Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Applesauce Cupcakes...or Muffins?

I could never figure out the difference between cupcakes and muffins. Is it just the frosting that distinguishes one from the other? The time of day the sweet cake is consumed? The amount of sugar called for in the recipe? Or maybe the funny muffin top cap? Let's consult Merriam-Webster, shall we...


a quick bread made of batter containing egg and baked in a pan having cuplike molds


a small cake baked in a cuplike mold

Well, that didn't really help (it reminds me of high school math, where I learned squares are rectangles but rectangles are not squares) since most cupcakes contain eggs.

Even if the dictionary definitions look quite similar, I think the cupcake recipe books that claim they have "over x amount of cupcake recipes" are a little bogus. Their use of muffin recipes to reach their number just doesn't seem quite right.

But I digress.

My sister had purchased The Artful Cupcake book for me as part of my Christmas present last year, and I was excited to try some of the recipes. So for a colleague's birthday, I made "Applesauce Cupcakes" (or Applesauce Muffins, you decide).

As you read in my previous post, I have had slim luck with most cupcake recipes I have tried. But these cupcakes turned out fairly moist (probably due to the applesauce) and not too sweet, which I liked.

The apple crisps were more of a challenge, beginning with the process of slicing. Some apple slices came out too thick. Some were so thin it broke at the touch. Still others did not have the pretty star shape in the middle that I was going for. Good thing I bought twice as many needed apples!

When they were finally all sliced, my husband soaked the slices in sugar water, spread them on a silicone mat (silpat)-lined baking sheet and stuck them in the oven. The problem was, they didn't crisp up nor turn golden brown by the time they were to be taken out. As usual of my nature, I was on the brink of freaking out but my husband calmly stuck them back in the oven and let them bake until they had a light golden hue. Even then they still weren't crispy, but after letting it cool they eventually achieved the desired crisp texture.

The next question was: How should we store them? My husband insisted on packing them away in an airtight container but I was dubious. Still, since he is more scientifically-inclined than I am, I decided to trust him. As an experiment we left an apple crisp out to see what would happen to it.

The next morning the lovely apple slices in the container had indeed stayed crispy (and the single apple crisp became a limp sugary slice).

I then cut a slit into each of the cupcakes (about a half inch deep) and very gently inserted an apple crisp into each slit. The result was both unique and impressive (delicious, too).

Applesauce Cupcakes (from The Artful Cupcake by Marcianne Miller)

1 ¾ C cake flour

1 t baking soda

1 t cinnamon

½ t ground cloves

½ t salt

1 C brown sugar

4 oz unsalted butter, room temperature

1 egg

1 C apple sauce

1 C cherries, diced small (I left these out)

1 C raisins (I left these out)

1) 1) Preheat the oven to 350 and prepare a muffin pan with nonstick spray. (I did not use paper cups since I felt that would ruin the look)

2) 2) Sift together 1 ½ cups of the flour and the baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt.

3) 3) In a large bowl, cream the sugar with the butter until light.

4) 4) Add the egg to the butter mixture and mix until blended.

5) 5) Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix until blended.

6) 6) Add the applesauce and mix until blended.

7) 7) Sprinkle the remaining flour over the cherries and raisins to coat, then add to the batter.

8) 8) Pour the batter into the muffin pan, filling each cup at least halfway. Bake 10-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

9) 9) Remove the pan and turn out the cupcakes onto a wire rack to cool.

Apple Crisps (from The Artful Cupcake by Marcianne Miller)

2 Granny Smith apples (I bought 4 in case of mistakes!)

1 C water

1 C sugar

1) 1) Preheat oven to 250 F. Cut the apples into very thin slices horizontally, making sure you have one slice for each cupcake. (Cutting across the width of the apple instead of vertically captures the design in the center left by the seeds, which will pop out as you cut.)

2) 2) In a saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil. Place the apple slices into the simple syrup. Let stand for one minute.

3) 3) Remove the slices from the syrup and place them onto a silicone mat set on a baking pan. Cover them with another silicone mat.

4) 4) Place the apples in the oven to dry for 30-40 minutes. They’ll come out a lovely translucent brown. (Not for me…I ended up uncovering the apple slices and leaving them in the oven for another half hour)

5) 5) Let them cool, then store in an airtight container until ready to use.

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