The table as the gravitational center of our lives.

Brown Butter Maple Apple Walnut Muffins


“Adam was but human – this explains it all.  He did not want the apple for the apple’s sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden.  The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent.” -Mark Twain, American writer and totally awesome dude that has written and said a whole bunch of totally awesome stuff

Last Sunday, my radical classmate Emily invited Martin & I out to New Jersey to spend the day with her, her boyfriend Pawel, and their adorable doggies Lucci and Hannah.  Martin & I had sworn off New Jersey forever several weeks ago after a convenience and customer service-void excursion to a concert at Giants Stadium.  It was a lovely honor, actually, to be invited by the one and only Bono and his gorgeous, sugar-sweet, and dedicated activist wife Ali to attend the first of two U2 performances given there recently.  But alas…..New Jersey is not exactly a place that gets my pulse racing with excitement.  As I frequently like to say, “New Jersey is even shaped like an armpit.”

Boy was I proven wrong.  Emily & Pawel could not live in a more peaceful, eclectic, foodie-oriented, and liberal area.  Plus, they are wonderful.  Emily is, of course, an incredible chef-in-the-making, and Pawel is a total sweetheart that laughs like an excited little kid.  Our dogs Sputnik and Rocket, who came along for the ride, were welcome almost everywhere and in fact greeted with smiles and squeals and pettings.  We wandered in and out of some incredible antique shops, found a chocolatier in Lambertville that graduated from FCI and makes the most incredible artisanal chocolates I’ve probably ever had (um, pumpkin cheesecake fudge much?), lingered over bookstore shelves containing old, dusty, embossed things of beauty, and oh yeah – we ate and drank a lot too.  The weather was unseasonably warm for early November, so we actually got to eat brunch outside with our furry friends, who were graciously treated to a big water bowl while we sipped Bloody Mary’s and lingered lazily over our meals.  Could’ve sat there, basking in the Sun, all day long.

One of our main goals of the day was to go apple-picking at Solebury Orchards in nearby New Hope, PA.  Sadly, though, when we got out of our car the parking lot attendant told us our dogs were not welcome past the parking lot.  (Um, it’s an orchard for crying out loud.  You know, nature?  Where dogs come from?)  Defeated, Emily and I took to the shop while the boys tended to the furry little bonkers.  We returned with apple butter, 3 Winesap apples, 3 Braeburn apples, 2 containers of cider, and an apple cider doughnut.  On the way home, I thought about what to do with the apples:  ”Definitely not an apple tart.  If I have to make one more of those damn things I’m going to scream.  Definitely not an apple pie…..I’ve made several recently.  I know!  Apple muffins!  But not just boring regular old apple muffins – really super totally awesome ones that everyone will salivate over!  Yeah!”  And so, my dear readers, there you have it.  Brown Butter Maple Apple Walnut Muffins.  With buttermilk.  And local apples.  Mega, mega success.

My clients, their housekeeping staff, Martin, and I all give these an enthusiastic thumbs up.  These are the perfect autumn treat, and if you’re looking for something to bring to a Thanksgiving dinner besides the usual pumpkin pie, well…..have I got a muffin for you!


2 2/3 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

3/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 1/2 cup buttermilk  (NOTE:  You can also use dried buttermilk, as I did, with excellent results.  Please read product instructions prior to beginning this recipe.)

3/4 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp. good, real vanilla extract

1/3 cup good, real maple syrup, plus extra for drizzling

1 stick butter, melted and browned (instructions below)

1 cup walnut halves, plus extra halves for topping

1 large apple, washed, peeled, and diced into 1/4″ pieces, and then tossed with a bit of lemon juice and reserved in a bowl (this will prevent them from oxidizing and turning brown)  (NOTE:  We used a large Winesap apple, but any tart apple will do.)


1.  Preheat oven to 325ºF.  Prepare a muffin tray with paper or foil muffin cups.

2.  In a sauté pan, melt the stick of butter over medium-low heat.  Keep going past the point of melting.  First you will notice the milk solids in the butter begin to separate from the fat, and the butter will start to bubble.  This is good.  If it starts to smoke, that’s bad, and it means you need to turn the heat down and slow it down.  You want to keep the butter cooking until you notice the milk solids beginning to turn brown.  This will start to happen in a random area of the pan, and when it happens, you’ll want to swirl the pan around to get it to brown evenly all over.  Stop when the butter is a nice, rich, hazelnut color, but not black.  Pour the brown butter into a workbowl and set aside.  Reserve the pan with the remnants of butter intact.

3.  Return the pan to the stove over medium heat, and toss in the walnut halves.  Stir to coat with a light film of butter.  Keep stirring frequently until the walnuts are fragrant and toasted.  Dump out onto a cutting board and chop coarsely.  Reserve in a bowl.

4.  Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together into a large workbowl.

5.  In the bowl with the brown butter, add the buttermilk, sugar, egg, vanilla, and maple syrup.  Stir briskly to combine with a small whisk or a fork until just combined and smooth.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined with a rubber spatula.  Add toasted chopped walnuts and diced apples and distribute evenly through the batter with the rubber spatula.

6.  Fill each prepared muffin cup with enough of the batter to just reach the top of the cup.  Top each cup with a walnut half and a drizzle of maple syrup.  When the entire muffin tin is full, place in the oven and bake approximately 30 minutes, or until the muffin tops look dry and begin to crack slightly, and a cake tester comes out clean.  Allow to cool on a drying rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.  Repeat with remaining batter.

Yield: I was able to get 16 muffins out of this recipe, but that number may vary slightly.

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One Response Subscribe to comments

  1. Gala

    Yuuuum! That sounds like a killer combo!

    Nov 12, 2009 @ 1:47 pm