I woke up to the most random text from my neighbor Lori this past June…
…it was actually not very surprising. We’ve lived next door to each other for 17 years, her kids have babysat mine, my kids have worked for her, and last spring, during quarantine, we all took care of each other, passing ingredients (and books and fire logs and small gifts) back and forth over the wall that separates our houses. We had long ago reached the point in our relationship where we skipped the niceties over text — no “Good morning!” or “Hope you are well!” It was straight to the point, and in the case of the June text: “I left two bags of spelt flour for you. I’ll never use them.”
I didn’t ask why she had them in the first place. Spelt flour. In my years of writing about food, I had never actually baked with it and I was intrigued. After doing a little research I found out that spelt flour, packed with fiber and protein, is as nutritious as whole wheat flour, but, unlike whole wheat, results in lighter airier baked goods. It’s also slightly sweet and nutty, and performs as a good substitute for all-purpose flour in muffins, cookies, and pancakes. An early batch of blueberry pancakes, then a few dozen strawberry muffins supported this theory, and ever since I’ve been incorporating it into any baked good that calls for flour. Naturally, this week — the first one in New York that really feels like fall — I had apples on my brain, so tweaked an old favorite apple-cinnamon muffin recipe to reflect my learning. I let my family eat a few right out of the oven with a little butter — the best way to eat a muffin no matter what kind it is, in my opinion. The rest? Back over the wall to Lori.
Cinnamon-Apple Spelt Muffins
The Demerara sugar really gives these muffins the most beautiful little crunch, but if you don’t have it in your pantry, you can also finish them by brushing each top with a little melted butter (after they bake) then inverting the muffin into a cinnamon-sugar mix (2 tablespoons of granular sugar with 1 tablespoon cinnamon).
1 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup plain full-fat plain yogurt
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups apples (from 1 large or 2 small apples, any kind; I used Honeycrisp), chopped into bite-size pieces as shown
3 tablespoons Demerara sugar
Arrange oven rack on center position and preheat to 375°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with muffin papers.
In a medium bowl whisk together both flours, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a separate larger bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar, yogurt and egg until smooth. Whisk dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until smooth — the batter will be thick. Fold in the apples, then divide between your prepared muffin tins. In a small bowl mix together Demerara sugar with remaining cinnamon. Divide this topping evenly between the muffins.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until tops are golden. Let cool on a rack. Best eaten warm with butter.