Before Sunday, I had never baked anything on the fly. Baking has always been a very calculated sport for me: carefully choose a recipe, get all my ingredients in place, mentally prepare, and then block an entire afternoon or evening to go for the goal. I was never one of those, "you have this, why not make that" kind of cooks in the kitchen, especially with baking. So I guess I'm learning.
I'm trying hard to cut down on wasting food, and sometimes I get fickle with my produce. Like how I bought a bag of apples anticipating a daily snack of apples and almond butter all week, and then it got ferociously cold outside, and all I wanted was my childhood favorite. You may laugh when you find out what I've been eating (Dan teases me about the combo often): toasted frozen waffle smeared with almond/peanut butter and topped with raspberries. (I use frozen raspberries that I microwave for a minute so they become warm and saucy, like a compote I spread over my waffle.) By the end of last week, I realized I had 7 apples on the verge of going bad. What to do? I decided to roast them, because it seems like the sort of thing to do when you only want to spend 5 minutes of hands-on time with food and wind up with something delicious. I actually slow-roasted my apples and went about my morning with the smell of apples and cinnamon making our apartment smell heavenly.
The next day, I set to making my (very planned) menu of artichoke + asparagus baked eggs and raspberry bellinis as brunch for me and my friends Liz and Erin. What to do with my roasted apples, I wondered. I was flipping through my cookbook, Brunch (by Marc Meyer and Peter Meehan), to find the baked egg recipe when I stumbled upon this: applesauce muffins. And there you go, muffins on the fly.
adapted from recipe by Marc Meyer for Brunch
3/4 cup light brown sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, preferably at room temperature, plus additional to grease the muffin cups (or use cupcake liners like I did)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup applesauce (see below)
1. Preheat the oven the 350 degrees. On high speed, cream the sugar with the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer; give the machine 3 to 4 minutes to incorporate the sugar into room temperature butter, and 5 to 8 minutes for colder-than-room temperature butter. Butter the muffin tin cups or line with cupcake liners.
2. Add the eggs and vanilla to the butter-sugar mixture and beat for 30 seconds to incorporate them. Mix in the flour. Stir in the baking soda and spices last, then gently fold in the applesauce.
3. Fill the muffin cups three-quarters full and set the tin into the oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the muffins are light golden brown and firm to the touch. Serve warm (we pretty much ate them straight from the oven.)
Here's how I made my cinnamon applesauce:
Put cinnamon roasted apples in Dutch oven with 1/2 cup of water. Cover and cook over low heat for 20 minutes, until apples can break down with a press of your spatula. Then uncover and raise the heat to medium-high to boil off any excess liquid.
ps. I used the same Cascadian Farm organic frozen raspberries to turn Prosecco into raspberry bellini. That's one staple in my freezer these days: frozen raspberries.