One of my most favorite times of day is the early morning, right as the sun is rising. I love sitting in the peaceful stillness before those around me begin to stir. It seems to be the only time of day when my mind can really quiet. Thoughts slow. Anxieties subside. The day feels approachable, manageable. And beautiful, when I’m lucky enough to wake up to a still, white scene like this one.
For several days last week I intentionally woke up early to take advantage of this time. I’m heading into a season of juggling craziness, of managing chaos and the anxiety that always comes with that for me. And I have a sneaking suspicion that these early morning times are going to become precious and necessary.
I don’t know how you manage life’s craziness. Are you one of those blessed people, like my mom, who somehow seems to have a consistently lower level of anxiety than the rest of us? Or are you like my dad, whose level of anxiety tends to rest just above almost everyone else’s? Genetics “gifted” me with the latter disposition. Thankfully, my mother gifted me with the occasional ability to respond with adages about tomorrow bringing enough worry of its own, or life’s too short to worry about this or ponder that, or how wonderful it is to wake up simply grateful for yet another day.
Adages aside, hot homemade coffee and a delicious morning muffin can help, too. Don’t you think? These applesauce spice muffins do the trick nicely. I originally made these with my dad in mind (he’s the ultimate sucker for anything baked with nuts), and I loved getting to enjoy my first batch with him over Thanksgiving. The holidays are long gone now, but here in Boston the cold, quiet, snowy mornings are still going strong, creating the perfect setting for these. The applesauce makes their crumb so soft and moist it gives new meaning to “melt in your mouth,” especially when they’re hot out of the oven, which is exactly when you’ll want to eat them as their warm, spicy nuttiness wafts from the kitchen.
Ever so slightly adapted from epicurious.com
Yield: 12 muffins
Stored in an airtight container or Ziploc bag these last well for 2-3 days. These muffins freeze and reheat nicely, if you somehow manage not to eat them all the first day! Wrap them individually in plastic wrap and store them in the freezer in a Ziploc bag.
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped, and toasted
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400° F. Grease muffin pan.
2. Make the muffins first. Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a bowl.
3. Whisk together eggs and brown sugar in a large bowl until combined well, then add butter, a little at a time, whisking until mixture is creamy.
4. Stir in applesauce, then fold in flour mixture until flour is just moistened.
5. Stir in nuts.
6. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
7. Next make the topping. Stir together all topping ingredients and sprinkle evenly on top of muffins.
8. Bake until muffins are puffed and golden, about 20 minutes.
9. Cool in pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then remove muffins from pan and cool slightly.
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