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At this point, just about all of us have either made Donut Muffins, eaten Donut Muffins from a generous friend, bookmarked a recipe for Donut Muffins, drooled over photos of Donut Muffins, or cursed the day Donut Muffins were invented as we kicked our scales across the bathroom.
I was in the "bookmarked the recipe" category for way too long. Every time I'd see another Donut Muffin post pop up in my Google Reader, I'd admonish myself for not having made them yet. They're billed as warm, pluffy cake-donut-like muffins that have soaked up butter before being coated in cinnamon and sugar. It's basically criminal that I hadn't made them until this past weekend. But don't worry -- I made up for lost time.
What's the fun of donuts? The taste, definitely -- but also the puff of powdered sugar, the jam centers, the colorful sprinkles, the melty chocolate, the sticky glaze. A major component of what makes donuts so fun is the assortment. Even though I have a favorite donut, I always buy a few kinds so that I can pick through the box excitedly, tasting different combinations and flavors. So why make just one sort of Donut Muffin? Especially when it's so easy to make a few kinds?
In my Donut Muffin assortment: Caramel Apple Donut Muffins, Jam-Filled Powdered Sugar Donut Muffins, and of course, Chocolate Sprinkle Donut Muffins.
You start out by making the batter like normal, but then separate a third of it to add diced apples to. After baking all the muffins up, the apple donut muffins get coated in cinnamon, sugar, and a caramel glaze. Another 1/3 of the batch gets coated with powdered sugar and filled with raspberry jam. The final 1/3 gets a bath in melted chocolate and some sprinkles. I bought a box of bakery cookies just to have a cute little "donut box" to put them in (no clue what I'm going to do with those cookies)!
The Chocolate Sprinkle Donut Muffins were good -- but next time I'll fill them with whipped cream or pastry cream for more donuttiness (that is a Merriam-Webster-certified real word, y'all. Okay, it's not. Not even close). The Jam-Filled Powdered Sugar Donut Muffins were delicious little jammy bites. But the Caramel Apple Donut Muffins . . . they were OUT OF THIS WORLD. Like, OUT OF THIS GALAXY. Like, OH MY GOODNESS. My roommate had to sit down when she took her first bite, and she insists they're the best thing I've ever made. Are you dicing apples yet? Good.
When they're warmed up slightly, full of apply, buttery, cinnamon-sugary goodness, and coated with the buttery caramel glaze, these fluffy Caramel Apple Donut Muffins are analogous to the donuts you'd drive across town for. Sure, you want the assortment -- and I ate plenty of the other two tasty flavors -- but these are the ones you'd keep coming back for.
By the way, are you afraid of caramel? That's probably because you've been using recipes with directions that say things like "look for an amber color," or, even better, a "dark amber color." I don't know about you, but I think "amber" is pretty subjective. What gives? We stopped using terms like "low oven" and "slow oven" in recipes long ago in favor of fancy little things called oven temperatures. It's time we switched over our sugar recipes to include temperatures as well. Caramel is nowhere near as frightening with a candy thermometer, y'all. You'll be glad to see I've provided temperatures for your caramel sauce below, since I'm not feeling prehistoric.
What's your favorite kind of donut? I think mine changed with my first bite o' Donut Muffins! The recipe below shows you how to make all 3 kinds at once, but feel free to make just one sort if you're feeling decisive.
Assorted Donut Muffins
Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, adapted from the base recipe by Buns In My Oven. Caramel sauce by Martha Stewart.
Yield: 36 mini-muffins or 18 regular muffins
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking power
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk (low fat is fine)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Extras for Chocolate Sprinkle Donut Muffins:
whipped cream (if desired, for filling)
Extras for Caramel Apple Donut Muffins:
2 tablespoons melted butter, for dipping
1/4 cup sugar mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 apple, peeled and diced (I used a Gala apple)
caramel sauce (recipe below)
Extras for Jam-Filled Powdered Sugar Donut Muffins:
raspberry jam (or flavor of your choice)
about 3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
melted butter leftover from Caramel Apple Donut Muffins
Prepare two mini-muffin pans by spraying with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Beat sugar and egg together in a large bowl until fluffy. In a smaller bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients and stir until combined. Add vegetable oil, milk, and vanilla extract and mix. Separate 1/3 of mixture into separate bowl and fold in diced apples (these will be the Caramel Apple Donut Muffins). Pour all batter into prepared muffin tins, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake for 13-15 minutes until tester comes out clean.
Let cool in the pan for a few minutes before removing onto a cooling rack (if muffins are extremely delicate and difficult to remove, you may need to bake them a minute longer -- mine weren't quite done enough. On the cooling rack, separate the donut muffins into 3 batches: the apple muffins, 1/2 of the plain muffins, and the other half of the plain muffins. These will be your three types of donuts.
For the Caramel Apple Donut Muffins: Melt the butter in the microwave and mix the cinnamon and sugar in a separate bowl. When the muffins are cool enough to handle, dunk the tops into the melted butter and then into the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Let dry/cool on cooling rack as you prepare caramel sauce (as directed in recipe below). Store caramel in fridge and drizzle on heated Apple Muffins right before serving.
For the Chocolate Donut muffins: When the muffins are cool enough to handle, dunk the tops into the melted chocolate. Add colorful sprinkles. You could fill these with pastry cream or whipped cream using a narrow pastry tip inserted into the bottom of the muffin if you wanted a cream-filled donut muffin.
For the Jam-Filled Powdered Sugar Donut Muffins: When the muffins are cool enough to handle, dunk the tops into the leftover melted butter and then into sifted powdered sugar. When donuts are cool, fill them with raspberry jam using a small pastry tip jabbed into the bottom of the muffin. Be careful not to overfill and burst your muffin (that should definitely be a more popular idiom than 'burst your bubble,' don't you agree?) You may have to re-powder tops before serving if you keep these overnight, since some of the powdered sugar dissolves.
NOTE: Store all your muffins in an airtight container in the fridge.
Caramel Sauce Ingredients:
3/4 cups sugar
1/8 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of coarse salt
NOTE: This makes more caramel than you need, but I don't reduce the recipe because it would make it difficult to use a candy thermometer, a tool that I believe is absolutely crucial in preparing caramel. I know you can find something else to spoon caramel sauce over -- and this is truly delectable caramel.
Prepare a bowl set in an ice-water bath. Place sugar and water in a saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until it boils and the sugar is dissolved. Throughout this process, use a wet pastry brush to wash down the sides of your saucepan often to prevent crystal formation. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the mixture reaches 345 degrees on a candy thermometer (begin swirling gently when you see hints of amber, so the sugar cooks evenly), about 5-7 minutes. Immediately remove from the heat and add cream carefully (the mixture will bubble up) while whisking constantly. Return mixture to medium heat until it boils and sugar melts.
Remove from heat, and pour into the bowl set in your ice-water bath. Let the caramel cool, whisking often, for 10 minutes before whisking in creme fraiche, vanilla, and salt. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving over Caramel Apple Donut Muffins. Can store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.