Apple cinnamon muffins, as their name indicates, typically contain pieces of apple and powdered cinnamon. The base batter for these muffins is usually vanilla, but may contain other flavors as well. Some apple cinnamon muffins are also dusted with cinnamon and brown sugar on the top to help people identify them. They’re typically most popular during the autumn months because apples are in season at that time. Cinnamon is also a warming spice that can help keep body temperatures high as the weather gets colder.
The apple flavor in these muffins can come from several different sources. The apples may be grated into small pieces, chopped into cubes, or sliced and sautéed before being mixed with the batter. Some cooks also like to use applesauce. Not only does applesauce give the muffins apple flavoring, it may also replace oil or butter in a recipe to create low-fat muffins.
Many types of apples taste good in apple cinnamon muffins. Very sweet varieties — like Fuji, Gala, and Honeycrisp — typically work well for harvest-flavored muffins in the autumn. Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, and other tart apple types may work better in the late summer. Their acidic, fresh flavors usually work well with orange for a bright, new take on apple-flavored muffins. Cinnamon and oranges also generally complement each other as well, so citrus-lovers don’t have to change their recipes too much.
Though vanilla is usually the batter flavor of choice for apple cinnamon muffins, bakers can experiment with this too. A dollop or two of peanut butter not only adds nutrients and sweetness, it underscores the apple and cinnamon flavors with a salty, nutty background. Caramel-flavored extracts, powders, or baking chips can turn apple cinnamon muffins into caramel apple muffins with a hint of spice, and these are generally lower in calories and sugar than most true caramel apples.
Cinnamon is rarely the only spice present in apple cinnamon muffins. While it is the predominant flavor, many recipes also call for nutmeg, cloves, and even a touch of ginger. Those looking for the perfect blend of spices might want to try an apple pie spice blend. These mixes are often perfectly proportioned to make them very easy to use. They also help keep the baker from over-spicing his or her baked goods.
Streusel and nuts are some of the most common additions to apple cinnamon muffins. Brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, and butter are the main ingredients in most streusels. Bakers can sprinkle this mix on top of apple cinnamon muffins to mimic apple pie crumb topping. Nuts, like walnuts and almonds, give the muffins protein and often help bring out the flavors of the apples.