavanoid quercetin found in most white/beige fruit + veg.
Sorghum flour is a mild-flavored, “medium-weight” gluten-free whole grain flour that can be directly substituted for wheat flours in most recipes. Sorghum flour provides about 4 g protein per 1/4 cup, plus small amounts of iron and antioxidant selenium. Oat flour, also GF, is a good source of soluble fiber, as well as manganese — a trace mineral with antioxidant properties + important roles in skeletal development, wound healing, metabolism, and fetal development.
The two non-gluten-free flours in this recipe are powdery soft whole wheat Atta + rye. Atta flour offers roughly 4 g each of protein + fiber per 1/4 cup, a small amount of zinc, plus more iron, selenium and manganese. (Read about rye flour nutrition here.)
Yogurt adds moisture, allowing for less added fat, and brings with it protein, calcium + probiotics. (Learn more about yogurt nutrition + how to make your own.) One whole egg packs more than 6 g complete protein. Many of its beneficial nutrients are found in the yolk, including choline, vitamins A, D, E and K, plus lutein + zeaxanthin — two antioxidant carotenoids that play a critical role in eye health.
Olive oil is a good source of heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fats + vitamin E — both known for a potential to help improve control of blood sugar + insulin levels, and also lower total + LDL cholesterol levels, thereby decreasing risk of heart disease. Furthermore, these healthy fats help your body absorb all of the beneficial nutrients mentioned above.
If you’re going apple picking this weekend, or stop off at a farmer’s market to grab a bag of blushing beauties, save a couple for a tray of fluffy, wholesome and deliciously autumnal harvest apple chai muffins. Pack them up as a gift, or keep for yourself to nibble on as dessert, a snack, or for a special breakfast.
A taste of the season change, even if you can’t witness it firsthand!
Tell me… What’s your favorite variety of apple?
- 1/2 cup whole grain rye flour
- 1/2 cup Atta flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
- 1/4 cup sorghum flour (or more Atta/WW pastry flour; see HGN Notes)
- 1/4 cup oat flour (see HGN Notes)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp chai spice blend (see HGN Notes)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 2/3 cup plain yogurt (or 1/3 cup + 3 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt thinned with 1/4 cup milk or buttermilk)
- 1/4 cup milk (either cow or unsweetened/unflavored non-dairy)
- 1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp olive oil (not extra-virgin; can substitute melted and cooled unsalted butter)
- 1/4 cup turbinado sugar (or loosely packed demerara or regular brown sugar)
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 small (or 1 medium) sweet baking apples, such as Gala, Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Jonagold, Rome or Braeburn, cored, divided
- Cinnamon sugar, to top (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 425° F with a rack placed in the middle position. Use cooking spray to grease a standard muffin tin, or place liners in each of the 12 wells; set aside.
- In a large bowl, add the flours, baking powder, baking soda, chai spice and salt; stir to combine and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, yogurt, milk, olive oil, turbinado sugar and vanilla; set aside.
- Cut one of the cored apples into small chunks. Toss the chunks briefly with the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredient-apple mixture, and stir to just combine. Spoon the batter into your prepared muffin tin, each about 2/3 full; set aside.
- Using a mandoline or sharp knife, very thinly slice the remaining cored apple crosswise. Top each of the batter-filled wells with one apple slice. If desired, lightly sprinkle the apple slices with cinnamon sugar. Transfer the tin to the preheated oven and bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and allow the muffins to cool in the tin for a couple minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Store completely cooled muffins in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week, or tightly-wrapped in the freezer up to 1 month. To enjoy later: Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, or microwave for 10 to 20 seconds until warmed through.
If you don't have rye and/or sorghum flours, substitute one with more of the other, or substitute both with equal amounts of more Atta or whole wheat pastry flour, spelt flour, brown rice flour, or even regular whole wheat flour.
For a 100% GF muffin, substitute the rye flour with a similarly "heavy-weight" gluten-free flour 1:1, such as buckwheat, quinoa or millet; and substitute the Atta flour with more sorghum flour or brown rice flour.
Buy pre-made chai spice blend (https://buff.ly/2yFL9Dp), or make a simple batch of your own (https://buff.ly/2yFH2Hw).
+ Replace the chai spice with any other spice blend (pumpkin pie or apple pie spice comes to mind this time of year), or with plain cinnamon or half cinnamon + half ginger.
+ To make it gluten-free, swap Atta/whole wheat pastry flour for a 1:1 amount of sorghum or oat flour. You could also try slightly heavier millet flour, buckwheat flour, or a nut flour.
+ To make it dairy-free, use non-dairy milk and non-dairy yogurt. Though not tested, I imagine swapping the milk with apple cider and the yogurt with applesauce might turn out, and *really* hit home the apple flavor!
+ To make it egg-free, swap the eggs for a flax-water "egg" or opt for 2 chia "eggs" instead (let 2 Tbsp chia seeds gel with 6 Tbsp water).
+ Swap out the turbinado sugar for earthier coconut or maple sugar.
+ Easily replace the olive oil 1:1 with melted and cooled unsalted butter.
*Nutrition Note: All calculations reflect full-fat yogurt + full-fat (whole) milk, and about 1.5 tsp cinnamon sugar divided among the muffin tops.
HGN original recipe.
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