While summer is still here (at least for 20 more days), everyone is gearing up for the fall season. Cozy blankets, warm beverages, and enjoying the last bits of mild weather before the winter are a yearly traditional for us all.
Autumn is also an excellent time for baking, and enjoying a few extra desserts since bikini season is officially over. So, if you haven't stopped into SoNo Baking Co. in a while, now is a great time.
SoNo Baking Co. has been a staple in South Norwalk for over 12 years, and serves up a spectacular array of pastries, artisan breads, cakes, pies, and even has a full breakfast and lunch cafe menu. With two locations in SoNo, of course, as well as Darien, it's an easy stop on the way to work, or a great place to relax on the weekends.
John Barricell, the owner of SoNo Bakery and Café, and the author of "The SoNo Baking Company Cookbook" and "The Seasonal Baker," was nice enough to share one of his cookbook recipes, perfect for apple picking seasaon.
"This is a great fall item, packed with sweet diced apple and fragrant with cinnamon," John says of his apple-walnut muffin recipe. "I keep the nuts coarse when I chop them because I like to taste the walnuts, and the apples are sautéed quickly with a little sugar to bring out the flavor of the fruit."
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups peeled, cored, and diced (1/2 inch) baking apples, such as Rome, Cortland, or Granny Smith
1 tablespoon plus 3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, plus 12 walnut halves for garnish
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Sanding sugar (optional)
Heat the butter in a 9- or 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the diced apple and 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar, and cook until the apples are tender but not mushy, 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Set the oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a standard 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray, or generously butter with softened butter. Set aside.
Spread the chopped walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast until fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup granulated sugar and the oil to blend. Add the eggs, milk, and vanilla and whisk to blend. Add to the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula just until the flour has been absorbed. Gently fold in the cooked apple and chopped walnuts.
Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops with sanding sugar, if using, and top each with a walnut half.
Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet and bake, rotating the sheet about two-thirds of the way through the baking time, until the muffins are golden brown, the tops spring back when touched, and a cake tester in the center of the muffin comes out clean, 24 to 27 minutes.
Transfer the muffin pan to a cooking rack and let stand 10 minutes. Then remove the muffins from the pan and let cook entirely on the rack.
TIP: You can use butter or vegetable cooking spray to grease pans and baking sheets. If you do use butter, make sure it's softened, not melted: melting separates the butterfat from the water in butter, so the butter coats less efficiently. Vegetable cooking spray is as effective as butter and is very convenient. Inexpensive, flavorless, and odorless, it lasts practically forever in a cool, dark place.