Much like Columbus, A New Discovery

It is Autumn…and we have landed in the new world of…pumpkin-flavored everything. How is it that certain foods just “take off” with such a fervor? I mean, as far as we know, “pumpkin” doesn’t have it’s own marketing team, YET it is showing up in anything and everything that stands still long enough for it to jump onto. AND, add to that, pumpkin is one of those foods that has been around since the dawn of time and also remains a completely seasonal thing. Peppermint is wintery but appears in gum and mouthwash year-round. Strawberries…they just have the uber marketing whizzes behind them. But pumpkin? Three months worth of glory and the world goes berzerk (my word for the week, by the way. Very underutilized).

As much as the old adage states to have an apple a day, apples really take center stage in the autumn as well, right alongside their pumpkiny friends. I can honestly say that I never reach for the things any other time of the year. And when you get to pick them off the tree yourself? They are glorious. The crunch. The tartness. The sweetness. Call me Eve.

And what better to bake with than apples and pumpkins! The dream team of ingredients, separately of course-although I think that if I were to come up with some magnificent dessert using these two fine fellows, I might have my million dollar idea. I hear pumpkin anything and I want to bake. Apples are not far behind…and this weekend, I hit on the best muffin recipe EVER. To clarify: they are muffins in shape only. To call this is a healthy start to your day is laughable (although their saving grace is that they are not fried like regular cider doughnuts). But they are so fine, indeed! Your kitchen will smell amazing. Your family will swoon and you won’t be able to make them quickly enough. Save yourself the effort of having to fight for the last one and just double the recipe from the get-go. Also, it is worth noting that these are best enjoyed right when they are made. I had an extra (miraculously) the next day and it was very good but the “right out of the oven” thing puts it over the top.

Hang on. Here they are. I am sharing this new recipe that I stumbled on because I believe that a good cook always shares her recipes and tricks. No hoarders allowed. Share the wealth!

Cider Doughnut Muffins-courtesy Yankee Magazine

2 cups sweet apple cider
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temp
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
2.75 cups all-purpose flour
1.25 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp. table salt (I used kosher and it was fine)

For the topping:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 Tb. ground cinnamon
4 Tb. salted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375, setting rack in the middle. Lightly grease a standard 12-cup muffin pan and set aside. Put the apple cider in a large saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer until the liquid is reduced to 1 cup. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, cream butter with sugar until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time blending well after each. Add the vanilla and blend.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add a third of this mixture to the butter mixture and beat just to combine. Add half of the reduced (and cooled) cider and beat to combine. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture, then the rest of the cider, the the remaining flour mixture.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups and into the oven they go. Bake until tops are firm and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 15-17 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes.

While these are cooling a bit, prepare the topping. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the sugar and cinnamon. As soon as the muffins are cool enough to handle (like doughnuts, they are most delicious when still a “bit” warm), brush the tops and sides with the melted butter, then roll in the cinnamon sugar to coat.

Watch them fly off the plate.

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