Apple Oat Muffins with Brown Sugar Crunch

Muffin Batter with Brown Sugar Sprinkled on Top

Going to bed, I don’t know exactly what I am going to fix the next morning for breakfast. We have to be out of the house by 8am and I have early risers, so often we have some sort of hot cereal or toast. Nevertheless, in my subconscious breakfast brain, the first thing that I analyze when I wake up is if I have enough time for something a little bit beyond 15 minutes, a sort of weekday “Top Tier” breakfast. Top Tier runs the gamut from some sort of pancakes or waffles to eggs and pastries.

This morning my husband left for work before dawn and before I had actually roused myself from bed. As he bid me adieu, the first words I uttered were, “Could you turn the oven on to 400F?” Top Tier day.

If you have someone to preheat the oven for you, this breakfast is not actually time intensive at all and you can remain nestled in your comfy bed until….6:40am, like me this morning.

Muffin Cooling on its Side

This muffin recipe is jointly inspired by Kim Boyce’s ginger-peach muffin with oat flour and a King Arthur Flour whole wheat muffin recipe, each of which is delicious. I have several dozen riffs on this muffin, but a couple of techniques make these impossible to stop eating. (No, seriously, we usually eat them for breakfast and then lunch again.)

The most important thing is that you do not skip the oat flour/bran portion of the recipe. Oat flour may be my favorite whole grain flour to cook with because it is so flavorful and has an incredible texture nothing like wheat flours. It’s fine and silky and when you take a fingerful of the batter (which I always do), it tastes almost creamy. Finally, the addition of oat flour seems to make the muffins keep their texture and flavor the next day. I have tried so many pure wheat flour muffin recipes where the muffins taste mushy the following day.

Next, if you will be adding the walnuts (or whatever nut you love…hazelnuts anyone?) please take the time to toast and cool them. All nuts benefit from being toasted (your favorite peanut or almond butter, for example) since it just intensifies the nutty flavor, but I think toasted walnuts in muffins and scones taste nearly like another ingredient altogether.

Finally, do not skimp on the brown sugar that tops each muffin. Part of it caramelizes and then hardens and the rest of it turns crunchy and crackly.

Caramelized Brown Sugar in the Muffin Tin

One other trick that I learned from my favorite baking book of the last year, is to turn the muffins on their sides to cool as soon as they are cool enough to handle. This allows the steam to escape without literally steaming the bottoms of the muffins, which results in a mushy-wet outside instead of a perfect muffin crust.

Enjoy with a dab of phenomenal butter melting into the middle. Alternatively, the room-temperature muffins taste heavenly slathered with homemade clotted cream. Mmmmm. More on that in my next post.

What is your Top Tier breakfast? Please share your favorite ideas. I loooooove breakfast.

Apple Oat Muffins with Brown Sugar Crunch


3 Medium apples, peeled, cored, and chopped into little pieces

1/2 cup raisins (mixed golden and Thompson’s or flame are great)

3/4 cup toasted and cooled walnuts (toast until fragrant and golden brown)

1 cup oat flour or oat bran (or grind your own in your Cuisenart mixer from regular oatmeal oats; they won’t be fine like flour and that’s ok)

1/2 cup whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour

3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 (scant) cup dark brown sugar, plus several tablespoons set aside for topping

1/4 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt (kosher or sea salt work well)

3/4 (6 tablespoons) cube of unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 egg

1 1/4 cup buttermilk (or 3/4 cup yogurt/sour cream plus 1/2 cup milk) (you can even make your own buttermilk by adding 1 1/4 tablespoons vinegar/lemon juice to 1 1/4 cup milk)

1. Preheat the oven to 400F. If you have two 12 cup capacity muffin tins, grease every other one with either cooking spray or butter.

2. Melt and cool your butter.

3. Combine all dry ingredients and whisk: oat flour, whole wheat flour, unbleached all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, 1/4 cup white sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, and melted butter.

5. Combine the dry and the wet ingredients until barely combined and then fold in the dried fruit, apples, and walnuts.

6. Spoon into the prepared greased muffin cups, just over 2/3 full (if you like muffin tops like I do) and then sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of brown sugar over the tops.

7. Pop into the oven for 5 minutes and then turn the oven down to 350F for another 15 minutes turning pans 180 degrees half way through cooking until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

8. As soon as they can be handled, turn them on their sides to cool. Eat warm-hot or let cool to room temperature.

Notes: I have swapped out fresh cherries for all the fruit and nuts, done just blueberries and apples, pears and blueberries, peaches and apricots, blackberries and toasted walnuts, sour cherries and white chocolate, cardamom and apples, etc. It’s really versatile.

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8 Responses to Apple Oat Muffins with Brown Sugar Crunch

  1. Deter says:

    I haven’t had breakfast yet and these make my mouth water. Apples aren’t my favorite fruit but baked like this I think they sound great.

  2. Bernard J says:

    Dear Cuoca Ciccia

    I am delighted to have stumbled upon your website and am especially intrigued regarding these muffins. The muffines offer incredible options only limited by one’s imagination, and I think I am going to try out your cardimom apple modification. As I looked at your website, I also couldn’t help but note your caulifower pasta idea and have decided this will be my dinner selection for this evening. Keep these coming! I will be trying these recipes on my grandchildren. Bernard J

  3. Ellie says:

    Goodness…these sound wonderful. Some day when my kids can handle the darn dairy…
    In the meantime, love the “top tier breakfast” concept!

  4. Jenny G. says:

    These look delicious and I love the versatility. What a wonderful tip about turning the muffins on their sides so the bottoms don’t end up soggy.

    My top tier breakfasts are oven pancakes and popovers! 🙂

  5. Darth Paul says:

    Ok, that does it, I’m moving in next door to you, Anne Marie, so I can just happen by on a Top Tier breakfast morning (my favorite meal of the day). Hoping Dillon & Vero will come along too, but I think I’m willing to forsake them for those muffins.

    So glad you’re living your dream,

    • cuocaciccia says:

      Hey Darth, As you know, we some day may migrate a little more north so hopefully we’ll be neighbors soon. I’ll bring you some yummy muffins next time we see you. Thanks for the nice words.

  6. Pingback: Oatmeal and multigrain flour popover | La Cuoca Ciccia

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