When the air starts to cool down, I start to imagine being able to use the oven again. Our little counter top model throws out a lot of heat and I usually avoid it if I can in the summer. But now, now I want muffins. The perfect weekend breakfast. At least one of them. And I had the perfect excuse when, as often lately, I found myself with just a little bit of cooked quinoa left over after a meal that needed to be used up. (I am starting to think R. may be addicted to quinoa but I’m not going to complain about that!) I thought of those first crisp apples we had sitting on the counter and the idea of the nutty quinoa with cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg spiced apple sounded like quintessential autumn.
First I tried a recipe I found online for plain quinoa muffins. I had high hopes and the batter was yummy, but once they were out of the oven and I had patiently let them cool, they were too dense and chewy, even dry. I guess I’m spoiled for muffins, they must be moist and delicate and light. So I scrapped that recipe but I didn’t have to wait too long to have more leftover quinoa from a weekend lunch to try again. This time, I knew there was no need to search far afield and I went right back to our family’s favorite muffins. I played a little here and there and adjusted a bit to add the quinoa and the fragrant spiced apples but the base of a good baking recipe is something you hold onto and don’t mess around with too much.
And they were just what I wanted. They could have come right out of my childhood mornings at the kitchen table eating blueberry muffins and looking out the window at the bright colors of the maple tree that always turned early and the Atlantic beyond that. Except they have a new flavor, maybe one for the fall mornings of our young married life. Mornings where people are rolling their grocery caddies down below, on the way to the market, and Albert is curled up in a crate by the kitchen window, never far from us, and Romain says, “Un peu de classique?” (some classical music?). Maybe these muffins will be part of the flavor of those memories. In any case, they will certainly be a part of the flavor of the coming cooler months.
Spiced Apple & Quinoa Muffins
makes 10 muffins
1 1/2 cups peeled, cored, and diced apple
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup cooked and cooled quinoa
1/4 cup milk
1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or hazelnuts (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C. Heat 2 tbsp. of the butter over medium low heat in a sauté pan. Add the apples, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and stir to coat the apple pieces. Cook until the apple is softened, about 5 minutes, resisting the urge to stir too often so the pieces don’t break down. Once they are soft but not mushy, remove from the pan and let cool completely.
- In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar using an electric mixer until light and creamy. Add the egg, and beat until very pale and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, salt, and baking powder to combine.
- Fold the apples and quinoa into the butter mixture. Add half the flour and fold until just combined. Do the same with half the milk. Repeat until all the milk and flour has been just worked into the batter. Do not over-mix!
- Grease a muffin tin or line it with muffin papers. Divide the batter into the tin filling to just below the rim. Top each muffin with chopped walnuts and bake in the oven until golden and a tester comes out dry when inserted in the center of a muffin, about 25 minutes.
- When they are done, let cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then remove the muffins to a cooling rack (or devour them all instantly).