Monday, October 11, 2010

The New York Times Upside-Down Caramel-Apple Muffins

Pumpkin Wagon at the French Lick Resort and Spa in French Lick, IN

Like many women who’ve been married for a number of years, I enjoy my time alone.  My husband and I both work at home; I’m involved in artistic pursuits, and he’s involved in literary pursuits.  It works for us, we enjoy being together, but occasionally I want the kitchen to myself, so seized the moment when he left this afternoon, long list of errands in hand.  I wanted to try a recipe I’d found in the food section of the New York Times October 1st edition.  The recipe, Upside-Down Caramel-Apple Muffins, just screamed “FALL” to me, and Libran girl that I am, I love absolutely everything about fall.  So despite the near 90-degree temperatures of the day I preheated the oven to 375°F and began.

I started making the apple mixture, lovingly peeling and coring my fresh-from-the-farm apples and slicing them into uniform quarter-inch slices.  Then I sautéed them with light brown sugar (I didn’t have dark, so added 1-1/2 teaspoons of molasses to compensate – ditto with the wet ingredients of the batter), butter, and a pinch of salt.  While this was cooking I prepared the muffin pan, toasted and chopped the nuts, and started assembling the ingredients for the batter.

Once the apples were soft, fragrant, and beautifully amber, I spooned equal portions into the bottom of each jumbo-size well, sprinkled on the nuts, and started mixing first the dry ingredients of the batter and then the liquid.  But wait!  There’s an error!  The liquid portion read ¼ cup (1 stick unsalted butter).  Now, I’m no math whiz, in fact, I consider myself a mathematical dyslexic since numbers and I just do NOT mix, but even I know that ¼ cup is ½ stick and not a whole one.  So I fired up the computer, located the recipe and, Oh HO!  There was a revision.  The new recipe called for 8 T. or 1 stick in the batter and, alas, the same amount for the apple mixture.
It was too late to make the changes in the apple mixture at this point.  As I said, it was already lining the bottom of each well in the greased muffin pan, but considering the amount of liquid that remained with the apples I thought it was probably fine as is.  No.  But we’ll get to that later.

As mentioned, I used a jumbo muffin pan instead of a 12-well muffin pan.  In my opinion the apple mixture wouldn’t have begun to fill twelve wells, secondly, come on, those 12-well pans are more like mini muffins.  I like a nice large muffin that I can split with my husband each morning over the paper and cups of freshly brewed coffee.  Did you ever try to split one of those small ones?  Crumbs!  You just get lumps and crumbs!

I baked the muffins for the required amount of time, tested with a toothpick, and then went 8 minutes longer to compensate for the larger pan.  Done.  The suggestion was to let them cool in the pan (for how many minutes, the recipe didn’t specify), then invert over a platter.  A platter?  Who has a platter handy?  Do people even have platters?  We have only one that I can think of and I only use it for Thanksgiving.  Suddenly I was struggling to try to remember where it was, if it was in a closet, or cabinet, packed in a box somewhere, or packed in a box and living in a storage unit about 3 miles from our home.  Then I looked into the hutch in the kitchen and there it was, humbly standing on edge behind the multi-colored Fiestaware dinner plates.  Okay, a platter. 

But this platter like all of them, presumably, has a bit of a raised edge.  I could just see the muffins falling out of the pan, hitting the rim, bouncing hither and yon, turning over onto their sides, topping pooling in the center, and everything just a sticky, runny, gloppy mess.  So I thought I’d just invert them onto a big piece of parchment paper that I’d spread out on the counter, and then use a knife to scrape up any of the caramel topping and let it drip down from the knife onto the muffin leaving a lovely caramel, professional-looking glazed topping.

While the muffins may have come beautifully out of the pan, the topping didn’t.  It stayed in the pan in pretty much the same formation as it went in.  It wasn’t runny or gooey, or anything at all even close to resembling mouth watering; what it was was thick and sticky.  I scraped it out with a spoon, tried to put it back into place, but it just didn’t have the appeal afterward to really make these at all appetizing for me.  The proof is in the pudding however, so since the advice was to eat them warm, I sliced one in two and took a bite.

A scene from the 1972 screwball comedy “What’s up Doc?” with Ryan O’Neal and Barbara Streisand came to mind. At the beginning of the film, Streisand, who’s doggedly pursuing O’Neal, find themselves on opposite sides of a display in a drugstore.  O’Neal (a musical archeologist) interested in checking the tonal quality of a large rock, painted with a rather garish scene of San Francisco, with a tuning fork, removes it from its place on the shelf revealing the smirking face of Streisand.  He explains that he’s in the drugstore looking for an aspirin.  She looks from the rock to him, back to the rock and says, “You’re going to need an awfully big glass of water to get that down.”  Get the picture (if you’ll pardon the pun)?  These were not good.  They were throat-stickingly dry and I feared failure of peristalsis trying to swallow the one bite that I took.  And it did take an awfully big glass of water to get it down.

If you’re intrepid and want to try the revised recipe and report back, I’d welcome hearing from you. You may just want to check the website once again to make sure there hasn't been yet another correction/revision. I do love muffins and the caramel-apple combination, so hope springs eternal that I’ll eventually find just right one, but this wasn’t it.


Ricë said...

very, very cool! I'm sorry the muffins didn't work out the way you wanted, but the blog is mighty tasty~~

Pattie @ Olla-Podrida said...

Thanks, Ricë! I don't often have failures, but like Catherine Aird said in her Inspector Wexford novel, "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to serve as a horrible warning." I think I'm done here. ;-)