Swooping down over Detroit last week, the first thing I noticed was how very green Michigan was. It was a carpet of green, rich and lush and inviting. The picture above was taken in my brother’s backyard, which is starting to show signs of autumn gold amidst the greenery. It’s a little wild back there, which I love, and there’s a grassy path that you can follow to walk all the way around the back of the yard. I walked it a few times and found it to be a very peaceful way to stretch my legs.
One of the hardest parts for me about living in Texas is how long it takes for me to get out of Texas. I was in transit for about eleven hours as I was traveling to Michigan. I think I held up pretty well during the trip. Not too long ago, I asked a travel-loving friend of mine what she does to stay sane during the long trips, and she said, “Lots of music, books, and food. Lots!”
Of course! I thought to myself. My last trip had ended in tears—I was exhausted, starving, and mad as hell at the incompetent driver whom I was paying to get me from Houston to College Station. I’m sure my patience would have lasted longer had I eaten something, anything, to keep hunger at bay for just a few more hours. But I was also bored and anxious to get back to my home and my routines and my food.
With all of this in mind, I tried to do a better job at taking care of myself during my travel to and from Michigan. On the way to Michigan, I did such a good job packing breakfast and lunch that all I bought along the way was water and coffee. A coffee at Peet’s is becoming a ritual of mine at the Houston Hobby airport; it wakes me up and gives me something to sip while I enjoy free internet. (Hobby, I like you!) My airport breakfast is usually a bowl of overnight oatmeal that I eat before going through security. For lunch, I pack a meal with lots of little things, usually a vegetable or two, some cheese, bread or crackers, some fruit, and something sweet. It’s that last part of the meal I wanted to tell you about today because it was really something: a multigrain muffin bursting with soft, sweet chunks of apple and topped with sparkly sugar.
These muffins got their start in my kitchen as an easy way to use up a big scoop of sour cream. The original recipe, from the always lovable Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, calls for a cup of buttermilk, but my blog friend Shannon has convinced me that cultured dairy is somewhat interchangeable. She’s a huge fan of Greek yogurt and often uses it as a substitute for sour cream. I think of buttermilk as a thinner version of yogurt or sour cream, so I replaced that cup of buttermilk with half a cup each of milk and sour cream.
The result is a sturdy muffin with a velvety crumb that melts on the tongue. And when that crumb is delicately flavored with cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, it’s just begging for apples to cozy up to those warm spices. It’s a muffin that says, “Welcome to fall. Pull up a seat and stay awhile—we’ve got a lot of catching up to do.” If you find yourself airplane-bound, this muffin will be a great travel companion that keeps hunger at bay while you dream about fall and warm cider and leaves changing color.
Happy, happy, happy fall, dear readers.
Multigrain Muffins with Apples and Sour Cream
Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home
Makes 10-12 muffins
A few last-minute notes: these muffins are rich, not too sweet, and freeze beautifully, which is great if you happen to make them before leaving town and have a few leftover muffins to save for later. Eat them plain or smeared with peanut butter. I like them both ways.
1 large egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sour cream (I used the real deal here—full-fat sour cream)
1/2 cup milk (any kind will probably work here, including nondairy milks)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup quick-cooking or regular oats
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and diced
1-2 tbsp. coarse sugar, such as demerara or turbinado
1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray.
2) In a bowl, stir together the egg, oil, sour cream, milk, sugar, and oats. Set aside. In a large bowl, stir together the flours, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.
3) Scrape the wet ingredients into the dry and stir together until just combined. Do not overmix. Fold the diced apples into the batter.
4) Fill each muffin tin well with a scant 1/2 cup of batter. Sprinkle the tops of the unbaked muffins with coarse sugar.
5) Bake the muffins for about 20 minutes, until puffed and golden. These muffins rise quite impressively, giving them a showy, rustic appeal. When the muffins are done, a knife inserted in the center should come out clean. Cool the muffins for 5 minutes in their tins, then remove and let the muffins cool on a rack.