Saturday, June 19, 2010

Fresh Apricot Cinnamon-Chip Muffins . . . Tart & Sweet!

Here we are, moving into the tail end of June, and the onslaught of bright, fresh, summer produce is finally upon us. Among other things, this means that we now have access to a multitude of reasonably priced, and adorably cute, apricots.

A sensitive and delicate fruit, so they say, the apricot is a bit of a homebody that, apparently, doesn't cope well with traveling. It's easily bruised and it doesn't care for the jostling, tight quarters, and  occasional indignities inherent in a long-distance journey. Perhaps you feel the same way?

Because of this, only about one quarter of the apricots grown in the U.S. actually make their way to retail markets, so the experts say. These are picked just at the beginning of ripeness, when still firm. But what of the remaining 75 percent? Those lucky fellows are allowed to linger on the trees and, as a result, grow remarkably sweeter than their less fortunate counterparts; they end up canned, frozen, dried, and so on. This means that the fresh apricots you lovingly select one by one in your local grocery store may indeed be cute, but it's a roll of the dice as to whether or not you'll find yourself smiling or puckering after you bite into one.

This all just seems to make sense, though, doesn't it? One could make the case that it's analagous to life. Aren't we sweeter when we aren't rushed? Aren't we more appealing when we've had a good supply of uninterrupted leisure in which to sleep, dream, and reflect? Of course we are.

It's not always a baker's tragedy, though, if the apricots to be used in a recipe lean toward the tarter end of the spectrum. Perhaps two thirds of the apricots that I used in these muffins were kind of astringent, while the rest were only mildly sweet. I think, though, that in certain cases a flavorful but tart chunk of fruit balances remarkably well with its more sugary surroundings. These muffins present a perfect example. The cinnamon chips provide a burst of sweetness here and there that equalizes and nicely offsets the surprising tang of any less-than-fully-ripe fruit pieces.

About this recipe . . . 

Adapted from a blueberry muffin recipe in Flo Braker's wonderful book, Baking for All Occasions, I made a number of changes in order to produce these. In addition to substituting apricot chunks for blueberries,  I swapped out a bit of the white flour in favor of a small portion of whole wheat flour and oats. Instead of using buttermilk, which I love but didn't have on hand, I used half sour cream and half milk, along with a smidgen of lemon juice. I omitted the lemon zest.

And, instead of  dipping the warm muffin tops in butter and then plopping them enthusiastically in cinnamon sugar, as Flo indicates should be done, I lightly brushed the tops with melted butter and sprinkled them with just a very small amount of cinnamon sugar. It seemed to me they would have been practically inedible if I'd followed Flo's recommendation to dip them in her "doughnut topping," because melted butter sops up a huge amount of sugar (ever noticed this?).

I was pretty pleased with how these came out. The texture was right on target--really tender with no tough or rubbery aspect whatsoever--and the muffins had fine flavor. The cinnamon chips that I used came from King Arthur Flour, so of course they weren't cheap. But less costly brands of cinnamon chips are pretty common in grocery stores now, too. If you'd prefer to skip the cinnamon chips altogether, certainly do so; you might want to just add in some cinnamon with the dry ingredients--maybe a teaspoon or less--before they're mixed with the liquids. The muffins won't be as sweet without the chips, but they'll still be good, I'm sure of it.

Apricot Cinnamon-Chip Muffins

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and prepare a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners, or spray liberally with baking spray.

For the batter:
1 and 1/2 cups All-Purpose flour (I used unbleached)
3 Tbsp. whole wheat flour
1/4 cup regular or quick-cooking (not instant) oats
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt (I used a generous 1/2 tsp.)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk (I used 2 percent)
3 oz. unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled (aka 3/4 of one stick, or 6 Tbsp.)
2 eggs, large
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup of unpeeled fresh apricot pieces, chopped small
2/3 cup mini cinnamon chips 

For the topping:
1/4 granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 oz. unsalted butter, melted (1/2 of one stick, or 4 Tbsp.)

In a large mixing bowl, using a whisk, combine the white flour, whole wheat flour, oats, sugar, salt, and baking soda.

In a medium size bowl, using a spoon, blend together the sour cream, milk, melted butter, eggs, lemon juice, and vanilla extract.

Add the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and stir together until just combined; use care not to overmix. With a spatula, gently fold in the apricot pieces and the cinnamon chips.

Fill the muffin cups about 3/4 full. Bake on the middle rack of your oven for approximately 20 minutes, until light golden brown and the centers spring back when lightly pressed with a finger.

Cool the muffins in the pan for about 10 minutes. Remove them from the pan to a cooling rack. Using a pastry brush, coat the tops with melted butter and a small sprinkling of cinnamon sugar.

(If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, just click on the purple COMMENTS below!)


Haniela said...

wow. these look and sounds really delicious. I will try this soon. I love fruit summery treats.
Beautiful presentation too.

Nirmala said...

