Among the things I have discovered about myself while working in the city is my lack of self control around a bakery case. In the early morning I find myself taunted by oversized-bagels ready to be toasted and schmeared with cream cheese, crispy croissants that promise molten interiors of chocolate or cheese, and dense scones with their pleasantly crunchy exterior and tender crumb. And if these tasty delights should happen to be hanging around the office kitchen after a meeting you can bet I’ll steal a nibble or two. Yes, will power has never been my strong suit. I love food and I enjoy eating it with gusto!
My response to this temptation is to create baked goods at home that rival my coffee shop favorites while packing a more nutritious punch. Given the never ending supply of apples in my house I decided to whip up a batch of Apple-Date Muffins adapted from a recipe in Williams-Sonoma: Essentials of Healthful Cooking. I will admit the date part of the muffins almost turned me off. I’ve always thought I didn’t like dates. I merely tolerate them in Larabars. Dates in a baked muffin, however, were a revelation. They soften and almost melt creating small pockets of gooey sweetness that works well against the tart chunks of apple. They almost reminded me of little nuggets of brown sugar. Almost. The texture of these muffins is a perfect marriage between soft and hearty if one ever existed. They were incredibly moist thanks to the addition of homemade apple sauce and walnut oil. These are great straight from the oven and also freeze very well.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Healthy Cooking
Yields 10 muffins
-1 cup all purpose flour (you may be tempted to go all whole grain, but I find this balances out the heartiness of the bran)
-1 cup wheat or oat bran
-1/2 cup raw sugar
-1/4 cup nonfat dry milk (this can be found in the baking aisle)
-2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
-1 small apple (I used a macintosh), peeled, cored, and finely diced
-1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
-1/2 cup skim milk
-1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce or homemade
-1/4 cup walnut oil
-1 large egg
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray 10 standard muffin cups with cooking spray. (I prefer this over using paper liners since I sometimes find that low fat muffins get stuck to the paper and you lose a lot of the muffin.) Fill unused cups one-third full with water to prevent the muffin pan from warping.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, bran, sugar, dry milk, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Add the apple and dates and toss to coat with the dry ingredients.
In another bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients until blended. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir just until blended to avoid overmixing. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full.
Bake the muffins until they are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then turn out onto the rack and let them cook completely. They will in a sealed container at room temperature for 2-3 days or the freezer for up to two months.