With the holidays fast approaching it is time to brush up on muffin recipes. In my house the holidays mean a revolving door of family and friends, and I always like to have some yummy muffins on hand when people pop in to chat. I already have a few favorite recipes including Aunt Ethel's Blueberry variety, Orange Mini's with Brown Sugar Glaze from The Pioneer Woman, and Allspice Crumb Muffins from Dorie Greenspan. But, I am always looking for new ideas, and was thrilled when my friend Barbara shared her recipe for Cinnamon-Sugar Caramel Muffins.
My favorite part about this recipe is that it was adapted by a few people before be given to me. In fact, Barbara's six-year old son was the one who recommend adding the caramel - he is obviously one smart kid! When I received it I made a few changes of my own, adding cinnamon, more nutmeg, and a heaping teaspoon of orange zest to give these little cakes my own special twist.
I don't know what the original recipe looks like, but I'm pretty sure the variation below would be hard to improve upon. Making these during my daughter's naptime is a cinch, though we also have found these quite fun to make together. Mixing the batter is simply a matter of adding the ingredients one-by-one to the bowl and placing the caramel properly. I would even venture to say that the most difficult part about baking these is not eating all of the caramels before they are placed in the batter (note: the recipe reads "cut caramel into quarters, eat one piece" for a reason).
With a fluffy moist texture, and out of this world taste, these muffins are sure the please everyone. Personally, I think that the warm spices and cinnamon sugar topping giving them a flavor slightly reminiscent of a snickerdoodle. To give these a proper taste test I've enjoyed them with a cup of Scottish Breakfast tea (my morning tea), a mug of Constant Comment (afternoon), and even Wild Orange herbal tea (evening). What I really can't wait for is to enjoy these with my mulled cider (recipe to come soon!). No matter what, they definitely proved to be the perfect accompaniment for any flavor I steep at home. They are also, not surprisingly, perfect for little fingers. My daughter adores them and on more than one occasion has asked to have them for dinner (the answer was always no).
So, when the holidays come around I know exactly what I'll have on hand in my house for friends and family. Feel free to stop on by for a taste, or make some of your own.
Cinnamon-Sugar Caramel Muffins
adapted from a recipe from my friend Barbara
1 1/2 c. plus 2 T. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. fresh orange zest
1/2 c. whole milk
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/3 c. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
8 caramels, cut into quarters
2 T. melted butter
2 T. sugar & 2 T. cinnamon, mixed together
1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Spray muffin pan with non-stick spray, or use muffin paper.
2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon and mix with a whisk. In a separate bowl mix together milk, egg and butter. Once it is combined, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
3. Cut caramels into quarters with a sharp knife, eat one quarter of caramel. Pour batter so it fills 1/3 of the each muffin cup. Add 3 remaining pieces of caramel to each muffin cup - just place them gently on top of the batter. Cover caramel with remaining batter until each cup is 2/3 c. full.
4. Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned and tops spring back when touched.
5. Allow muffins to cool for 10 minutes. Then brush tops with the melted butter and sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture.
Naptime Recipe Props: If you are not up for caramel filling you can easily omit the step, though I don't recommend doing that because it is delicious. Everyone loves a good muffin and these will never fail you, plus they don't have any nuts or fruits to which some guests can be allergic.
Naptime Stopwatch: Making the batter take less than 10 minutes and then all that is left is baking time. This makes them perfect for whipping up when you get a phone call that someone is coming over in a hour to "stop-in and say hi!" Then break out the tea bags and get ready to entertain!
Naptime Reviews: Everyone in my house loves muffins, toddler included. Thankfully the holidays are a time for celebration, not restraint, so bring 'em on!