Gorgeous! I want to pick one up right from the screen. I'm bookmarking this one!

Marie said...

Oh yum Jane! Just fabulous! I LOVE LOVE your square muffin tin!!

Chele said...

Mmmmmmmmm - they look so good and sound delightful. I had no idea about the trials that poor little apricots are put through!

faithy, the baker said...

Yummy! Sounds and look so delicious! I can almost smell it here...:) I love your baking tin!

Katrina said...

I love the apricot-cinnamon combination you used. These really sound tasty.

Stella said...

I love that muffin tin!
Hi Jane, these sound so good right now as I'm drinking coffee. Thanks for the information on apricots. I always feel they are picked too early, as I've had really wonderful fresh ones in Europe but never here. Now it all makes sense...

Jennifurla said...

oh how cute, I love love the square muffins

Helen said...

These look delicious. I love apricots so much. You are right about the melted butter soaking up a lot of sugar, your method sounds so much better.

HanaĆ¢ said...

I loved your write-up, especially the part where you compare our lives (when rested and all) to that of a perfectly ripe peach. I have no doubt these muffins turned out awesome because I made Flo's Blueberry variety and LOVED them. I skipped the butter/sugar process at the end because they were good as-is. Btw, love your square muffins. Super cute!!

Mags said...

I love this recipe....and I really, really love the square shape of those muffins.

Lisa said...

oh my, these are adorable! genius - sqaure muffins! ive never seen cinnamon chips before, but they sound really good. oh, by the way, i have nominated your blog for the happy 101 award =). you can check out the details on the latest post on my blog.

Jane said...

Hi Haniela,
I love fruit treats in summer, too. It's one of my favorite things about the hotter months!
Thanks very much,

Hello Nirmala,
Glad you think so! Wouldn't that be nice if we COULD reach into the screen? Maybe a couple of decades from now that will be possible? ;)

Greetings Marie,
Isn't that a cute muffin tin? I found it a TJ Maxx, a store that sells all kinds of miscellaneous stuff at a big discount (I don't suppose TJ Maxx has invaded England yet?) I'd seen them for sale for far more than it cost, so I couldn't resist buying it. This muffin post was the first time I tried it out and I'm glad it performed well! :)
So good to hear from you again,
Jane :)

Hi Chele,
Isn't that interesting, about the tender little apricots? Who knew?? Not me, until I read about them recently. It explains their scarcity in fresh form though, at least in this part of the country.
:) Jane

Dear Faithy,
You always have such nice things to say. I just love your comments.
Thank you so much!
:) Jane

Hi Katrina,
I do think that the apricot-cinnamon combo worked out well. And those cinnamon chips, which I'd never really used before (just tasted!), were a hit.
Thanks for stopping by!
Jane :)

Hey there Stella,
Yes, me too--I've rarely had a really perfectly ripe, sweet, fresh apricot. That square muffin tin is a nice one, isn't it? It's extremely heavy and sturdy too. I got it for about five bucks! As you can imagine, as soon as I saw the price tag I snatched it right up (TJ Maxx). I'm not usually crazy about "non-stick" bakeware; the coating sometimes flakes off and that freaks me out, but this seems like a high quality pan, luckily.
Thanks so much! Keep on bakin', lady!
:) Jane

Hi Jennifurla,
Thanks very much--I love it (the pan) too! Glad I found one I could afford!
;) Jane

Hello there Helen,
Yeah, the melted butter & sugar combo can be a deadly one as a topping. Too much of a good thing!
:) Thanks very much,

Hi Hanaa,
Before I made these, when I was paging through Flo Braker's book (which I do now own a copy of--yay!), I kept thinking to myself, "Hmm, I wonder if Hanaa's made that one yet . . . " As for those fortunate apricots that get to sleep-in, so to speak, I wish I lived someplace where I could pick them right off the tree. Wouldn't that be nice? A truly sweet apricot, fresh as can be?
Jane :)
P.S. Hanaa, I'm going to email you back re your "Join ABC?" question soon!

Hi there Mags,
You are always a cheery, encouraging voice--many thanks. I need to visit your blog today and see what kind of kitchen-mischief you're up to!
:) Jane

Dear Lisa--
I am surprised, flattered. and honored by the Happy 101 award! I will make a note to visit your blog and read about the specifics. Thank you so very much!
Jane :)

Avanika [YumsiliciousBakes] said...

I love squarecakes! And apricot! Yummy!

Sasa said...

I wish stone fruit had hit us in Austria! Still on strawberries, though maybe these could be tweaked?

brighteyedbaker said...

I was looking for a recipe with apricots in it and came across this one. I never would have thought to use cinnamon chips with apricots but the combination is perfect. The apricot makes the muffins moist and balances out the sweetness of the cinnamon chips. In other things I have made with the chips, my family thought they were too sweet, but we love these!

Jane said...

Hi BrightEyedBaker,
I am thrilled to hear that you liked this recipe! That's great to know. Thanks so much for letting me know.
Jane :)