If you are skeptical about trying a healthful muffin recipe, I don't blame you. Most of the better-for-you muffins I've tried have been disappointing: either dry or rubbery, or some sad combination of both. That precedent makes this recipe all the more compelling, because it will change your mind about what a healthful muffin can be.
These have a tender crumb, the aroma of warm apple pie and just the right level of sweetness.
A couple of key ingredient swaps make them so. First, a combination of applesauce and canola oil replaces the butter often used; the recipe contains less fat overall, although the muffins have a moist, cakelike appeal. Second, whole-wheat pastry flour provides whole-grain nutrition without a coarse, dense "health-food" taste. Most of the major flour manufacturers offer a whole-wheat pastry option, so if your store is not carrying it yet, request it. Alternatively, you would also get good results from using equal parts whole-grain and all-purpose flours.
My muffins are studded with soft chunks of apple and warm, sweet spices and are topped with a cinnamon-pecan crumb. You can feel good about enjoying them with your latte for breakfast - proof that you don't have to choose between something that's good for you and something that's utterly scrumptious.
Whole-Grain Apple Crumb Muffins
For the topping
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
2 tablespoons whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the muffins
2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
3/4 cup unsweetened plain applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 medium Golden Delicious apple, cored and cut into1/4-inch chunks
For the topping: Whisk together the brown sugar, pecans, whole-wheat pastry flour, oil and cinnamon in a bowl.
For the muffins: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12-well muffin pan with cooking oil spray.
Whisk together the whole-wheat pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl.
Whisk together the brown sugar, oil and eggs in a large bowl until well combined, then whisk in the applesauce and vanilla extract. Stir in the flour mixture in two additions, alternating with the buttermilk, until just combined. Gently stir in the apple chunks.
Divide the batter evenly among the wells of the muffin pan, then sprinkle with the topping mixture. (If you have batter left over, cover it and bake a second batch.) Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick or bamboo skewer inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
Transfer the muffin pan to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes, then run a round-edged knife around the muffins to loosen them and unmold. Cool them completely on the rack before serving or storing.
12 to 15 servings
Nutrition 5/8 Per serving (based on 15): 190 calories, 3 g protein, 28 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 200 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 14 g sugar
Krieger, who's most recent cookbook is "Weeknight Wonders: Delicious Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013), blogs and offers a weekly newsletter at www.elliekrieger.com.